Leeds United squad set to be tested as they aim to end Wigan’s home run

Barry Douglas: Back in contention for a place in the Leeds United team.
Barry Douglas: Back in contention for a place in the Leeds United team.

With no home game for a month Leeds United will be more than pleased if they are still fighting for a place at the top of the table when they next take to the Elland Road pitch.

The strange 2018-19 fixture list which has already seen the Whites play back to back home league fixtures twice and back to back away games twice has thrown up another crazy period where Leeds are now on their travels on the next two weekends with an international break the following week making an extra long period without hosting a match.

It will serve to whet the appetite of fans turning out in big numbers this season, maybe – 27,729 for a Tuesday night game against Preston being the lowest league attendance so far. And if Marcelo Bielsa’s men can bring back positive results from their away days coming up another huge crowd seems assured.

The first game of the latest away double-header sees Leeds travel to Wigan, hoping for a better outcome than their last trip across the Pennines when they were narrowly beaten by Blackburn Rovers.

The early afternoon Sunday fixture has a more difficult look than a mere glance at the Sky Bet Championship table would suggest as Wigan may be down in 14th place, but they still remain unbeaten at home this season on their return to the second tier of English football.

With Leeds having only lost once on their travels and scoring 13 goals in their first seven away matches under Bielsa another TV thriller looks on the cards.

Bielsa will be without two of his first team defenders for the game with Luke Ayling joining Gaetano Berardi on the sidelines and set to be out of action for two months.

It has given the head coach a problem to solve at right-back and has left him short of options in central defence should anything happen to either Pontus Jansson or Liam Cooper.

The adaptability of Ayling and Berardi makes them a big miss, although versatility is something clearly preached by Bielsa who has had no qualms about putting midfielder Kalvin Phillips in the middle of defence or wingers Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski to full-back in recent games when the need had arisen.

Dallas is favourite to get the nod for the right-back spot at Wigan after earning praise for his display there in the draw with Nottingham Forest. He did start that game at left-back, but first choice Barry Douglas should be available to return there this weekend after proving his fitness following a hamstring injury in the development side’s game against Hull City on Monday.