Leeds 'confident' over Chris Wood fitness ahead of top-six showdown against Reading

George Flood
Chris Wood

Leeds United are positive that influential striker Chris Wood will be available for a potential Championship play-off dress rehearsal against promotion rivals Reading on Saturday (1 April).

The 25-year-old sustained a knock last weekend while captaining and scoring for New Zealand during the opening victory of their 2018 World Cup qualifying double-header against Fiji in Lautoka.

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In addition to ruling him out of that second Oceania clash in Wellington, such an injury quickly spread panic that Wood's fitness for an eagerly-anticipated trip to the Madejski Stadium had been thrown into doubt.

The former West Bromwich Albion frontman has emerged as a pivotal figure for Leeds since completing a £3m ($3.7m) switch from Leicester City in July 2015, topping the second-tier scoring charts this term and keeping the Whites firmly in top-six contention with 24 goals in 36 league appearances.

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His 27 across all competitions in 2016-17 is more than any other player has managed across England's top four divisions.

"Chris came back with a knock – obviously from the game," Leeds manager Garry Monk was quoted as saying at a press conference by the Yorkshire Evening Post having already told LUFC TV that he was "hopeful" over Wood's fitness for Reading.

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"We have been assessing him and we are confident that he will be fine and available for the weekend's game. All of the international players have returned and have been training this week."

Monk's confidence was shared by forward Souleymane Doukara, who, in addition to revealing that he still has another year left to run on his contract at Elland Road, confirmed that Wood had been training this week and, as far as he knew, would be available to play.

This weekend's showdown in Berkshire pits fifth against fourth, with only two points separating the sides ahead of kick-off with eight games left to play. Wood and Doukara both notched in a 2-0 win over Reading in December, after which Royals boss Jaap Stam courted controversy with disapproval of Leeds' tactics and the home crowd's criticism of his team's so-called "boring" style of play.

The added spice to this latest meeting has come courtesy of Reading striker Yann Kermorgant, with Monk disputing the powerful Frenchman's claim that Leeds "have no plan B" without Wood.

"We know it's going to be a tough test," Kermorgant said. "We could end up facing Leeds in the play-offs. They have one striker [Wood] who scores almost all of their goals. It's good for him but it's dangerous for the team because if he gets injured they have no plan B."

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