LEEDS UNITED captain Liam Cooper believes Patrick Bamford is ready to fire the club to Wembley in the absence of top scorer Kemar Roofe.
The Elland Road club’s injury jinx has returned ahead of tomorrow night’s Championship play-off semi-final second leg at home to Derby County.
Roofe, the scorer of the only goal when the two teams met at Pride Park last Saturday, is out with a calf injury.
His place in the starting XI will go to Bamford, available again after serving a two-game ban imposed by the Football Association for deceiving referee Stuart Attwell in last month’s controversial clash with Aston Villa.
Bamford implying he had been struck by Anwar El Ghazi during the melee that followed Mateusz Klich putting Leeds in front led to the Villa midfielder being sent off.
Replays, however, proved there had been no contact and Bamford came in for stinging criticism, as well as a suspension that meant he had to sit out the final-day defeat at Ipswich Town and last Saturday’s first leg against the Rams.
“Pat came straight in and apologised to me, the staff and the boys for what happened,,” said Cooper ahead of Bamford’s return to the starting XI. “It is one of them things.
“In the heat of the moment sometimes you make stupid decisions and Pat will admit that. But he will also tell you that in these last 10 days when he has been suspended he has certainly trained a lot harder than he would if he was playing
“There are no worries about Pat being fit and we all know what Pat can do. He has got this unbelievable confidence about him where, if he misses chances, he always knows he is going to score. It is a weird confidence, but a good one to have in the team. We all take from that as well.”
Even allowing for Cooper’s warm words about Bamford, Roofe’s absence will be keenly felt.
Not only did the 26-year-old net the only goal on Saturday, but his movement up front caused untold problems for the Derby defence.
Roofe’s first-time strike was also his fourth goal against the Rams this season, a big factor in why Frank Lampard’s men have lost all three meetings with United.
He joins Barry Douglas, Tyler Roberts, Ezgjan Alioski and Adam Forshaw on the sidelines, while Pontus Jansson is again a doubt with the ankle injury that kept the Swedish international out on Saturday.
Jamie Shackleton, so impressive in the first leg, will deputise for Forshaw in midfield as Leeds look to book a place in the Championship final for the first time since 2006.
“It is always important to have players at your disposal who have played during the season,” said Bielsa about the injury problems that have dogged his side this term. “We always think of our squad as having 18 starters. It is not just a sentence, it is the reality demanded by the competition.
“Of course we would like to have Roofe and Bamford with us and in parts of the season both were unavailable, but the absence of Roofe comes with the availability of Bamford again.”
Leeds will try to make light of being without their 15-goal top scorer as they look to dominate Derby once again.
Despite that previous superiority, Cooper refuses to take anything for granted.
“I don’t like to ever be over-confident,” said the Leeds captain, who will be partnered by Gaetano Berardi again if Jansson is not fit. “As soon as you start being like that it can affect the way you perform and your mentality. We are not a team who can let anything affect our mentality going into games. We have got to be all at it and if we are not, we find it hard.”
No burnout for Leeds United under Bielsa: Page 18