The FA Cup is back on AVB’s agenda this weekend and we travel to a familiar foe as its Leeds vs Spurs.
Three years ago we knocked them out in the fourth round, as Jermain Defoe scored a hat trick to win a replay after we’d drawn 2-2 at the Lane. Back in 1999 we also advanced after a draw in the first tie, as David Ginola and Darren Anderton sent us through in the return.
Andre Villas-Boas has no new injury worries, so could keep faith with the side that drew with Man Utd last weekend. He could also freshen up the starting eleven as he did in the last round against Coventry.
So, what will we face at Elland Road and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Leeds vs Spurs?
Not such a fast start
We flew out of the traps against Coventry in the last round, going 3-0 up by half-time to put the tie to bed and AVB will probably approach this game in the same manner.
The head coach is very much a fan of going at the opposition early as I’ve written many times before, especially when away from home.
Leeds could be a tough nut to crack though, as they are especially strong at home. The Yorkshire side haven’t conceded in the opening 15 minutes in the Championship this season. As a result, their opening goal conceded time is on average around the 58-minute mark at Elland Road, but this is not all bad news. Leeds do have a habit of conceding late goals, as they have let in 7 of their 17 at home in the final 15 minutes.
If Spurs are struggling to break a resolute Leeds side down, they may well do so in the final minutes of the match.
Leeds vs Spurs stopping the one-man show
The replay in 2010 saw Jermain Defoe outgun his opposite number Luciano Becchio by three strikes to one. The two forwards will once again be on display on Sunday, but whereas Jermain Defoe has backup in the goal-scoring department in the form of Bale and Dempsey, Becchio is very much Leeds’ main man.
The Argentinean has struck 16 times in the Championship this season, being far and away Leeds’ most potent striker. El Hadji Diouf is the team’s next top scorer with just four, equal with Michael Tonge and Paul Green.
Michael Dawson was tasked with stopping Becchio that night and the two will lock horns again on Sunday. Daws has already come out saying that we have to be ready and that “If we’re not at the races, we’ll come unstuck.”
He should know more than most, having played against Becchio on that night three years ago.
Shots at a premium
With Leeds relying so much on one man, its no surprise that they are the team that takes the fewest efforts at goal in the Championship.
The Yorkshire club have taken just 239 shots this term, the worst of any Championship team. What’s more, when it comes to hitting the target, only Bristol City and Huddersfield have been less accurate.
That’s no cause for complacency though. Ross McCormack has come back in to the side of late and should partner Becchio upfront. The Scot’s header last time out saw Leeds scrape a 1-0 win and he will be an aerial threat here, which could well see Steven Caulker retain his place.
Elsewhere, El Hadji Diouf has never been renowned as a goalscorer, but despite only striking four times in the league, his effort and work-rate need to be guarded against. The former Liverpool and Bolton man plays in off either the left or right wing these days, but is a danger to get on the end of crosses.
Spurs should be looking to play a high line and pressing game here in order to squeeze Leeds and force turnovers, keeping shots to a minimum.
Leeds vs Spurs scoring from set pieces
Leeds have had a bit of a reputation as a tough tackling, no-nonsense team throughout the years and this season has been no different.
The Yorkshire side have committed the fourth most fouls in the Championship behind Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall. The reason this is key is that Spurs have scored nine times from set pieces this season in the Premier League and could profit from winning free kicks around the box on Sunday.
Gareth Bale is capable of firing in directly one of his ‘Ronaldo style’ swerving shots. Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson are a threat to get on the end of deliveries put in to the box.
Spurs may well get several opportunities to put Leeds under pressure from set plays and need to make them count.
Leeds vs Spurs outlook
A tight and tense game is a key ingredient in all good FA Cup ties and we could see that happen here. Spurs will be looking to strike early, but will run in to a strong and resolute Leeds backline and may just be forced to wait until the second half.
Leeds knocked off both Everton and Southampton in the League Cup before being blown away by Chelsea. They did take the lead in all of these matches through first half strikes. Everton hit back in the 81st minute to make a game of their tie, but Chelsea struck five past them in the second half after going behind.
The lesson for Spurs should be to keep it tight and avoid conceding in the first half, then look to take over the game after the interval.
Leeds vs Spurs prediction: Leeds 1 Spurs 2