Why Leeds United are underdogs tonight - even on home turf

Leeds United's head coach Garry Monk (Picture James Hardisty).
Leeds United's head coach Garry Monk (Picture James Hardisty).
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GARRY MONK, a League Cup winner as a player with Swansea City, insists Leeds United are the underdogs tonight despite being on home soil in the fourth round.

The Elland Road club, attempting to reach the last eight for the first time in four years, host Norwich City in one of just two all-Championship ties.

A crowd of around 17,000 is expected after ticket prices were slashed for the visit of a Canaries side still smarting from last weekend’s defeat at home to ex-Whites boss Simon Grayson’s Preston North End.

“I think we are underdogs,” said Monk, who came off the bench in the 2013 final as League Two Bradford City were thrashed 5-0 by the top-flight Swans at Wembley.

“Getting through is 100 per cent our aim and intention. I am sure Norwich will have the same intention, but we will have a big crowd and that is an incentive for us. That will really help the atmosphere.

“We are the underdogs, but we are not looking at it like that. We are looking at ourselves and trying to put our football on the pitch as best as possible.

“Norwich are a very good side and very experienced and it will be good for our young players to come up against that.

“But it is a game we are determined to win. There are no two ways about it, we are as determined as Norwich will be and we are in front of our crowd.”

United’s route to the fourth round has seen opposition from each of the three divisions in the Football League beaten.

Fleetwood Town were dispatched on penalties in the first round before Monk’s men edged past Luton Town and Blackburn Rovers via a couple of 1-0 victories.

Norwich, meanwhile, pulled off the shock of the last round by dumping out Everton at Goodison Park despite making 10 changes from their previous league game.

That illustrates the strength in depth available to manager Alex Neil, though the Scot did confirm yesterday that former Leeds midfielder Jonny Howson is out for two months.

Predicting the Canaries’ starting XI has been vexing Monk over the past 24 hours, as has the make-up of his own side.

Stuart Dallas (thigh) is still out along with Liam Bridcutt, but Pablo Hernandez trained last night after missing the weekend win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“If you look at their last few rounds,” added the Leeds chief, “Norwich have made a lot of changes, similar to ourselves. So, it won’t be until the team-sheets come in that certain things can get clarified.

“There is that bit of unpredictability as a result, but that is why you concentrate on yourself, to get your own performance right.”

United moved into the top 10 of the Championship for the first time in more than a year courtesy of last Saturday’s win at Molineux.

Monk’s side are in league action again this weekend when Burton Albion make their first visit to Elland Road before a trip to Carrow Road on November 5 rounds off United’s programme ahead of the next international break.

Asked whether he will have one eye on Nigel Clough’s Brewers when naming his side tonight, the Leeds head coach said: “I don’t think in this league you can prioritise anything. In the Premier League, you have more time to prepare and evaluate your squad.

“Here, it is game after game. Assessing the wounded and assessing freshness. You have got two days maximum to focus on that and make decisions.

“We don’t prioritise anything. What is important is having a whole squad that is ready to use. It is never about 11 players.

“We have shown already that everyone will be counted on, everyone is needed and everyone has to be ready.

“We will know by their team (what Norwich’s attitude is to the EFL Cup).

“Having said that, in the last round they pretty much changed everything, went to Everton and were fantastic.

“They have a very big squad and they have a lot of quality in it. So, maybe their changes don’t affect it as much as other teams would.

“But, with all due respect, we are not worrying about Norwich, we are worrying about ourselves.”

Tonight’s tie will be preceded by a minute’s applause for former Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake, who passed away last week at the age of 71.

Monk added: “It is added motivation. It is sad to lose anyone connected with the club, but he was a legend as well. A way to show respect is to put on a performance.”

The 8,488 crowd at United’s third-round victory over Blackburn was the club’s lowest in seven years and Monk added: “We are very happy to have a big crowd. The atmosphere is going to be great.”

Last six games: Leeds United WLWLDW, Norwich City WLWWDL.

Referee: A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Last time: Leeds United 0 Norwich City 2; April 14, 2015; Championship.