Garry Monk wants a big performance at Anfield tomorrow to set Leeds United up for the run-in to Christmas after a 2-1 win at Rotherham United on Saturday earned his players a ticking off.
Leeds climbed to fifth in the Championship table after hanging on for a first league victory at Rotherham since 1982 but Monk was concerned to see his side slip from a position of comfort at half-time.
Chris Wood’s 12th goal of the season and a strike from Souleymane Doukara in first-half injury time left Leeds in complete control after Rotherham forward Peter Odemwingie was dismissed for a cynical elbow on Liam Cooper in the 29th minute.
United, however, lost their way in the second half and a header from Rotherham captain Richard Wood set up a tense finish in which Kenny Jackett’s bottom-of-the-league team twice threatened to snatch a draw.
Monk berated his players for being “a bit selfish” after half-time but Leeds remain nicely placed in the Championship ahead of their high-profile EFL Cup tie with Liverpool tomorrow.
The quarter-final at Anfield precedes a difficult run of league matches in which Leeds will meet Aston Villa, Brighton, Reading and Brentford and Monk said performances in the EFL Cup this season had helped to instill confidence in his squad.
But Liverpool are second in the Premier League and United’s head coach admitted a repeat of the struggle at Rotherham would give his side little chance of causing a shock.
“We go into the cup game now and it’s one we’re going to try and enjoy,” Monk said. “But it’s one where we need to play like we did in that first 20 minutes (at Rotherham) to stand any chance. We’ll see who’s ready physically and mentally.
“Along the way I think we’ve used the League Cup to help our league form. Some of our performances in the cup have catapulted our league form so we’re going to pay respect to the game and try to put a performance on.”
Monk’s line-up was weakened on Saturday by the absence of Pablo Hernandez and Pontus Jansson through injury and suspension respectively. Jansson is available for the trip to Anfield after serving a one-match ban but playmaker Hernandez will be missing with a hamstring strain.
Monk, though, refused to make excuses after narrowly overcoming a 10-man team at the New York Stadium.
“I’ve been in situations myself as a player where you’re dominant and the opposition lose a player,” he said. “It makes it a slightly harder game. They find extra energy because they know they have to cover more ground but that shouldn’t stop you doing what you should be doing.
“We got a bit selfish in the second half and we thought we could win the game a little more comfortably, maybe win it playing at 70 per cent or something like that. That’s when you get caught.
“We’re not good enough to not be at 100 per cent and this league never allows you to be at less than 100 per cent. That’s the lesson we’ll take away and we spoke at the end very openly about it. If you want to get better you have to understand that. But I think the players will. We’ll keep moving forward.”