YEP Jury: Leeds United fans torn between FA Cup dreams and pragmatic league ambitions

Kalvin Phillips walks past the Leeds United bench after being snet off at Nottingham Forest. He will miss the Whites' FA Cup tie at QPR on Sunday.
Kalvin Phillips walks past the Leeds United bench after being snet off at Nottingham Forest. He will miss the Whites' FA Cup tie at QPR on Sunday.
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Our fans’ panel look ahead to Leeds United’s FA Cup third round tie at Queens Park Rangers.

DAVID WATKINS

QPR boss Steve McClaren.

QPR boss Steve McClaren.

Doesn’t it feel nice going into a game knowing it’s not crucial to our promotion chase!

This weekend we travel to Loftus Road for an FA Cup third-round tie and, whilst many would love a Cup run and the chance to bag a tie against one of the Premier League giants, we all know it’s not the big prize.

Will it have any impact on our league campaign? Most Championship managers in recent seasons have opted to field weakened sides in the early rounds of both cup competitions, protecting key players for league games. Marcelo Bielsa did so in the two Carabao Cup games, resting many of his key players, but he continued to play those for whom he had no alternative.

Hence Kalvin Phillips played against both Bolton and Preston in the CC. And there we have the biggest dilemma; we go into this tie knowing that Kalvin cannot start, so how do we play it? There is little point guessing and the result may turn simply on who plays the strongest side. What’s the worst result of all? The one I’m going for!

Marcelo Bielsa.

Marcelo Bielsa.

Prediction: QPR 1 Leeds United 1.

ANDY RHODES

Ah, the FA Cup, a chance to pursue the world’s most famous trophy, or a chance to forget about recent league results depending on who you ask.

For Marcelo Bielsa the Cup will be an opportunity to rest his barebones squad after a hectic Christmas schedule and take a look at some of his fringe players.

It will also be Bielsa’s first taste of the world-famous FA Cup and, as such, he won’t want to make it a losing start.

After another game with Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the spotlight, one of Leeds’ younger ’keepers might get the nod, while the likes of Jack Clarke, Aapo Halme and Tyler Roberts will all be hoping to start.

Steve McClaren is also likely to make changes to his play-off-challenging squad having turned around QPR’s fortunes, with some fans even talking of, um, ‘McClaren-ball’.

It’s not exactly the pick of the weekend’s FA Cup ties but, for Bielsa, it will be just as important as any other game.

For the fans, maybe not so much.

Prediction: QPR 2 Leeds United 1.

MATTHEW EVANS

A really disappointing couple of results shouldn’t overshadow the achievement of making it through to the January transfer window at the top of the table despite a lengthy list of injured players, the sudden departure of Samuel Saiz and essentially the same set of players that looked so poor under Paul Heckingbottom less than a year ago.

It’s hard to pinpoint where we went wrong in the last two games against Hull City and Nottingham Forest.

We looked the better side for long spells, even with 10 men on New Year’s Day at the City Ground.

We looked tired but then again so did our opponents and the stats show that we had the possession and chances to win both games.

We go into this FA Cup game with the need to rest players but, I suspect, without the desire to go as far as Garry Monk and Thomas Christiansen did in our previous couple of exits to Sutton and Newport.

I am hoping to see a youthful and exuberant side take us into the fourth round.

Prediction: QPR 1 Leeds United 2.

KEITH INGHAM

Are Leeds United in trouble or is it just that the ‘Bielsa way’ is basically running the players into the ground? There is no doubt that the head coach has improved nearly all the squad but a few looked ‘out on their feet’ at Nottingham Forest and not for the first time this season.

I’m no genius, I’m a fan who’s seen Leeds in good positions before and it ended in tears. This term looks different but for the love of Billy Bremner the squad desperately needs fresh legs out there and it’s up to Andrea Radrizzani and co to convince Marcelo Bielsa it’s a pretty good idea and then put up the money to get them in.

This weekend the FA Cup brings a chance to give some of the players that haven’t been regular starters an opportunity to impress Marcelo Bielsa and stake their claims for a starter’s jersey for the next vital 20 Championship games.

Will Huffer, Lewis Baker, Jack Clarke, Aapo Halme, Ryan Edmundson, Jamie Shackleton and Tyler Roberts all will probably start, giving the regular first-team players a week to recharge before the Championship game with Derby County the following Friday.

Last month, our opposition, QPR, gave us a few frights before Kemar Roofe despatched our first penalty in 59 games to win the match 2-1 at Elland Road. The ‘Rs’ may, like Leeds, rest a few players after the Christmas and new-year fixtures. They drew 2-2 with Villa on New Year’s Day and have an outside chance of getting into the top six.

I still have a great affection for the FA Cup but, ultimately, Leeds have another, bigger priority this season and if they bow out this weekend I won’t be as bothered as I have been in past seasons.

Prediction: QPR 2 Leeds United 1.

MIKE GILL

After a relentless holiday period, United have the opportunity to lick their wounds and regroup as they head for Shepherd’s Bush on Sunday.

An odd kick-off time of 2pm is to facilitate television viewers abroad.

Let us hope that these viewers have more appetite for the match than the QPR fans who will struggle to outnumber the travelling Whites.

Even an unconventional coach like Marcelo Bielsa is expected to make multiple changes to the team and it should be a great opportunity to give playing time to our emerging stars of the future.

After the debacles at Sutton and Newport it is really important that we win this one. Many people will trot out the timeworn platitude that concentrating on the Championship is more important but a third successive setback would do nothing to steady United’s nerves at this stage.

Our last two games were both winnable in different ways as this one should be.

As ever, the result will depend on who wants it most.

Prediction: QPR 1 Leeds United 2.

SHAUN SMITH

I would put out a side that featured Brenda the tea lady in this FA Cup match against Queens Park Rangers but even then with Ethel away in Tenerife on a week’s holiday I would be reluctant to risk Brenda given the lack of cover.

It’s going to be a young team that runs out at Loftus Road, in fact toddle out might be more appropriate and I would recommend dipping into the vast ranks of first-team offspring to make up an XI on Sunday.

However, the match serves its purpose of soaking up one game of the three-match suspension of Kalvin Phillips and if United ‘under-23s’ can manage a draw forcing a replay Elland Road, the midfielder-turned-centre-back will only miss one Championship league match, that being against Frank Lampard’s Derby County.

It’s fair to say that QPR will be more interested in winning this one than Leeds United and a draw is the best we can hope for.

In fact, because we have bigger fish to fry, a defeat would be easier to stomach than most.

Prediction: QPR 1 Leeds United 1.