Leeds United: FA Cup tie gives Bielsa chance to rest key players

Tyler Roberts, one of the candidates to start in Leeds United's FA Cup tie at QPR.
Tyler Roberts, one of the candidates to start in Leeds United's FA Cup tie at QPR.

After the slog of four league games in 10 days the FA Cup brings relief and a chance to rest weary players for Leeds United this weekend.

While fielding a largely settled line-up in the last month has helped United kick on in the Sky Bet Championship it is obviously testing the players’ fitness, especially with the demanding style they have been playing at with their high pressing game.

Marcelo Bielsa will surely be tempted to make changes for the third round FA Cup tie at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, although he does not appear to have many options at his disposal.

With the prospect of at least six players injured and a squad made thinner recently by the decision to let Samuel Saiz leave there are not many obvious candidates to bring in.

Young goalkeeper Will Huffer could get a second outing in the senior team with the chance here to give him some valuable experience while another youngster, Jamie Shackleton is another likely starter after impressing when standing in recently, whether as a starter or off the bench.

Striker Tyler Roberts and midfielder Lewis Baker seem obvious players who can be brought in while centre-back Aapo Halme can add to his experience with a cup debut and Bielsa could turn to other youthful players from his under 23 team who have been on the bench in the last month without playing.

Experienced players are going to be hard to come by for Bielsa, though, unless defender Liam Cooper or forward Patrick Bamford can step up their recovery from injury in time to play in Sunday’s tie.

In recent years it has gone badly wrong when Leeds have made wholesale changes in this competition and lost to teams below them, but they were not in such a strong position in the league so this is a different case. And being drawn against opponents in the same division means there would not be the same embarrassment factor in going out.

FA Cup disasters have been the catalyst for some disastrous league runs and Bielsa will be aware of that, but with Leeds starting 2019 on top of the table he has to make sure nothing gets in the way of the promotion bid.

There could be problems on the horizon with the transfer window opening this week and United players sure to be in demand after their exploits this season.

Several Premier League teams have been linked with moves for top scorer Kemar Roofe, who only has one year left on his current contract at the end of this season, while in the form he has shown recently Pontus Jansson will be in demand and Manchester City are known to be tracking brilliant youngster Jack Clarke.