LEEDS United must quickly get over any cup hangover from their 5-1 defeat to European champions Chelsea on Wednesday night if they are to maintain recent progress in the Npower Championship, writes Tony Harber.
The Whites have little time to dwell on what might have been from the Capital One Cup quarter-final as they face another big home game against Middlesbrough today.
Tony Mowbray’s team are enjoying a fine season and also reached the last eight of the Capital One Cup before losing to Swansea last week. They will arrive at Elland Road in a challenging third position in the league and will be looking to emulate last season’s result at the ground when they beat United 1-0.
They also have the advantage of being fresher, having had a quiet week’s build-up while Leeds players used up a lot of energy in their losing cause against Chelsea.
At half-time a shock looked on the cards as the Whites led through Luciano Becchio and were restricting the expensively assembled visitors largely to shots from long range. But it was a different story after the break as Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres all found the net to leave the atmosphere deflated and United out of the competition after a great run.
Leeds manager Neil Warnock reflected on an opportunity missed, but thought the final score flattered Chelsea.
He said: “To be honest, I was disappointed at half-time. We had our opportunities, we played some great stuff and, at 1-0, if Tom Lees’ header goes in just before half-time it is a different ball game for them.
“Going in 1-0 at half-time you knew we needed to be strong early on in the second half and look what happens – Jamie Ashdown makes an error and world-class players punished us after that. If you give them an inch they take a yard.
“It was almost a relief to them to get back into the game and it gave them a huge lift. We couldn’t cope.
“But overall, I thought we made it a difficult night for them. Chelsea played their full team and we gave it a good shot. It was a great night for the club.
“I have never heard anything like the noise volume when we scored. If we sort ourselves out, that (atmosphere) should be here every week. It showed what can be done at a club like this.
“But we move on. We have had a great cup run and experience for us, especially the younger lads.
“It’s gone now, we’ve all enjoyed it and we’ve got a big game with Middlesbrough. Hopefully we’ll all be ready for Saturday.”
Warnock reported no new injury problems and was even able to name striker Davide Somma – who has not played a first team game for 18 months – on the bench.
Winger Jerome Thomas and full-back Lee Peltier had been doubtful up to kick-off, but came through okay and are likely to keep their places in the team.
Elsewhere, Warnock will consider making changes with defender Alan Tate and winger Ryan Hall available again after being cup tied and Paddy Kenny likely to return in goal in place of Capital one Cup keeper Ashdown.
Midfielder David Norris and striker Ross McCormack could also return to the starting line-up after being substitutes against Chelsea.