Leeds’ Liam Cooper will need to be at his best to avoid another Derby horror

Championship Picks

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Leeds vs Derby has become a fierce rivalry. The Rams were the subject of spy gate, an incident detailed only too well last season, but after Marcelo Bielsa owned up to the judgement call it didn’t stop there.

Their battle was renewed in the playoffs as Frank Lampard’s men came out on top.

Now managed by Phillip Cocu, they are a significantly different outfit and have had a pretty dismal start to the season.

As Leeds sit top, rejuvenated after their failings last term, their opponents this coming weekend are 19th with just one win under their belt.

However, as they get set to face off again, there could be an intriguing battle on the cards.

On the chalkboard

Liam Cooper was a stalwart for the vast majority of last season, being named in the PFA Team of the Year towards the end of the season.

The central defender has started this term in a similar way by ensuring that after seven games, his team have only conceded three times.

He is a titan in the backline having won 5.3 aerial duels per match this term but he was one of the players who cost them at Elland Road last May, facing a difficult test against Jack Marriott.

Cooper was run ragged by him and the rest of the Derby attack as Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and Marriott all found the back of the net in a 4-2 win.

Leeds’ dreams were crushed as the 28-year-old struggled throughout. A lack of communication with Kiko Casilla meant the Derby striker was able to take advantage of an error from both goalkeeper and defender to fire home their opening goal of the night.

Cooper was then at fault by giving away a penalty too. It was a torrid afternoon for the newly capped Scot who will need to be far better this time around.

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He’ll have the advantage in the air considering Marriott has only won 0.7 aerial duels per game but the Derby man averages 1.8 shots each match – a healthy return.

He was brought on after 44 minutes against Leeds earlier this year, scoring just a minute later after a lapse from Cooper.

Derby are lacking firepower under Cocu, scoring just seven, but the Leeds skipper shouldn’t take notice of that after his performance against the same opposition in 2018/19.

If Marriott starts up top, Cooper needs to be wary.

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