Leeds vs. Tottenham: 5 Key Battles to Watch in FA Cup 4th Round Tie
It seems crazy to think that, should Leeds United not get promoted from The Championship this season, 2013-14 will mark ten years since they were last in the Premier League.
The story of the Yorkshire club's financial troubles are well documented. As perilous a situation as they were in though, it seemed unimaginable they would be out of the top-flight for so long.
After beating Everton and Southampton in the Capital One Cup before going out to Chelsea, Leeds get another chance to compete against Premier League opposition in the form of Tottenham Hotspur in this weekend's FA Cup Fourth Round clash.
Leeds took Tottenham to a Fifth Round replay in the 2009-10 edition of the cup where they lost 3-1 at Elland Road.
The make-up of the two teams has changed somewhat since then, so between who might the key battles take place this time around?
Michael Brown vs. Scott Parker
The terrier-like Michael Brown may not rank among Tottenham Hotspur's most stylish ever midfielders, but for the best part of two years last decade he was among their most hard-working and valuable performers.
Brown's former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock took him to Leeds, and now he prepares to reestablish another link as he takes on Tottenham.
For those football fans who enjoy watching committed players not shy in going in for a tackle, the prospect of Brown locking horns with the equally combative current Spur Scott Parker is something to be excited about.
Neither player pulls any punches when it comes to making challenges. Should they both start they will inevitably come into contact soon enough.
There is strategical value to this battle too. Leeds could do with Brown getting the better of this one if they want to ensure Tottenham do not have it all their own away. If Parker gets the edge, it could prove a long afternoon's work for the home side.
Paddy Kenny vs. Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick the last time he took on Leeds United. Currently in the midst of a dry spell after a fruitful first half to this season, the England striker will view the Championship side as a chance to get firing once again.
In his way will be Leeds' experienced goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.
The 34-year-old was not in goal for the Whites back in 2010, but he will be well aware of the challenge he faces in Defoe.
Leeds will do their best to keep Defoe quiet, but invariably he will find himself in goalscoring positions. There the onus will fall on Kenny to keep him out.
As lethal as Defoe can be, Kenny is just as capable of performing heroics between the sticks. Getting to face off against one of the Premier League's best marksman may bring the best out of him.
Luciano Becchio vs. Tottenham's Center-Backs
The news on Thursday that Leeds' top scorer Luciano Becchio had handed in a transfer request has threatened to cast a shadow over what otherwise would have been an exciting occasion for the club.
In his Friday press conference Neil Warnock seemed to indicate he did not have a problem with playing him against Tottenham. Leeds' official website quoted the manager as saying "If Luciano is still here I have no problems with what he'll give me".
Warnock will certainly want what may be his best weapon starting against the Premier League club.
Who Villas-Boas employs to stop him in central defense is not quite clear. Michael Dawson has played a lot of football lately and may be rested, while Jan Vertonghen should be ready to play after missing last week's match against Manchester United through illness.
Whether it is the two of them, or one with Steven Caulker or William Gallas (if fit), Spurs have to be alert to the presence of Becchio in the way they were not sufficiently to Robin van Persie last week.
The Argentinian may not be in the same class as van Persie but he knows where the goal is, as proven by 19 goals in all competitions this season.
Similarly Becchio will have to be at his best to get anything from a defense that, other than an iffy first-half last week, has shored up remarkably well in the last month or so.
Ross McCormack vs. Kyle Walker (possibly)
Ross McCormack was Leeds United's top scorer last season before injury cost him games earlier this season.
Though his best position is upfront, since he got fit he has been used elsewhere by his manager, most recently out left. He did score in Leeds' most recent game, a 1-0 win over Bristol City, that if anything was brought on by him increasingly venturing into central positions.
If he does start in left midfield against Tottenham it gives probable starting right-back Kyle Walker an interesting assignment. He should be able to handle an out-of-position McCormack, but should the Scotsman be given more license to move around Walker has to be careful not to allow him to go completely unchecked.
The England full-back is liable to suffering lapses in concentration, something an undefined presence like McCormack might be able to take advantage of.
With that said, despite Walker's patchy form this season this could well likely not turn out to be an issue if Tottenham are able to dominate as they would hope to against lower-league opposition.
The Elland Road Crowd vs. Tottenham
On paper this is a game Tottenham should win. The beauty of the FA Cup is that is not always as simple as that, with the one-off nature of cup competition meaning form is liable to take a vacation on such occasions.
If Leeds manage to take the lead at any stage it will be a test of Spurs' mettle in how they respond to a hostile and vociferous Elland Road crowd.
The players are more than used to such atmospheres, but on a cold winter's afternoon against a team eager to cause an upset, these things can effect even the best of teams.
Tottenham, particularly led by their more experienced campaigners, will need to keep a cool head if the game goes this way. But that can be easier said than done when 25-30,000 are trying to get on your back and another ten men are snapping at your heels.
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