LEEDS UNITED boss Neil Warnock has warned his players not to get sidetracked by talk of next week’s Capital One Cup clash with Chelsea – and insists anyone not performing against Ipswich on Saturday will miss out.
Warnock, who texted a message of congratulations to Bradford counterpart Phil Parkinson following their quarter-final win over Arsenal, said: “We want to go as far as we can in the cup and Bradford showed what you can do against the big teams, but if my players do not do what is asked of them against Ipswich, they will not be playing against Chelsea. Not a chance.”
He added: “I watched the Bradford game and it was fantastic. When you are in the cup you never know what might happen and who can say how far Bradford will go now?”
Warnock, however, said United’s upcoming league matches were “absolutely vital” with the halfway stage of the Championship season approaching and Leeds four points behind the play-offs, and he admitted that his line-up against Chelsea would be named on the strength of the club’s performance against Ipswich.
Warnock said: “No-one in my squad should be thinking about Chelsea. We’re looking at Ipswich on Saturday and then, to some extent, at Middlesbrough the Saturday after that.
“They’re my priorities, absolutely, because this is such a crucial period for us in terms of the league.
“We want to go as far as we can in the cup and Bradford showed what you can do against the big teams but if my players don’t do what’s asked of them against Ipswich they’ll not be playing against Chelsea. Not a chance. It’s quite simple.”
United’s last-eight clash with Chelsea was delayed until next week due to the European champions’ involvement in the FIFA World Club Cup in Japan but League Two Bradford made good their own progression by upsetting Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in dramatic style.
The Gunners narrowly avoided a defeat in normal time, forcing an additional half-hour through a late Thomas Vermaelen goal, but Phil Parkinson’s side held out in extra-time and claimed Arsenal’s scalp with a 3-2 win on penalties.
Warnock said: “I watched the game and it was fantastic. I’ve sent a (text) message to Phil to say well done. It’s some achievement. When you’re in the cup you never know what might happen and who can say how far Bradford will go now? I’ve said many times that we’d like to win the cup but really we’ve got other things to think about at the moment – points on the board.”
Warnock, meanwhile, offered further encouragement about the fitness of Rodolph Austin by admitting the midfielder had indicated his desire to return from injury in time for the Chelsea clash.
Austin is nearing the end of his treatment on a cracked ankle bone and Warnock said: “I could tell by the glint in his eye that he’d be back for Chelsea if the decision was his.
“That game’s too early for him but it’s looking like he’ll be ready for Christmas, which is great news in itself.”