The game no one wants is warming up to something at last. Leeds have realised there is a real chance of them getting something out of it and Jewell is busy turning the petty squabble over the timing of the game into a no one likes us siege mentality. Despite both sides insisting that priorities lie elsewhere, the mind games suggest that neither wants to concede this tie. However with a significant chunk of the first team unavailable and a youth cup match to play on the same night there are a bunch of questions about what sort of team Latics can/should/will put out tonight.
There are practically no options available at the back. Possible stand-ins Taylor, Wright, McMillan and Thome are all injured. Henchoz is suspended and Scharner’s ineligibility for the first game rules him out of the replay also. Unless Jewell decides to continue with the Teale as right back experiment that he was forced into for the latter part of the first game you can expect an almost first choice back four of Chimbonda, De Zeuuw, Jackson and Baines, I’ve a feeling that at least one of those will be carrying an injury. Goalkeeper is the one position he has a choice in and I would expect him to go with Filan.
Midfield again is tricky. McCulloch is plainly not fit enough to play and I would expect him to be risked at this stage. You can add Mahon to the not available list leaving us with the options of Johansson, Teale, Skoko, Kavanagh, Francis and Bullard. Take Johansson out of the equation as he’s likely to play up front and you’ve a four from five choice. I would expect Jewell to drop his policy of resting Jimmy for these cup games and Francis to miss out, but you never know.
The front two picks itself, assuming that McCulloch doesn’t play, Roberts is the only fit Striker on the books and Johansson the closest we have to an able deputy. By my reckoning that leaves us with only the spare midfielder and a goalkeeper for the bench.
I’ve no idea how close any of the kids are to playing at this level, only Jewell’s statement that none are likely to break through soon, nor do I know what their chances are with regard to the Youth Cup. You can’t see Jewell only going with the two subs, but I’ve a sneaky feeling that he might go with a ‘statement making’ bench and maybe only cover the three possible substitutions (or maybe 3 plus a goalie). With a squad close to breaking and a few players undoubtedly carrying knocks from Sunday it could be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your cup chances.
So what chance does that give us? I’m not sure, if there was more of a bench you’d have to say it’s a reasonable team or at lest in keeping with other cup teams that we’ve put out. I would expect that recent efforts will take their toll and see extra time, at least as a real possibility. To be honest I can’t see us coming out of this one on top but there’ll be positives to take out of the game, not least the chance to see how the likes of Johansson and Skoko do when forced to play a main role in the team and possibly a chance for Francis to try and reclaim his starting berth. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see our youth policy in action, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
As for a prediction? I’ll go with 1-1 at full time with Leeds nicking in it in extra time.
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