It might not look a classic on paper, but Rochdale manager Keith Hill has managed several cup scalps through his managerial career and this could give Dale a fighting chance of at least a replay. They’ve enjoyed a decent campaign in League Two so far, although if they are to cause an upset they will have to be at their very best with Leeds also enjoying success in the Championship.
There’s a famous phrase that dons football every season – “never go back”. The general rule for players and managers is to never return to a club in which they experienced great success although in the case of Keith Hill and Rochdale, this looks to be the exception. He became the first manager to take Dale into League One several years ago and after departing to try his hand in the Championship with Barnsley, he has returned this term and looks set to mastermind another promotion push. Rochdale have been fritting between the automatic promotion places and the playoffs over the course of the season, and they currently find themselves just one point away from 3rd. Whether or not they can respond from a 3-0 setback to Scunthorpe remains to be seen though, with this being the club’s first loss in four games.
Leeds meanwhile have been knocking on the door of the Championship’s playoffs for the entire campaign and it’s just one point that keeps them from 6th place Ipswich at the moment. However, Brian McDermott will be disappointed at how the club’s recent form has panned out, with the Whites heading into this game on the back of successive defeats to Blackburn and Nottingham Forest. This means that the club are now without a victory in their last four, which should make the FA Cup a welcome distraction as they look to get their form back on track.
There is little to report in the way of team news for the home side, with Keith Hill merely having to contend with the one absentee. That comes in the form of Michael Rose, who has been ruled out of the tie after being sent off in the club’s most recent outing. It’s slightly different for the visitors meanwhile, with Leeds having doubts over Alex Mowatt, Paddy Kenny and Ross McCormack. However, Whites fans may at least get to see Gboly Ariyibi, who is yet to make a starting appearance for the club.
Rochdale may have recorded a few upsets under Keith Hill’s leadership several years ago, but we think their opponents are just too solid for the same thing to happen again. Leeds may have lost their last couple of games, but Brian McDermott will be desperate for his side to return to form sooner rather than later and we expect him to pull out all the stops. With that, our prediction will be a 3-1 victory for the Elland Road outfit.