Back in 1999 seeing Watford on the fixture list for the forthcoming Premier League season would have been pretty irrelevant to the majority of Leeds United fans. Most would have (correctly) seen them as a team to pick up six points against and focused in on the bigger games against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. That season, Leeds finished the league in third whilst Watford were relegated in last place with just 24 points.

Fast forward ten years and it’s all change. Whilst both teams have fallen from the top flight, Watford have remained in the Championship and are now deemed the bigger team. If you’d have told Leeds United fans ten years ago that we’d be considering Watford a big match these days, they’d have probably fallen on the floor laughing at you. That’s the reality though. With Watford now a league above us, they are indeed the bigger team and Leeds will head into this game underdogs.

Although early days, Watford haven’t had the start to the Championship season they’d have liked. They started the season with a new manager after Brendan Rodgers left to take over Reading at the end of last season. Malkay Mackay was named as his replacement and his team currently sit in mid-table.

The last time we met Watford was in the Championship play-off final in 2006. Leeds put on a dismal display and gifted Watford a place in the Premier League. We lost the match 3-0. The result was all the more frustrating when you take into account the previous meetings between the two clubs that season which had ended in a 2-1 win to the Whites, with two goals from Robbie “Man United killer” Blake and a 0-0 draw away from home.

In total, we’ve played Watford ten times in the league. Leeds have won five of these games, drew three and lost only twice. In the League Cup it’s a different story though. Leeds and Watford have met twice with Watford winning both fixtures.

Head-to-head. Leeds V Watford
  Leeds wins Draws Watford wins
League 5 3 2
League Cup 0 0 2
Other 0 0 1
Total 5 3 5

I’m hoping Simon is sensible tonight and doesn’t risk any key players unnecessarily. Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Jermaine Beckford’s in the starting line-up. His exclusion last time sparked rumours he’d been left out to prevent him getting cup-tied ahead of a possible transfer.

Simon Grayson seems to be suggesting we’ll field a strong side for the tie, despite the irrelevance of the League Cup to a team in this division. The fact we can’t possibly win it makes it a pointless distraction from the important task of getting out of League One. Although I’d enjoy a good cup run as much as anyone else, there’s little to aim for. Even if we draw one of the top four from the Premier League, they’ll most likely field their reserves. It’s this philosophy that’s devalued the League Cup so much in recent years. The big draw for lower league sides used to be a trip to one of the big clubs, but if they aren’t going to take it seriously, no one else will either!

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m hoping Leeds United win the game, I just hope a run in the cup won’t effect our performances in the league. If players are becoming injured through a conjested fixture schedule then even a squad of Leeds United’s depth could suffer.