Watford - Leeds United: View from the opposition as the Whites come calling

The Hornets will host Steve Evans' side in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, and we speak to VAVEL UK writer Toby Bilton to get his thoughts on the upcoming game.

Watford - Leeds United: View from the opposition as the Whites come calling
Photo: Getty Images/Matthew Lewis

For Quique Sanchez Flores and his Watford players, Saturday's fifth round FA Cup tie against Leeds United will feel like a huge opportunity to show just how far the Hornets have come this season - and they can do just that by booking a place in the last eight of the competition.

On the other hand, admist a tricky season in the Championship, Steve Evans' Leeds have a chance to give the travelling fans something to cheer about, should they overcome a team that are having a terrific season, flying high in the Premier League and upsetting the odds.

Watford are understandably favourites and will look to show just how good they can be in front of their own supporters at Vicarage Road. However, this is the cup, and with a place at the business end of the competition up for grabs, there's much at stake.

We speak to VAVEL UK writer Toby Bilton to get his thoughts on whether Leeds can spring an upset or whether the Hornets will be just too good on the day.

Leeds United are having another difficult season. What do you think the realistic goal is now? Is it a case of finishing mid-table and going again next campaign?

At the start of the season, Uwe Rosler was chasing a top ten finish, though realistically that has looked beyond reach all season. It looks likely that Leeds will end up in the lower half of the mid-table positions. Consistency has been an issue, they’ve never really got on a run as such.

"It would seem like a great achievement in another unstable season"

A place in the FA Cup quarter-final would be a seen as a great achievement in what has been another unstable season at Elland Road. With Sheffield Wednesday doing so well, it would at least be nice to keep some pride in Yorkshire by finishing above Huddersfield Town, who at the moment are just two points adrift.

For you, who are the players that have impressed you and stood out this season? Who needs to buck their ideas up before the season finishes?

In a team that has struggled for consistency it is difficult to say that anybody has particularly stood out. Saying that, young midfielder Lewis Cook looks like a player with far more experience than what his age would suggest.

He is the heartbeat of the team; the catalyst in the build-up play and the most composed in possession. Having only just turned 19 a fortnight ago and with almost 70 appearances under his belt, Leeds face a battle to keep hold of him next summer.

Photo: Getty Images/Alex Livesey
Photo: Getty Images/Alex Livesey

Equally, another home-grown player in left-back Charlie Taylor has become a fan favourite, whilst loanee Liam Bridcutt has started every game since his arrival from Sunderland in late November. Summer signings Chris Wood and Jordan Botaka have been disappointing; the former bagging just eight goals with the latter starting just two league games.

What are your thoughts on Massimo Cellino? Is it a case of there being no possibility of moving forward as a club while he remains the majority owner?

Personally, I feel it is quite an odd one with Massimo Cellino and understandably there are mixed opinions. Obviously the Leeds fans want him out. Earlier in the season he limited the number of Leeds fans that could travel to away games only to u-turn on his decision with the understandable uproar for the best supported team in the Football League. Then came the infamous ‘pie tax’, which was perhaps the nail in the coffin.

"Cellino should be applauded for the stance he's taken with Sky"

However, I feel he should be applauded for the stance he has taken with Sky. Every time Leeds are on broadcast on Sky games are rescheduled late, often away games. There was a Thursday in Bristol, a Sunday in Reading. Next week, it’s a Monday night down in Brighton. As for the home games, the attendances drop along with the much relied on gate receipts.

It’s clear he is a passionate man however it remains to be seen how much method there is in the madness.

What have you made of Watford this season and where do you think they can finish in the league table?

Watford have really stood out haven’t they? I must be honest and say after such an overhaul in the summer I thought they would be destined for a relegation dogfight. Flores is doing a fantastic job and could be a potential candidate for manager of the year, even ahead of Claudio Ranieri or Mauricio Pochettino. They could finish anywhere between sixth and 12th in what is becoming an exciting mini league in the mid-table of the Premier League.

Photo: Getty Images/Ian Walton
Photo: Getty Images/Ian Walton

Who do you consider as the biggest Watford threat to Leeds progressing on Saturday?

The biggest threat has to be Odion Ighalo up front. The centre forward has looked unplayable at certain times this season. He is strong, can hold the ball up well, can bring others into play and he also seems to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time. He is tough to handle for any defence.

What exactly do Leeds need to do in order to win the game? Is it a case of breaking down a resolute Watford defence as Leeds have hardly been firing on all cylinders this season?

"If Ighalo isn't scoring then it's the skipper Deeney"

If it isn’t Ighalo scoring then it is skipper Troy Deeney. The Leeds back four will be in for a busy game at Vicarage Road. The midfield are going to have to be industrious as ever. Etienne Capoue has begun to show glimpses of quality in recent weeks and Bridcutt and Diagouraga will have to be well aware of his and Jurado’s ability for Watford.

Should Leeds stifle Watford well enough, Lewis Cook may have the chance to excel against tougher opposition. Goals are at a premium with just 29 in 31 in the league, so if Leeds do win, don’t expect it to be by many.

Finally, what is your score prediction for the game?

I do think it will be the end of the road in the FA Cup for Leeds. Last time out Leeds shared a goalless draw with Middlesborough at Elland Road and despite perhaps being the better side they created no real chances. I can see that being the case again.

United will of course put up a fight but the two up two for the Hornets will be too much. I am going to predict a home win: 2-0 to Watford.