Leeds United v Arsenal: Elland Road full house awaits Gunners

Twice in five days, Arsenal's fallibility was exposed by the honest endeavour of Championship players.

Ipswich Town narrowly outshone Leeds United by beating the Gunners on Wednesday night, but United's chance to follow the Tractor Boys' lead will come again in 72 hours' time.

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Ipswich's win over the Gunners in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final was a small step up from Leeds' highly creditable 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday, a defeat that Arsene Wenger blamed on "fatigue".

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The physical durability of his squad will be examined again when they lock horns with United in front of a capacity crowd at Elland Road this week.

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Wenger remarked after Arsenal's narrow escape against Leeds that a replay in Yorkshire was his "second worst wish", second only to the thought of exiting the FA Cup at the first hurdle and at the hands of a second-tier club.

Three matches of this nature in quick succession are not in the interests of a club fighting on four fronts or one who last won a trophy in 2005.

Leeds could argue themselves that they have more pertinent ambitions to worry about this season than the FA Cup, but Simon Grayson will look for his players' pedigree to come to the fore again on Wednesday.

At no stage in more than two years as Leeds manager has Grayson been short-changed by their performances in knockout fixtures, and it would be uncharacteristic of his squad to gift Arsenal a trouble-free evening

in Yorkshire.

A full house is expected at Elland Road and the dynamics of the third-round replay contrast sharply with the expectation of last weekend's game in north London. Leeds were offered at 12-1 to win the initial tie but they will be a third of that price when the clubs clash for a second time.

United goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said: "With the players we've got, I think we should be confident against anybody - especially at Elland Road.

"The atmosphere we can create there is very intimidating. Arsenal will be used to playing in that sort of atmosphere but we're confident."

Leeds' commendable result at the Emirates Stadium was tinged with

slight regret after Cesc Fabregas' 90th-minute penalty forced a replay in the dying embers of the game.

United survived an earlier, contentious penalty appeal but were punished when Ben Parker dragged back Theo Walcott as the Arsenal winger sprinted into Schmeichel's box. Fabregas' calm conversion from the spot denied Leeds a result to rival their famous victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford at the same stage of the competition last season.

The Yorkshire club were supported in London by one of the biggest away crowds ever seen at the Emirates Stadium, numbering around 8,500, and defender Alex Bruce said: "The replay's going to be a fantastic occasion.

"The supporters want nights like that and they deserve them after what they've been through.

"You only need to look at the adverts that have been on television lately – they were all about Arsenal versus Leeds and Liverpool versus Manchester United. A lot of people would say they are the big four of English football. That says everything about Leeds."

The replay with Arsenal has fallen three days before United's long trip to Portsmouth, an important Championship fixture and their last before the start of next month.

Leeds will have no fixture on the weekend of January 29 unless they eliminate Arsenal at the second attempt and earn a home meeting with Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup's fourth round. Their league campaign resumes at Hull City on February 1.

As he did with yesterday's match against Scunthorpe United, Grayson will place more significance on United's clash at Fratton Park than their replay against Arsenal, but he is still likely to commit a strong team to Wednesday's tie. He admitted after their draw at the Emirates that fielding a weakened line-up would risk a rout at the hands of one of the most skillful teams in the country.

"We have to play our strongest team against a Premier League side," he said. "Otherwise we could be on the end of a hiding. If you lose to a top team by five or six then it's going to dent your confidence.

"I wasn't going to go to Arsenal and settle for a draw or try to keep the scoreline down to one or two. I want us to play positively regardless of who we're playing, and we got a result on the back of that."

United were expected to earn more than 500,000 from their initial third-round tie, and a televised replay in front of the biggest crowd of the season at Elland Road will improve their accounts further at a time when the transfer window is open and Grayson is actively looking for new blood.

Leeds have already committed to a two-and-a-half year deal with Andy O'Brien and will push ahead with plans to strengthen their squad before the window closes at the end of January.

Chairman Ken Bates admitted that the financial benefit to Leeds of two ties against Arsenal would be considerable, saying: "In our budget we always assume we'll be drawn away for both the Carling Cup and FA Cup, knocked out in the first round and have no TV. We assume very little income.

"The money we're getting from the Arsenal games will go straight into our coffers and help us continue to improve the club, on and off the field.

"We weren't expecting anything at the Emirates and I told Simon to tell the players to go out, give a good account of themselves and don't worry about a thing."

2 November 2013...     Police patrol Elland Road at Leeds United's match with Yeovil. (TJ1001/01d). Picture Tony Johnson

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