First Team Coach Lee Riley is expecting a “tough test” against Carlisle United on Tuesday evening.
“Callum Jones [First Team Analyst] and I went up in pre-season to watch Carlisle play Tranmere in a friendly and we were massively impressed then. They’ve got some really good players playing some really good football. At that point, we didn’t know that we’d be playing them, so it has turned out to be a doubly beneficial trip,” said Riley.
“Having seen their performances in recent weeks, they’re clearly a very good side. We think they are very similar to ourselves in terms of the way they are trying to play the game and the energy they are playing with. I would have no doubt that over 46 games in the season that they’ll be very good League Two side, regardless of how the table looks so far.
“We’re expecting a tough test on Tuesday night. We’re not looking at this fixture like ‘we’re a League One side and they’re a League Two side’. That’s irrelevant coming into a cup game like this, especially against a team that we rate highly and we respect highly. We think it’ll be a great game of football. We don’t think either team will be taking a step back, so to speak, so it’s probably going to be a good one to watch!”
After facing Bolton Wanderers in the last round of the competition at the Crown Oil Arena, Riley is pleased that Dale have been drawn at home again.
“The Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, for a Club like us, provides an opportunity for the players, staff and supporters to hopefully eventually put our wits against a Premier League side, so it’s always pleasing to get another step closer to that and to see how far you can go.
“It’s also always pleasing to play at home. It’s great that we have another cup night in front of our home supporters. The players and us as staff will be doing everything we can to provide ourselves and the supporters with an opportunity to progress.”
The match marks Rochdale’s seventh of eight fixtures in a busy August and Riley says striking the balance between training and rest and recovery is key.
“It almost feels like the end of the season where there’s a backlog of fixtures that we’re having to get through.
“As coaches, you maybe feel like you’re not doing enough on the training pitch with the players because recovery is so important. In these periods, it’s a lot of the unseen work where the sports science staff come into it even more. Kevin Gibbins is key, along with Ben Ekins, to making sure that the players are fully fit come game day, so that dictates a lot of the stuff we do on the training pitch.
“Callum Jones’ work goes unseen but is also very important. That’s important all the time, but during these periods, work in those departments [sports science and analysis] is massive because the time we can get on the grass is very limited. It’s the information and the work we can get into the players off the pitch that becomes so key.”
And Riley says the schedule can have impact on player selection.
“Regardless if it’s a cup game or a league game, we’re very happy with the squad we’ve got, so it’s imperative that the squad stays fresh in such a sustained period of games. We will need to manage the squad accordingly this week, but we will still be respecting the fixture because it’s a game we want to win. We also want to perform well in the game and give everyone associated with the club a chance to go into the third round.”
Watch the full 14 minute interview on iFollow.