Football: Leeds sense fresh signs of an upturn: The English champions must beware of defensive frailty in today's European Cup return against Stuttgart. Trevor Haylett reports

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The Independent Online
BEING required to score at least three times to prevent defeat at the first hurdle can leave any team groping for a source of encouragement and Leeds will take heart from the contention of Christoph Daum, the coach of tonight's European Cup opponents, Stuttgart, that they are one of the top five sides in Europe.

That may well be true but the statistic that puts Daum's charitable words into context is the one that claims no British side has come back from 3-0 down to go through since Kilmarnock beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 in the Fairs Cup 28 years ago.

To reverse recent history and overcome inhibiting odds in the first-round second-leg tie, Leeds need to settle immediately into the form of last season and rely on a passionate Elland Road crowd to do the rest.

Even then the tactical equation has them balanced on a knife edge. A hell-for-leather pursuit for goals can leave an open back door for the Germans to exploit and demonstrate the scoring ability that was so effective a fortnight ago.

'I don't think we have to score four,' the Yorkshire club's manager, Howard Wilkinson, said. 'We have only got to concentrate on getting the first one. Everyone talks about the so-called intimidating atmosphere at Elland Road. If our crowd produce what they normally do it will be a big help to us but it's also important that they're patient.'

Claiming his team paid in the Neckar Stadium 'for our inexperience', Wilkinson said: 'We played well in Stuttgart but that was a fresh game. The tie now has a history. Whether they were three goals better than us is irrelevant now.'

The manager, who has complained frequently about the luck that seems to have deserted them both at home and abroad this season, believes he now has a 'fresher' collection of players than at any stage this season. After Stuttgart followed another stutter at Southampton; low points from which his team are slowly climbing to regain something of last season's shape and strength.

'The last week or so we have been a lot fresher,' said Wilkinson who will not reveal who he believes are the most fresh for the task until just before kick-off. 'Since Southampton, which was a big ordeal, things have picked up. I sense we have got more energy now. We genuinely feel a lot of things have gone against us this season and there was a time on Saturday when I thought that was going to carry on (before Gary Ablett's tackle brought Leeds a fortuitous penalty).'

Daum believes Leeds's commitment to attack will leave them vulnerable to a second humiliation. 'We are here to win not just to reach the second round,' he said. 'We know Leeds are a real force on their own ground but to beat them at Elland Road would be a real achievement for us. They are among the top five teams in Europe.

'Some English teams play kick and rush football but that's not Leeds's style. They have so many skilful players who combine the best of British and continental football.' He rejects the notion of sitting on their large cushion and defending what they take to Elland Road. 'If you go on the field to defend you can easily end up losing.'

The Irish League champions, Glentoran, hope to restore some lost pride when they meet Marseille in the European Cup tonight. Trailing 5-0 after the first leg in Ireland, their manager, Tommy Jackson, has told his team not to be overawed, and enjoy themselves against the French champions. He has asked for a more committed performance.

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