The fight for places got a whole lot fiercer for Leeds United after Carabao Cup exit to Stoke - David Prutton
LEEDS UNITED now face a test looking to bounce back from Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup exit to Stoke City on penalties.
Marcelo Bielsa made eight changes for that game and it was the perfect game to be able to look at how deep the squad is and to keep everybody on their toes.
Going out of the Carabao Cup now means that the competition for places is going to be even fiercer because everybody will only be looking at the league games.
Leeds won’t have been looking at Stoke as a walkover and Stoke boss Nathan Jones put a strong team out as they needed to win.
I’m not saying Leeds didn’t need to win but Stoke definitely needed a win from somewhere and they managed to grind one out. The fact that Leeds fought back from being 2-0 down to take the game to penalties shows the fight of Leeds and the club did well to get over 30,000 to the game considering how expensive football can now be.
Marcelo obviously wanted to get through; it’s a cup competition that he will have naturally wanted to do well in and it was also a chance to assess other players in his squad. But it could really have a silver lining as the league is absolutely where their focus should be.
Jack Harrison had the misfortune of missing the only penalty in the shootout when his effort hit the post but it’s only a tiny blot on his copybook. He has come back with the bit between his teeth wanting to show everyone what he is capable of on a consistent basis and he even eluded to that himself, the fact that he had unfinished business here both with a team and individually with himself.
Yes, he missed the penalty but it takes a lot of bottle to be one of those to go up and take one.
Missing it will have hurt but now it’s been and gone and it’s part and parcel of football having to get up for games and get over them very quickly and move on to the next one which comes with Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash against Swansea City at Elland Road.
Swansea are the only team in the division to have matched Leeds’ start of four wins and a draw. They have been scoring goals at will and I think they are a very, very classy outfit from what I have seen of what Steve Cooper has done with the side.
Obviously Ollie McBurnie and Dan James have left but Swansea play a very patient game with lots of possession, shades of what Swansea had been turned into under Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Garry Monk.
They had an established way of playing but they came away from that which showed in their league placing and their relegation but Steve Cooper is a very proud man and aware of the division and where Swansea want to be. I managed to have a chat with him last weekend, mentioning about playing the so-called bigger clubs and he was very quick to point out that, in terms of these bigger clubs and being in the Premier League, they have been nowhere near it, whereas, more recently, Swansea have been an established Premier League club.
They have gone back to keeping it simple but also being dangerous and easy on the eye and Leeds and Marcelo will not be taking this lightly at all. I think it will be a very stern test of how good they are because, with Borja Baston leading the line and Andre Ayew up top, they have got several tens of millions of pounds worth of talent there that have come back and hit the ground running.
Swansea could definitely be automatic promotion contenders if they can maintain the pace. You have to look at the depth of the squad but, if you look at Wolves, for example, they were a team that had minimal changes to their starting XI for a second season who had a game plan and consistency that was able to blast them all the way through the season. The expectation levels are also different with Swansea perhaps seen as more of an outsider away from the teams who were relegated last season and are expected to be up there along with West Brom and Leeds who were up there last season.
You just automatically think Leeds and West Brom will go again and maybe Swansea will benefit from being a little bit under the radar and getting on with their freescoring business and making a real dent in the league.
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