If Brighton took the wind out of Leeds United’s sails on Friday night, then Reading has the chance to completely throw the ship off course. There is little doubt about the importance of a win for Garry Monk who knows that his side need wins against top-four opposition if Leeds are to continue their promotion push.
So who will step up for the Whites at Elland Road on Tuesday night?
Here are three players to keep your eye on who could potentially make the difference against a tough Reading side.
1. Liam Bridcutt
The club captain has had a spell out with injury, but manager Garry Monk has admitted that Bridcutt might make a return ahead of the clash against Reading.
Kalvin Phillips's red card against Brighton means he will be suspended for this match, and that puts Monk in a tough situation. The options on the bench are not ones that Monk has utilised in his time in charge; Toumani Diagouraga, Luke Murphy, and Matt Grimes have all been in the dog house. So, against the ideal, Monk might need to play Bridcutt ahead of schedule.
"He's come back in good condition and it's just about whether he's in the right condition to start a game. You've got a responsibility to make sure you don't force players back and then lose them going forward for [the sake of] one game. But Liam's come back in really good condition, probably ahead of where we thought." - Garry Monk
The question: is an early return worth the risk of re-injury?
Garry Monk ponders Liam Bridcutt recall with #lufc's midfield options stripped bare:https://t.co/aVETZJYMUy pic.twitter.com/qL2GMuTD9e— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) December 12, 2016
2. Luke Ayling
Talk about a man who needs an MOTM performance.
Ayling looked like a shadow of the player we all know he has the potential to be against Brighton on Friday. Luke seemed to make mistake after mistake that put United under pressure. This will surely be a match that he uses to give his form a boost.
The task will not be easy, though.
Reading will come in with good wing-play and these wingers are more than capable of giving him all that he can handle. Jordan Obita, in particular, will threaten the Leeds defense so the task will fall on Ayling's shoulders to make sure the threat is nullified throughout that match.
For a man who was our November Reader’s Choice POTM, we will hope he can back up those credentials tonight.
Focus on the good, focus on the ponytail. @lukeayling_8 wins our November Reader's Choice POTM Award. Congrats Luke! https://t.co/M5Av8WpuF7 pic.twitter.com/FLSzBIbGFU— Through It All #LUFC (@ThruItAllLUFC) December 8, 2016
3. Kemar Roofe
Roofe will have to feel happy to be back at Elland Road after scoring his first Leeds goal in the last home match against Aston Villa.
One of the worst feelings for an attacker is when your team is struggling to create chances. That summarized what happened to Leeds against Brighton once they were down to 10 men.
Roofe will be tasked with opening up a solid Reading defense and using his technical ability to create attacking opportunities. Elland Road will hope that Roofe can make it 2 goals in 2 home matches, though another assist towards Chris Wood’s direction would not hurt either.
Kemar Roofe GOAL v Aston Villa #LUFC pic.twitter.com/U9g5v6TKKL— #WALMOT (@WALMOT333) December 3, 2016
Speaking of the Kiwi, Wood scored 2 goals the last time these sides met in a thrilling 3-2 win for Leeds, but we’re going elsewhere for today’s potential men of the match.
Chris Wood wins it for Leeds. #readingfc #lufc pic.twitter.com/XHcsLHB6Lc https://t.co/cZ8sQFfpan— TFS Reading (@TFS_Reading) April 16, 2016
Let's hope for just as many goals from our United side this time around and a clean sheet to build confidence in the back line. Is that too much to ask for? MOT.