YEP Jury: Surely now is the time for Leeds United to prioritise an FA Cup run?

Our panel of fans look ahead to Leeds United’s FA Cup third round tie at Crawley Town and give their predictions.

By Mark Absolon
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 11:30 am

MATTHEW EVANS

It feels like a long time since we took the FA Cup seriously.

For years and years we’ve heard people argue that it’s not a priority for Leeds United while we were desperate to end our miserable stay in the lower divisions. Putting aside the fact that our traditional third round exit almost always led to a run of bad results, it never sat well with me.

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Leeds United academy star Sam Greenwood, right. Picture: Getty Images.

We’ve made a great start to life back in the Premier League, we have a decent mid-table position and the frequency of games seems nowhere near as intense as the Championship.

Surely now is the time to prioritise a cup run? If not now, when?

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side has all the hallmarks of a great cup team. Play to win and work for the result from the first whistle.

I’ll be disappointed if we don’t put out a strong side and even more disappointed if we add Crawley to the list of names that have taken our scalp alongside Histon, Newport and Sutton. I want a comfortable win and an impressive display on the BBC.

Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images.

Prediction: Crawley Town 0 Leeds United 3.

ANDY RHODES

After a whirlwind first half of the league season, the FA Cup is set to give much of the first team a welcome break.

As in previous years, Marcelo Bielsa is set to field a side with a more youthful complexion against a team three divisions below the Whites.

Joe Gelhardt of Leeds United, right. Picture: Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images.

This season, United’s Under-23 squad has a wealth of exciting players. The likes of Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood and Stuart McKinstry have caught the eye this season, and have been tipped to break into the first team in the future.

After struggling to progress beyond the third round in recent years, these youngsters will have considerable responsibility on their shoulders.

Last year’s trip to the Emirates saw the first glimpse of the Premier League Leeds we see today. That day, United pushed Arsenal hard and were desperately unlucky not to win.

Since then, Leeds’ all-action style of play has set the Premier League alight. With Bielsa’s style set up to filter down through the age groups, this could be a cracker of a Cup tie.

Leeds United's Helder Costa. Picture: Oli Scarff/NMC Pool/PA Wire.

Prediction: Crawley Town 2 Leeds United 3.

DAVID WATKINS

A couple of weeks off from the Premier League and a chance for Marcelo Bielsa to experiment as we take on League Two Crawley Town in the FA Cup third round.

I’m hoping we field a strong side; in recent seasons we’ve tended to rest the first XI when playing lower league teams and it has often left us dumped out of the Cup at the first attempt and yet the rest still didn’t seem to help our form in the following games!

It is a chance to rehearse for the enforced absence of Kalvin Phillips against Brighton so I’d expect Kalvin to be rested on Sunday and maybe we’ll see Pablo Hernandez get a rare start to see how he copes with 90 minutes.

Kiko Casilla could get some match action too but apart from that I’d like to see the rest come from the usual 18-man Premier League squad. We’ll see what happens.

Leif Davis. Picture: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images.

Crawley are no mugs; they are unbeaten in nine games and have scored in all bar four of their 29 games this season so don’t expect it to be an easy ride.

Prediction: Crawley Town 1 Leeds United 2.

KEITH INGHAM

Leeds turn their attentions to the FA Cup for a trip to a team they have never played in their history.

Crawley are managed by John Yens, previously they were managed by one of Massimo Celino’s past Leeds head coaches Steve Evans.

They were formed in 1951 and started in the Sussex League.

Marcelo Bielsa will give opportunities to a few of his squad players in his starting line up.

This game is a big opportunity for the players not considered as guaranteed starters, it is hoped they grab their chance.

The early rounds of the FA Cup haven’t been a happy hunting ground for Leeds recently against lower league teams. Histon, Newport and Rochdale to mention just three have embarrassed United and Crawley will be wanting to add their name to a pretty lengthy list of Cup upsets involving top league teams.

Even with a team vastly changed from the one that started against Spurs, it is hoped that Leeds can beat a side they really should beat fairly easily, but unfortunately you never know.

For these games status and form goes out of the window and it’s usually the team who wants to win the game that does.

Let’s hope for once it’s Leeds.

I, for one would like a decent cup run after years of putting promotion as a priority and using cup competitions as a way of giving some of the squad game time.

It will be, without doubt, a game many people will have their eyes on, some hoping Leeds fall on their derrière!

Prediction: Crawley Town 1 Leeds United 3.

JACOB STARR

Crawley Town is the venue for Leeds United as we’re treated to a week off league action with a third round FA Cup tie, the first time these two teams have faced each other in a competitive fixture.

The Reds are in good form in League Two and sit in the play-off places, so will be hoping to replicate the famous Cup shocks of recent years at the Whites’ expense i.e. Histon and Sutton.

I highly doubt the Cup will be high up on our list of priorities though, despite being firmly in mid-table in the Premier League.

However, I’m sure Marcelo Bielsa and co won’t want to go out to a League Two side, and it could allow us to go on a decent Cup run even if it doesn’t have that much significance besides confidence.

A mix of fringe players and academy prospects will likely be given a go. The likes of Kiko Casilla, Leif Davis, Jamie Shackleton, Ian Poveda and Helder Costa, if selected, should be too much for a motivated Crawley side.

I do fear for the hosts though if Pablo Hernandez is called upon at any point.

Prediction: Crawley Town 1 Leeds United 3.

MIKE GILL

It is churlish to even say it but the one area where we haven’t prospered under Marcelo Bielsa is in cup competitions.

Nobody is too worried about this because the focus on escaping from the snake pit of the Championship was the right way to go.

Although we cannot assume that our tenure in the Premier League is completely safe, the FA Cup should be more than a minor irritation in 2021.

To Crawley Town it will be their biggest game of the season and United need to respect this.

Our performance in the League Cup this season was not our finest hour and we will all be looking for an improvement on that.

It will be good to see a reasonably strong side making the trip to Sussex to give a bit of support to our exciting crop of young players.

I am particularly looking forward to seeing how Sam Greenwood, Joe Gelhardt and Charlie Creswell shape up in this game.

It is a real opportunity for the fringe players to showcase their talents.

Prediction: Crawley Town 1 Leeds United 3.

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