Former Leeds United attacker Noel Whelan says the Whites’ meeting with Derby County on Friday has become huge after dropping points in recent weeks.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men suffered a third straight defeat in all competitions when they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of QPR at Loftus Road on Sunday in the third round of the FA Cup.

Despite suffering back-to-back defeats in the Championship, Leeds continue to remain at the summit of the league table with a two-point advantage over Norwich City.

Furthermore, the Whites have been saved in recent weeks following their competitors’ inability to make full advantage of the league leaders dropping points.

Leeds will lock horns with promotion rivals Derby at Elland Road on Friday and Whelan, who represented both clubs during his playing career, feels the stakes have become higher, especially considering the Whites' recent form.

Whelan stressed the importance of responding well on the training ground and aiming to bounce back in what he described as a “really big game”.

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“They will stay together and they've got to work hard on the training ground”, Whelan said on BBC Radio Leeds following the loss at QPR.

“Friday night now becomes a really big game because we've dropped points.

“Now you've dropped those points people are creeping.

“It could be someone like a Fulham, someone with that momentum that we've not been thinking about just creeping up and before you know it the gap is one [point], then you're level, your goal difference is keeping you afloat.

“We don't want that.”

Leeds registered an emphatic 4-1 win during the reverse fixture against Derby at Pride Park in August.