Football: Leeds handed trip to Maine Road

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The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED face a trip to Maine Road in the fourth round of the FA Cup after seeing off the challenge of Port Vale at Elland Road yesterday.

Eirik Bakke's two goals sealed a 2-0 victory, but Manchester City will be more difficult opponents for the Premiership leaders. The Leeds manager, David O'Leary, admitted: "Manchester City will be a tough game and it's a great atmosphere there and a big pitch."

Joe Royle, the manager at Maine Road, gave his approval to the draw, having seen his side go from one extreme to another - having gone through by beating the Nationwide League's bottom club, Chester City, yesterday. He said: "I would rather have a big team than a small one. The draw I was hoping to avoid was Hereford away. Those games are harder. It should be straightforward against the smaller sides but it isn't. That's the glory of the FA Cup."

City will expect a capacity crowd for the visit of Leeds - a timely boost for all attendance figures after disappointing turn-outs at most grounds over the weekend.

Newcastle's 1-1 draw at Tottenham yesterday gave them the chance at St James' Park to earn a home tie with either Sheffield United or the Conference club, Rushden & Diamonds.

Newcastle's captain, Alan Shearer, smiled when he reflected on the possibility of another meeting with non-League opposition, after the controversy surrounding their clashes with Stevenage in 1997. He said: "We've had enough from non-League teams over the last few years so we'll just concentrate first and foremost and if we can get through then great."

Chelsea have been installed as the FA Cup favourites after being drawn at home against the winners of Nottingham Forest against Oxford United.

Tranmere Rovers, who beat West Ham United on Saturday, have another home tie against Premiership opposition with Sunderland their opponents.

Burnley, 1-0 victors at Derby, have another away tie against Premiership opponents, Coventry City, while Middlesbrough's conquerors, Wrexham, have an easier task at home to Cambridge United.

Liverpool, who beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 yesterday, play West Bromwich Albion or Blackburn Rovers, while struggling Sheffield Wednesday face tough opposition in Wolves.

The second favourites, Arsenal, will face either Leicester City or Hereford United, the other non-League side left in the Cup, at Highbury if they can overcome Blackpool.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, is likely to field a severely under- strength team tonight, though not through choice. There are 10 players on the Highbury injury list and Patrick Vieira is suspended. There is a potential crisis in defence, with Martin Keown and Matthew Upson injured and Tony Adams suffering a recurrence of familiar back trouble.

The Arsenal captain played the Uefa Cup tie against Nantes on Thursday in agony and Wenger is desperate for the opportunity to rest him. That could mean the reserve full-backs, Nelson Vivas and Oleg Luzhny, forming a centre-back partnership, with the young Rhys Weston on the bench as cover.

Wenger will make a late check on Dennis Bergkamp's fitness to see if the Dutch striker can return after missing the last three games with a persistent groin strain, but whatever the case, Davor Suker looks certain to lead the attack.



Grimsby v Bolton or Cardiff

Aston Villa v Ipswich or Southampton

Manchester City v Leeds

Reading or Plymouth v Preston

Walsall or Gillingham v Bradford City

Fulham or Luton v Wimbledon

Chelsea v Nottingham Forest or Oxford Utd

Tranmere v Sunderland

Arsenal or Blackpool v Hereford or Leicester

Tottenham or Newcastle v Sheffield Utd or Rushden

Wrexham v Cambridge Utd

Coventry v Burnley

Liverpool v West Bromwich or Blackburn

Sheffield Wednesday v Wolves

Charlton v Queen's Park Rangers or Torquay

Exeter or Everton v Birmingham

Ties to be played weekend of 8/9 January