Leeds United v Middlesbrough: Five talking points

Jordan Rhodes.
Jordan Rhodes.
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Leeds United host Middlesbrough on Monday at Elland Road.

Here are five talking points ahead of that tie:

The potential return of Alex Mowatt

Mowatt has been absent from action since Leeds lost 2-0 against Sheffield Wednesday in January, having suffered a leg injury in that game. The 20-year-old has struggled this season, failing to reach the heights of the 2014/15 campaign, when he was the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Player of the Year. However, he has provided a few moments of individual brilliance for the Whites, not least his long-range strikes against Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town. Mowatt has the potential to turn a game in an instant, something that has been lacking from Leeds’s play for most of the campaign. There are few teams they need game-changers against more than Middlesbrough, who are one of the Yorkshire sides dominating the promotion conversation, and Mowatt could be available.

Will Jordan Rhodes make his full debut?

Rhodes has been conspicuous by his absence over the last two games, failing to make the starting line-up after joining Middlesbrough from Blackburn Rovers for £9 million. He is still yet to make his full debut, but surely Aitor Karanka can no longer leave the Ferrari in the garage? Leeds could provide the ideal opposition for him to find his feet. The former Huddersfield Town man has a good record of scoring against the Whites across his entire career. Leeds have also developed a relatively stodgy style in recent weeks, with Rhodes providing one of Middlesbrough’s best options for breaking them down.

Mirco Antenucci could outline his contract credentials

The absence of Chris Wood has presented a continual problem for Leeds. Souleymane Doukara was temporarily the answer, until the realisation came that his hold-up play remained an issue. Doukara then partnered Antenucci up-front, but that combination left Leeds horrifically exposed in the centre of midfield. Against Bolton, a 4-2-3-1 worked, but that same formation was stymied against Nottingham Forest. Antenucci’s deal runs out at the end of the season, and reports suggest the player is willing to sign a new deal. He has been told by Steve Evans to prove he is worth one. There are few better opportunities to do so than against one of the Championship’s better sides, a team he did not struggle too badly against as a lone striker earlier in the season.

Can Boro put aside a blip and pick up the three points?

It has not been the best of times for Middlesbrough recently, with the club failing to win in any of their last four games in the league. That has seen them drop off top spot. Their transfer deadline day dealings were supposed to be a difference maker, but Boro have picked up two draws against Blackburn and MK Dons. Richie De Laet and Jordan Rhodes have now had time to settle, and Leeds are not on an exceptional run of form themselves. To travel to a team that Boro fans consider to be a rival and win would be as good a way as any to recapture the impressive form that made Karanka’s team a promotion contender.

Will Giuseppe Bellusci make amends for the past?

The game against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium actually saw Leeds put together a decent display. However, they lost 3-0, in part due to a series of defensive errors from Giuseppe Bellusci that swung the momentum in their favour. Bellusci spent a prolonged spell on the sidelines after those mistakes, but has fought his way back into the first team. He has gone on to emerge as one of very few players to take any credit from a series of questionable results for Leeds. It would be a testament to his improvement if he managed to keep Jordan Rhodes at bay on Monday.