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Leicester are Gills' top target, says Smith

Paul Smith: Leicester in sights
Paul Smith: Leicester in sights

GIVEN the choice, Gillingham would swap FA Cup glory against Leeds for three points at home to promotion favourites Leicester on Saturday.

Club captain Paul Smith spelt out the club’s priorities going into a game which, he insists, towers over the Cup tie in importance. While Cup fever has engulfed the club as the showdown with the Premier Leaguers nears, Smith stressed all the players are focused on beating Leicester.

Fifteenth placed Gillingham have a game in hand on Burnley, who are immediately above them, and two on Millwall who are 13th. A win tomorrow could work wonders for Gillingham’s league position.

Smith said: “This is the one that matters, not the Leeds tie. Ask any player at the club and they will tell you the same. We haven’t talked about Leeds and won’t until next week.

“Hopefully the supporters will have a great day against Leeds and the club will make a lot of money but it is of secondary importance compared to Leicester.

“We've gone seven games unbeaten and I feel we should have won at Derby last week. If we can beat Leicester, whom many rate as the best team in Division 1, think what that would do for everyone at the club.

“It would provide us with a colossal confidence boost. They gave us a bit of a lesson when we played them at their place in August and we didn't play well.

“Saturday’s match against Leicester is the one when we’ll want to hear our supporters.”

Smith, who has recaptured his best form after making what he admits to a sluggish start to the season, is relishing his midfield confrontation with Leicester’s Turkey World Cup international Muzzy Izzet.

He returns to the side on Saturday after completing a two-match suspension. Rated by many as the best midfielder in Division 1, Izzet ran the show when Gillingham lost 2-0 on August 31.

“There is not much to him but he is strong, fit and physical,” said Smith. “His work-rate is phenomenal because he never stops running.

“I thought the goal he scored for Leicester at Grimsby was easily the best I've seen in this Division this season. You can understand why Leicester are so keen to hang on to him.”

With top scorer Marlon King, Rod Wallace and Tommy Johnson all injured, player-manager Andy Hessenthaler will pair Guy Ipoua with Mamady Sidibe up front.

The rest of the side remains unchanged, though there is an outside chance that Wallace could be included among the substitutes.

Although second placed Leicester have failed to win their last two home games against Ipswich and Stoke, they are nonetheless formidable on the road with six wins to their credit and two defeats.

Manager Micky Adams’ hopes of including Birmingham midfielder Bryan Hughes on loan in Saturday’s side have been dashed by the Football League’s refusal to let them sign anyone on loan until they come out of administration.

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