Jesse Marsch knows that defence and not attack will define his future and Leeds United's season

LEEDS UNITED may have shelved out a club record fee to sign Hoffenheim forward Georginio Rutter, but the fate of their season will be determined by defence and not offence.

Head coach Jesse Marsch admitted as much ahead of Wednesday night's FA Cup replay with Cardiff City, the first of two home matches whose dual importance does not need spelling out to the American.

Leeds followers must wait for their first sight of France U21 player Rutter, who has joined for a fee rising to £36m, with Football Association rules stating that a player can only take part in a replay if they were involved in the original fixture.

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One player who is likely to feature is Austrian international defender Max Wober, with the £10m signing eyeing a first start after two appearances from the bench.

Jesse Marsch. Picture: Getty Images.Jesse Marsch. Picture: Getty Images.
Jesse Marsch. Picture: Getty Images.

Since their last clean sheet at Elland Road on Ocotber 2, Leeds, who are set to be without Liam Cooper (knee), have conceded 26 goals in their last 13 matches in all competitions at an average of two per match.

Just as poor defensive statistics ultimately proved the undoing of Marsch's predecessor Marcelo Bielsa, so the issue is starting to provide the narrative for the 49-year-old, whose side have won just twice in their last 17 outings.

United's hierarchy has shown patience towards Marsch. But it won't be finite.

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Acknowledging that defensive improvement is the crux of United's season, he said: "No doubt, and we've continued to try to address that. I think Max Wober coming more into the fold will be helpful.

"With Max on the pitch now over the last two matches, we've given zero goals and scored three, so I think that is important.

"We're trying to continue to make tactical adjustments to be able to help specifically defend in some wide areas and in the box. But the more that we can defend now, I think we know we can score.

"We know and to be honest, scoring is the hardest thing to do in this sport. And so for us, it's been also trying to manage the opponent from scoring, the quality obviously has something to do with that, but the more leads we can get, the more clean sheets that we can have, the better we will get results."

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"There's one statistic where we're the fifth best team in the league when it's 0-0, we're the best team in the league when we are down and we are the worst team in the league when we are up, so we need to get the lead more and then we need to be able to sustain the lead or expand on the lead and that will be the goal here moving forward."

While Leeds would ideally like both a performance and result this evening, the bottom line is the latter, with Marsch's side having won just once at home since late August.

Tonight, they step out on home soil in the FA Cup for the first time in just over seven years.

Marsch added: "We need conviction. (But) We need a win. And I hate being result based. But that's where we are. We know it won't be easy, but we will be at home and the club has not had a home FA Cup fixture for many years.

“We will need to go match by match now in the league and in the cup and try to now really take the momentum from that Aston Villa game and show that we are ready for big challenges now."