Souleymane Doukara urged Leeds United to keep one eye on this weekend’s Championship game against Aston Villa after a nervous win over Rotherham cleared the way for tomorrow’s League Cup clash with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Doukara, whose first-half strike earned a 2-1 victory at Rotherham on Saturday, spoke of excitement in the camp ahead of a quarter-final trip to Anfield but said the league campaign was “most important” with United up to fifth in the Championship.
Leeds survived late tension at the New York Stadium to see off bottom-of-the-table Rotherham and reclaim a play-off spot which was briefly lost after a defeat to league leaders Newcastle United last weekend.
Garry Monk’s side have made impressive progress in the Championship while quietly edging through to the last eight of the EFL Cup with defeats of Fleetwood Town, Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City.
The club’s appearance in the quarter-finals is their first since 2012 and Leeds have not made the last four for 20 years but the meeting with Klopp’s Liverpool squad will be followed four days later by the visit of in-form Villa to Elland Road.
Doukara insisted that Leeds would travel to Anfield with confidence, saying: “It’s a cup game so you never know. You can draw and go to the penalties or you can lose or you can win. But (Liverpool) are a good team. We’ll be focused on their players and trying to stop them.
“Everyone is excited for this game. We’re looking forward to it but we need to stay focused on the Championship. Liverpool’s a cup game. Most important are the league games.
“Everybody’s focused on Aston Villa as well because it’s going to be a hard game. They won again on Saturday and they’re a good team with offensive players who can make the difference.”
Monk has used fringe members of his squad in previous rounds of the League Cup but the United head coach gave no hint about the team he planned to use against Liverpool.
Top scorer Chris Wood, who took his tally to 12 with the opening goal at Rotherham, has found the net in all three rounds despite coming off the bench in each tie but the forward said he would not be knocking on Monk’s door in search of a start at Anfield.
“The boys who’ve been playing and who’ve done well in the cup need to keep progressing like that,” Wood said. “It’s fair enough.”
Doukara’s appearances were limited in the early stages of this season but a compelling display in a dramatic third-round victory over Norwich City opened to door to opportunities in recent Championship fixtures.
The Frenchman followed up a finish against Burton Albion last month with an effort on the stroke of half-time at Rotherham, establishing a 2-0 lead which United battled to cling onto in the second half.
“I’m very happy because I’m playing more games but it’s (down to) hard work every day in training,” Doukara said. “There’s no secret. It’s just the hard work I put in and the staff who help me. That’s why I’m playing well.
“But I can do more. Everybody can do more, especially me.
“Every day I want to do more to keep my place in the team.”