Leeds United U21s head into Tuesday evening’s Papa John’s Trophy fixture knowing that a win over Crewe Alexandra will see them leapfrog Tranmere Rovers into second place in Northern Group B, something that would subsequently see them qualify for the knockout stages of the competition.
Indeed, after Jesse Marsch made a number of his junior first-teamers available for the U21s’ first EFL Trophy fixture against Rovers, the young Whites got off to a fantastic start in the competition, running out comfortable 5-2 victors over the League Two outfit – with a Joe Gelhardt brace and strikes from Sonny Perkins, Mateo Joseph and Cody Drameh sealing the win.
However, with a depleted squad at Michael Skubala’s disposal against high-flying League One side Bolton Wanderers in their second Papa John’s Trophy outing, the U21s slumped to a 3-0 defeat at the University of Bolton Stadium – a result that slightly flattered the hosts, who scored two goals late on after a relatively even match.
Now, with a fantastic chance to make it out of the group, coupled with the Leeds first team not playing until Saturday, Marsch could well make a number of his young first-teamers available for the U21s against bottom-of-the-group Crewe.
So, how could Skubala’s starting XI look at The Mornflake Stadium this evening? Here’s how we at Football FanCast predict Leeds U21s could line up against the League Two outfit.
Klaesson; Drameh, Moore, Spencer, Hjelde; Allen, Gyabi, Gnonto; Perkins, Joseph, Gelhardt (4-3-3).
With qualification on the line, we predict that Skubala will make two changes to the side that started the 4-2 victory over Middlesbrough U21s in the Premier League 2 back on October 22.
The first alteration comes in the back four, with the £3.4m-rated Leo Fuhr Hjelde – who has recently returned to fitness after undergoing an appendectomy operation – replacing Kris Moore at left-back, with the 18-year-old moving into a central defensive position alongside Morton Spencer – who replaces James Debayo – while the £3.4m-rated Drameh remains at right-back.
There is a slight change in formation going forwards, with 16-year-old Charlie Allen, £5m signing Darko Gyabi and fellow £5m summer signing Wilfried Gnonto – dubbed a “wonderkid” by Jacek Kulig – lining up in a midfield three, while Alfie McCalmont drops out of the XI.
In attack, the eight-goal and £1.7m-rated Sonny Perkins and the 12-goal Mateo Joseph once again start, while the £9.6m-rated Joe Gelhadrt – who has scored 20 goals in 30 appearances for the U21s – also gets the nod, having been an unused substitute in the first team’s 2-1 victory at Anfield on Saturday.