Football

FA Cup of distraction

League comes first for Ranieri and McClaren, who made 18 changes between them for 'unwanted' replay

FA CUP 4TH ROUND REPLAY
LEICESTER DERBY
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Claudio Ranieri and Steve McClaren have admitted their respective league campaigns were the priority as the FA Cup continues to lose its shine.

The two managers made 18 changes between them for yesterday morning's (Singapore time) replay, rendering the tie an unwanted distraction.

With Premier League champions Leicester facing a crucial clash away at relegation rivals Swansea on Sunday and Derby targeting a Championship play-off spot, extra time was not what either club wanted.

Goals from Wilfred Ndidi and then Demarai Gray in the additional half-hour did the trick for Ranieri's men to set up a trip to Millwall in the fifth round later this month.

Andy King headed Leicester in front at the start of the second half but Abdoul Camara's deflected free-kick brought Derby level just after the hour.

While the victory might be important for Leicester's confidence after a miserable run of results saw them drop to within a point from the relegation zone, Ranieri readily admitted he would swap the cup win for Premier League points while Derby boss McClaren would scrap FA Cup replays altogether.

"I say many times I would change for points but it is not possible," said Ranieri.

"It (Swansea) is the main match of the season, one of the main matches, because we have to get the result.

"But tonight is important to get through and important for confidence. I hope this match can help us improve our Premier League season."

We didn’t need this replay. I don’t think Leicester needed this replay, and I think maybe the FA have to look at this competition and say, ‘Let’s just have one tie’, because nobody wanted this replay. You could see that.] Derby manager Steve Mcclaren

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke was in the stands at the King Power Stadium and must not have failed to notice that clubs now see the FA Cup as a distraction.

McClaren, who made eight changes ahead of a home game against Bristol City tomorrow, called for the FA to look at getting rid of replays, in another blow for the oldest cup competition.

"Our main focus is the Championship and the play-offs," said McClaren.

"We didn't need this replay. I don't think Leicester needed this replay, and I think maybe the FA have to look at this competition and say, 'Let's just have one tie', because nobody wanted this replay. You could see that.

"We played at Pride Park two weeks ago and it was a great occasion, a great atmosphere. It was 2-2, imagine that game going to extra time and maybe penalties.

"Two weeks on and it was two different teams. There was no way we couldn't not make changes with the schedule we have coming up.

"A lot of Premier League and Championship managers made changes in the first game, we didn't. We took it serious, as did Leicester. But with the schedule, players can't play at the level required - Premier League for Leicester and Championship for us.

"I think it is something the FA should look at."

Asked if he thought FA Cup replays should be scrapped, Ranieri was not as forthcoming.

He said: "I don't know, I don't change the rules. If they want to make changes then for me, it is okay. The rule is the rule, I am happy." - PA SPORT

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