LEEDS United head coach Garry Monk will not be fooled by Cardiff City’s lowly league position ahead of today’s lunchtime Championship showdown in South Wales.
The Bluebirds have slipped into the relegation zone after suffering three consecutive league losses against Reading, Norwich City and, most latterly, Tuesday night at Preston North End.
Paul Trollope was appointed former manager Russell Slade’s replacement in May but Cardiff have began the current campaign poorly and sit 22nd in the table, lurking in the drop zone on goal difference.
Leeds jumped out of the bottom three themselves with Tuesday night’s 2-1 success at home to Blackburn Rovers, a result which took them to 18th ahead of today’s Sky televised encounter.
Victory would put United on the periphery of the division’s top half with Monk aiming for continued improvement to impress Whites chairman Massimo Cellino.
The United head coach is hopeful of recording back-to-back victories in Cardiff, but is adamant the hosts are better than their recent form and current position suggests.
“It’s surprising to see them where they are at this moment in time,” said Monk.
“But it’s always difficult at the start of the league, especially if you are a new manager.
“But they have a very experienced squad so it’s always trying to find that way and Paul is trying to implement his ideas down there.
“But we go in there fully focused on what we have to do, we have to be ready and determined to put a good performance on and get a positive result and that’s all we are going to concentrate on.”
Leeds themselves have had an abysmal record at Cardiff over recent years but the Whites netted their first victory in ten visits and their first since February 1984 when goals from Souleymane Doukara and Mirco Antenucci sealed a 2-0 success under Steve Evans in March.
Today’s clash presents a quick opportunity to seal a Cardiff double.
“I am expecting a determination and it’s always a difficult place to play,” said Monk.
“I’ve experienced it myself as a player.
“And they are a good team. They have good quality.
“Yes they are in a difficult moment but I know Paul and I like him very much.
“Obviously, he is a new manager into management so he is learning very quickly as well but he is a very good manager as well, I have seen him work.
“I am expecting a reaction from them.
“They will be disappointed with their midweek result but in all of our games we focus on us.
“We have to respect Cardiff but really go down there with the intention that we had on Tuesday night, to keep that momentum going, the confidence that we took from that game and put that on to the pitch.
“We will be determined to do that and try and improve on what we have done before and go down there which is a difficult place to play but try and get a real performance and a positive result.”
Defeat would heap added pressure on Bluebirds boss Trollope and Monk himself has again been forced to answer questions about his own future this week, despite the three points gained at Elland Road on Tuesday night.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss at home to leaders Huddersfield Town prompted speculation that Monk’s position might be in jeopardy under Cellino, who is not shy of axing head coaches.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” said Monk, asked about more speculation about his job this week.
“You can only control what you can control.
“I’ve signed a one-year contract. That’s my commitment to the club and that’s the club’s commitment to me.
“From within, the owner and everyone, they’ve been supportive.
“They’ve seen how we work, they enjoy how we work and they enjoy the high level of detail and quality we give to the group. The players enjoy it too. You could see from the reaction on Tuesday how committed they are.
“That’s the only thing I focus on.
“It’s the only indicator for me – whether what I’m delivering is good enough and I think it clearly is. Yes, there are ups and downs but that’s the nature of football. I keep saying it takes time but that’s the truth.
“You could see clearly from the players on Tuesday – their performance, their reaction afterwards and how committed everyone is to what we’re doing here – how supportive they are of the way I go about my job and the plan I have in place.
“That’s internal at the club too. They understand the level of detail we’re giving to these players and everyone’s very focused on what we’re doing. We’re progressing. We’ve shown progression from where we were at the start of the season to where we are now.
United’s only definite absentee through injury is full-back Gaetano Berardi who injured his hamstring in United’s season opener at Queens Park Rangers. The full-back is set to return to training next week.
Monk is also hopeful that captain Liam Bridcutt will be fit, having limped off after 49 minutes of Tuesday night’s victory with an impact injury to his foot.
The 27-year-old missed training at Thorp Arch on Thursday but so did several other players and Monk is optimistic that his new captain will have recovered in time to face Trollope’s Bluebirds.
Winger Kemar Roofe has also recovered from the calf strain that kept him out of Monk’s 18 against Blackburn.