Leeds v Tottenham, FA Cup 4th round replay, February 3, 2010
Is an extended FA Cup run of any benefit to Leeds United?
After beating Manchester United in round three of the cup, Leeds propelled themselves back in the public eye with many quick to quip that the Whites would not look out of place back in the Premier League. Following that giant-killing, Leeds strengthened belief that they are a club on the up in the fourth round match at White Hart Lane, where the League One outfit showed their character and self-belief to claim a 2-all draw in injury time.
But while Leeds have been at their best in the cup, one cannot ignore their poor form in the league of late. Since their triumph at the Theatre of Dreams, Leeds have only one once in the league since (last weekend’s 2-nil home defeat of Colchester) and, in the paraphrased words of rappers Biggie Smalls there is the feeling around Elland Road that mo matches, mo problems.
Sitting second in League One and primed for promotion, undoubtedly the objective for Simon Grayson’s team until the end of the season is to guarantee that come August 2010 Leeds are a Championship side. Great cup runs are great fun, but the league will always be the bread and butter.
That isn’t to say though that Leeds would not love another scalp of a high-flying Premier League club. (Leeds are 11/5 to qualify for round five.) There is no suggestion that Leeds will be in any way relaxed mood ahead of the visit of Tottenham, and rather, all signs point to the hosts fielding a strong line-up against the Lilywhites.
Of course the star of Leeds remains striker Jermaine Beckford. Having scored at Old Trafford and also netting a brace at the Lane, the serial goalscorer could well add to his 18 goals already tallied this season after the Whites managed to hold onto their prized-asset during the winter transfer window. (Spurs are 15/8 to keep a clean sheet.)
Beckford is not Leeds’ only goal-threat, with Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio niftyÂ attacking in their own right, however the three new signings of Gary McSheffrey, Shane Lowry and Mark Gradel are all unable to take part in the match. (Leeds are 7/2 to score in both halves.)
Other doubts for Leeds centre around defender Patrick Kisnorbo and midfielder Andrew Hughes and Neil Kilkenny, who all missed Saturday victory over Colchester with injury/illness.
While an extended cup run may not be a priority for Leeds, without question Harry Redknapp will want his Spurs side to go as far as possible in the only competition ‘Arry has ever won. (Spurs are 17/2 to win the FA Cup.)
Ever since Aaron Lennon fell foul of injury several weeks back, Tottenham have lacked their early season consistency which suggested that the Cockerels could actually live up to their potential and crash in on the Premier League’s top four. The erratic on-field problems, highlights by home draws with Hull and Leeds together with an insipid 2-nil defeat at Anfield, has been matched with a typically colourful transfer window in north London in which Robbie Keane has (again) left the club while some questionable signings have come through the revolving door.
Of those new signings, Younes Kaboul is cup-tied having played in the cup for Pompey and Eidur Gudjohnsen is not being considered after his move from Monaco. Spurs’ selection problems continue further as striker Roman Pavlyuchenko misses the trip up the M1 because of a groin injury, while club captain Ledley King is again set to be rested.
Of those fit and able, fringe players Gareth Bale and David Bentley will aim to continue their recent decent form, while Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch will be handed the responsibility of leading the line. (Spurs are 6/4 to score in both halves & 4/1 to win both halves.)
While Bolton will be hoping that Leeds claim another Premier League victim to set up aÂ fifth round tie with the Trotters, in reality one can expect that Simon Grayson and his team would not feel too hard done by if chose this moment to exit the competition to focus on the more important target of promotion.
101gg predicts: Leeds 1 – Tottenham 2 (7/1)
Full match odds here.