By Ian Parker, PA
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa has insisted he will not be overlooking the FA Cup even as a lengthy injury list continues to hamper his side’s Premier League ambitions.
Bielsa’s side have been handed a tough third round draw as they head south to take on Champions League-chasing West Ham at the London Stadium on Sunday.
Bielsa has suffered defeat the first hurdle in all three previous FA Cup campaigns with Leeds – including a shock 3-0 loss to Crawley last season – and with their injury woes showing no signs of easing a repeat this weekend would be no surprise.
But Bielsa was keen to make clear his respect for the competition ahead of the fixture and insisted he would field a team capable of taking victory.
“We always try to win in every official game we have,” he said.
“There is never a need for added motivation. Every time that the group plays, the desire is always the maximum to win.
“We’re going to try that the characteristics of our play are expressed and that will allow us to beat them.
“Every competition is a possibility and we take it in that way. Every game we focus on it with the intention to win it.
“The evolution within the competition is very difficult to anticipate and I think what corresponds is that with humility we try to win every game.”
Leeds took a confidence boost from last weekend’s 3-1 win over Burnley, a result which gave them an eight-point cushion over the relegation zone after recent struggles.
But the queue for the treatment room at Thorp Arch remains lengthy – with Joe Gelhardt and Tyler Roberts joining it just as fellow forward Patrick Bamford gets ready to make his return.
Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips, Pascal Struijk, Charlie Cresswell and Jamie Shackleton are all still out, meaning Bielsa has little scope for major rotation even if he wanted to do it.
They will face a West Ham side who have won only two of their last seven. A 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day left them only one point from the top four, though they almost blew a 3-0 lead in that match.
With a midweek Premier League match against Norwich to come, David Moyes may rotate his squad, but Bielsa said he still knew what to expect in terms of their approach.
“Knowing the formation of the team is something that is not definitive,” he said. “Obviously it’s better to know, but what is sure is that their style of play is very defined.
“Perhaps the players will change, I don’t know. But what I don’t think will change is the style of West Ham – especially in a season like this when they have been consolidating their characteristics.”