Leeds facing race against time to have Javi Gracia in the dugout vs Southampton over work permit delays

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Leeds could be without new head coach Javi Gracia for their match against Southampton on Saturday due to delays in obtaining a work permit.

WHAT HAPPENED? The former Watford and Valencia boss was appointed as Jesse Marsch's successor on Tuesday after the club failed to land a number of their prime managerial targets. However, Leeds had stated that Gracia would only take charge against Saints "subject to obtaining the necessary work permissions", and the Daily Mail report that it is these issues which are delaying his return to English football.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Under the new rules brought in after Brexit in January 2021, Gracia does not automatically qualify for a work permit due to not meeting the necessary criteria for working in the Football Association's defined 'top leagues'. The Spaniard has amassed 27 non-consecutive months managing Watford in the Premier League and Valencia in La Liga since 2018, which fall below government requirements. This means his case will be brought before an 'exceptions panel', which could delay the process.

AND WHAT'S MORE: This means Leeds have not been afforded the ideal preparations for their crunch fixture against Southampton. Not only may Gracia not feature in the dugout, but he has been unable to hold training sessions with his new squad. Saints, meanwhile, are just a point off their Yorkshire counterparts after their resolute victory at Chelsea last weekend, with a win for either side potentially enough to lift them out of the relegation zone.

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WHAT NEXT FOR LEEDS? With or without their new boss, the Whites will host Southampton on Saturday in a classic 'six-pointer' in the league, before travelling to Fulham in the FA Cup fifth round the following midweek.