'The longer it goes on goalless the nervier it might get' - the key battle for Leeds United at Crawley and Graham Smyth's prediction

Regardless of the line-up Marcelo Bielsa chooses to go with on Sunday at Crawley Town, the task for Leeds United is simple.

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 11:40 am
STARTING PLACE - Ian Poveda could come into Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United line-up on Sunday at Crawley Town in the FA Cup. Pic: Getty
STARTING PLACE - Ian Poveda could come into Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United line-up on Sunday at Crawley Town in the FA Cup. Pic: Getty

Making it through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with no new injuries are all that matters in one of those games that presents a no-win scenario.

If they win comfortably, it was expected, if they don't it's a disaster and an even higher profile one than some of those in the last 16 years, given their new-found Premier League status.

Here's the details and the YEP take on who they have to look out for, where the key to victory lies and what we predict in terms of a scoreline.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

Date: Sunday. Time: 1.30pm. Competition: FA Cup. Venue: The People's Pension Stadium

Odds: Crawley win: 8/1. Draw: 17/4. Leeds win: 1/3

LAST ROUND FOR CRAWLEY

Saturday, November 29 2020

AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Crawley Town (Ashley Nadesan 30, Max Watters 49)

KEY BATTLE

The first goal

While Leeds United's Premier League status lends itself to an assumption that they should be in control of this game from the off, conceding the first goal could turn it into a more difficult afternoon than it ought to be. A 1-0 lead would give Crawley a huge boost, incentive to fight and a lead to sit back and protect. The longer it goes on without a goal, the nervier it might get for Leeds. If Marcelo Bielsa's team take the lead, that should be that. Should be, but this is the FA Cup and this is Leeds United. Things are rarely easy.

CRAWLEY KEY MAN

Max Watters

Any player scoring goals at the rate of Max Watters is worth keeping an eye on. He's hit 16 in 18 appearances this season, with six in his last five outings for Crawley Town. The good news, for Leeds is that he might not feature. The striker, just 21, has a hamstring issue and will need a late fitness test. Crawley will surely stick him on the bench given half a chance and he will be desperate to feature at some stage, in what would be the biggest game of his career to date. Even if he doesn't play in the FA Cup tie, his form for Crawley since signing in October has ensured he will be a player watched by a lot of clubs and fans as this season goes on. Don't expect him to be in League Two this time next year.

GRAHAM SMYTH'S VERDICT

Just win, Leeds. Whatever the line-up Bielsa chooses, the task is simple. Win, avoid adding to the club's list of FA Cup embarrassments and make progress in a competition that offers a genuine chance of excitement this season. Leeds should have too much and if they play as well as they can they should win handily. I can see Bielsa making changes but it will be a strong team. Perhaps something like this: Casilla, Ayling, Davis, Cooper, Struijk, Phillips, Shackleton, Hernandez, Costa, Poveda, Bamford. Even though a 1-0 win, with no injuries, would do nicely I think they'll beat the hosts 4-1. I fancy Ian Poveda to get a goal, too.