SIX wins from their remaining 20 games should be enough to preserve Leeds United’s Premiership status.

Forty points is generally regarded as the mark required to avoid the drop and the Whites have banked a decent 23 points so far.

Since the league was cut to 20 teams in 1995-96 only three sides have gone down with 40 points or more – West Ham with 42 in 2002-03, 40 for Sunderland in 1996-97 and Bolton, also with 40, the following season.

Marcelo Bielsa’s team blew the chance of earning one of those wins last time out, a poor display seeing them lose at home to a Brighton side without a win in their previous nine matches.

Leeds have lost their last three without scoring, including the 3-0 FA Cup humbling at Crawley, but they travel to Newcastle on Tuesday evening to face a side on an even worse run.

Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa took the Magpies winless streak to 10 games and have only scored once in their last eight games. It was a result that has heaped more pressure on manager Steve Bruce but both he and Bielsa will see the encounter (6pm kick-off) as a big opportunity to get back to winning ways.

Leeds have had a 10-day break ahead of the St James’ Park meeting and if they win it will see them pull seven points clear of the Geordies with a game in hand. Should Newcastle triumph they will move within a point of Leeds, 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

Much has been made of Leeds’s defensive deficiencies but Bielsa has been forced to fiddle about with the backline in the absence of key players.

They have missed Ben White, a star on-loan performer in last season’s Championship-winning side, but recruited two international centre-halves in the summer, Germany’s Robert Koch and Diego Llorente from Spain. They problem is that neither have been fit at the same time.

Koch managed 11 Premiership starts before sustaining a bad knee injury while 27-year-old Llorente, reportedly now fit for action, has yet to start. Even skipper Liam Cooper has missed six Premiership matches. That has seen right-back Luke Ayling, midfielder Kalvin Phillips and rookie Pascal Struijk pressed into action in the heart of a makeshift defence.

Providing there are no Covid issues and unexpected injuries, Bielsa could have the opportunity to get the likes of Ayling and Phillips back in their preferred positions. Without Phillips in midfield Leeds simply don’t defend as well or build attacks quickly.

Bruce went for 5-3-2 formation against Villa and 4-4-2 in the previous game against Arsenal with the towering Andy Carroll partnering Callum Wilson up front. Should he stick with two up top, Bielsa will probably go with three central defenders - Cooper, Llorente and Struijk – returning Phillips to midfield. Bruce may also give a start to the electric Allan Saint-Maximin, who returned to action at Villa as a substitute after a long coronavirus absence.

The virus also laid low Leeds’ record signing Rodrigo earlier in the season and he has been struggling to get through a full 90 minutes with speculation that Covid-19 has sapped his energy.

He struggled badly against Brighton on the heavy Elland Road pitch before being hauled off just beyond the hour, his replacement Tyler Roberts being much more effective.

Work has begun on installing a new £300,000 hybrid pitch at Elland Road. The surface was dreadful for the Brighton game after substantial rainfall and snow.

Plans to relay the pitch in summer had to be shelved because of the limited time between the end of last season and the start of the current campaign.

That work, including drainage replacement, is now scheduled for May

The club have opted for a temporary measure with a new hybrid surface. It will be laid in the coming days in preparation for the next home game with Everton on Wednesday, February 3.