Leeds United: Monk sees cup as way to maintain momentum

Pablo Hernandez
Pablo Hernandez
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Leeds United head coach Garry Monk tipped Norwich City as favourites for the Championship title but said he had his eyes firmly fixed on a quarter-final place ahead of tomorrow’s EFL Cup tie.

Monk turned his mind quickly to the League Cup after Leeds notched their sixth league win of the season at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday and claimed his players were about to come up against the strongest squad in the second tier.

United avoided a Premier League side when the draw for round four was made last month and Monk’s squad have reached the last 16 with victories over Fleetwood Town, Luton Town and Blackburn Rovers.

Norwich, who visit Elland Road tomorrow, have already led the Championship this term and sit seven points and six places above Leeds but they dropped to fourth on Saturday after losing 1-0 to Preston North End at Carrow Road.

Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle currently head the table with a three-point lead over Brighton but Monk said Norwich’s retention of players after relegation from the top flight and their summer recruitment had given Alex Neil’s team the best chance of promotion.

“For me, they’re my favourite team to win the league this year,” Monk said. “They have to be favourites.

“I know Newcastle are up there as well but Norwich kept a lot of the squad that came down from the Premier League. They’ve added good players in the summer too so it’s going to be interesting and it’ll be a good gauge for us to test ourselves and see how far we’ve come.”

Monk has made a substantial number of changes in all of United’s previous ties while Norwich eliminated Everton in round three despite Neil making 10 alternations at Goodison Park

“They’ve got the squad whatever they do to be really strong,” Monk said. “They’ve got plenty of players to choose from and they’re the favourites for those reasons.”

Leeds, though, are unbeaten in five home matches and were on a run of four straight wins at Elland Road when an injury-time goal held them to a 1-1 draw against Wigan last Tuesday.

Monk, who won the League Cup as a player with Swansea City during the 2012-2013 term, is bidding to take Leeds into the last eight for the first time since that season.

“We’re five games unbeaten at home and we want to keep that going,” he said. “Even though it’s a cup game we need to have the same mentality.

“It’s a chance to progress and we’ve already done well in the cup. Keeping momentum and keeping winning – it’s all you want to do.”

United’s boss hopes to have Spanish playmaker Pablo Hernandez back for the meeting with Norwich – the first of two clashes with City in the space of a fortnight – after Hernandez missed the trip to Wolves with a dead leg.

The former Valencia player was ruled out with an injury suffered against Wigan and made way for youngster Ronaldo Vieira at Molineux. Monk said: “He was close but the game was just a couple of days too soon for him.

“He’s more likely to be ready for Tuesday. There was no point in risking him.”