Leeds United: Monk not bowing to ‘pressure pedlars’

Norwich City manager Alex Neil.
Norwich City manager Alex Neil.
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GARRY Monk says Leeds United’s dramatic EFL Cup victory over Norwich City has no bearing on Saturday’s league trip to the out-of-form Canaries – whom United’s head coach says remain one of the strongest teams in the division.

Monk’s Whites sent Norwich spinning out of the EFL Cup on penalties a week last Tuesday and a wobbling Norwich have since been thrashed 5-0 at last Saturday’s Championship hosts Brighton. With United having continued their fine form by beating Championship visitors Burton Albion last weekend, only four points separate fourth-placed Norwich and ninth-placed Leeds ahead of Saturday’s Carrow Road clash.

But Monk is in no doubt as to the size of the task facing his side in Norfolk, with the Whites head coach expecting a strong reaction from Norwich’s seaside drubbing at Brighton and having lost no faith in his belief that the Canaries remain one of the most likely sides to go up.

“I don’t think the cup game has any bearing on this game if I’m honest,” said Monk. “Both teams made changes for that game so I don’t think it has a bearing on it and, if anything, we are prepared for a team that will have a strong reaction.

“They have had a difficult week but in this competition you can have a good week and be flying and within one week you can have what everyone feels is terrible. But let’s remind ourselves that they are a very good squad. They are a very good team and it will be difficult or us down there. It’s always a tough place to go.

“We are prepared for a team that is going to give a strong reaction and we have to be ready for that.”

United approach the fixture following a fine run of form that has yielded 19 points from their last nine games – the third-best record in the division over that timescale. Norwich, meanwhile, who won four games on the spin in September, have picked up just two points from their last possible nine – with Preston winning 1-0 at Carrow Road on October 22.

Monk, though, refuses to accept that Canaries boss Alex Neil is now under pressure as a result.

“I don’t see Alex in a pressure situation,” said Monk.

“Of course, expectation for that club and for him in this league, it’s always going to be there and I’ve said all along that for me they are one of the favourites to go up. They have one of the best squads in this league for sure and they probably expect better from themselves.

“That’s football. But I don’t see Alex under any pressure and if that talk is there then I think that’s silly.

“It’s a long, long season, there’s a lot of football to be played and in this league you can have ups and downs all the way and we have suffered that ourselves.

“We had a very difficult start, we have had a good run of form over the last couple of months but that can change very quickly within a week.”

That good run of form has taken Leeds to within one point of the play-offs, and Monk admits the Whites would be laying down a significant marker if they were able to now win at Carrow Road.

Monk, though, has warned that it will take a huge effort to gain any sort of positive result at Carrow Road as United embark on a run of fixtures which sees them take on four of the Championship’s top five in their next six games.

Monk admitted: “If we win the game it would be a fantastic achievement, of course it would, against one of the strongest squads in the league and one of the best teams in the league.

“But we realise it’s going to take a big effort from ourselves and a massive performance from ourselves to get any positive result there.

“But we will go there with confidence.

“We are in a good frame of mind and form and that always goes well into these big games against big teams. We will be ready for it and we will see on the day if we’re good enough.

“But it’s not just this game and it’s a month of really big games for us against the so-called favourites for this league and the strongest teams in this league. It’s going to be an interesting test for us over the next six or seven games.”

Asked if that period would be season defining, Monk declared: “No. There’s plenty of football to be played and there will be a period for sure coming up in this season where we will suffer some disappointment or lows.

“But what we have done and shown already is that we can react straight away and that’s the key to any negative – reacting straight away.

“We are just focused on performing right now and this game on Saturday is our biggest challenge for the players in terms of it’s the next game.