Liam Cooper let Leeds down in Reading game last season, he must prove point this weekend

Liam Cooper of Leeds United (C) walks off after being sent off during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Sutton United and Leeds United at Borough Sports Ground on January 29,...

Liam Cooper will be hoping to return from suspension when Leeds United face Reading at Elland Road this weekend.

Liam Cooper of Leeds United (C) walks off after being sent off during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Sutton United and Leeds United at Borough Sports Ground on January 29,...

When Leeds travelled to Reading towards the end of last season, it appeared that Garry Monk's men were virtually assured of a play-off spot at worst after a solid run heading into the international break that preceded the clash at the Madejski Stadium.

However, a 1-0 defeat to the Royals sparked a run of one win in their final eight games that would see the Whites fall out of the top six and have to settle for one of the most agonising final positions in the Championship - seventh.

Liam Cooper of Leeds United FC passses the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on August 22, 2015 in Leeds, England.

While Liam Cooper was hardly to blame for that run, he did not help Leeds' cause after collecting a six-game ban following an incident during the Reading game where he was adjudged to have stamped on Royals man Reece Oxford.

The Whites already boasted few defensive options so having Cooper - who was an understudy to Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley - unavailable would have been extremely frustrating for Monk.

Fast forward six months and Leeds - now managed by Thomas Christiansen - face Reading, once again, in their first game back following an international break, and Cooper is under the microscope yet again.

Leeds captain Liam Cooper is sent off by Kevin Friend after earning a second yellow card and a sending off during the Sky Bet Championship match between Cardiff City and Leeds United at...

The 26-year-old will be available again having had to miss the Sheffield Wednesday defeat immediately before the break due to the red card that he picked up against Cardiff.

And with Jansson picking up a serious-looking injury against the Owls, it would be no surprise at all if the club captain comes back into the starting lineup for the clash with Jaap Stam's men.

With Cooper's last piece of action on the pitch involving him receiving a second yellow card after an unnecessary, rash challenge against the Bluebirds, and with Leeds losing three of their last four, it is undoubtedly vital that the centre-back steals the headlines for a completely different reason to the one that led to him being banned after the two clubs' previous meeting. 

Before the Cardiff game, Cooper had looked a completely different player this season. And in Saturday's game with Reading, it is crucial that he proves himself to be the leader that Leeds need if they are going to clear the hurdle that proved too big for them last season.

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