Bubbly Bradford excited at prospect of piling the pressure on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Capital One Cup: League Two side happy to risk fixture backlog if it means further League Cup joy tonight
Potentially, it is one of football's more unusual fixture clashes, but Bradford City hope to be able to postpone their continued involvement in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy for a more pressing cup matter next month. The League Two side travel to Crewe in the Northern Area semi-final of the competition for lower league clubs at the start of next year. The semi-finals of the Capital One Cup are also scheduled for the second week in January, and a win against Arsenal tonight would see them having to postpone their trip to Cheshire.
Victory against a side 65 places above them in the football foodchain is more hoped for than expected, however many changes the visitors make. But if they can add Arsène Wenger's side to Wigan Athletic as their top-flight scalps it would present them with a welcome addition to an increasingly hectic run of games, with the match against the Gunners being their 31st of the season.
That potential backlog is likely to be lessened in the next 24 hours, however, with an appeal against their expulsion from the FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player against Brentford in last month's 1-1 second-round draw likely to prove unsuccessful. It's been hard to keep up with events at Valley Parade this season.
It has been 11 years since the end of Bradford's brief return to the top flight, a roller-coaster two seasons that came perilously close to sowing the seeds of financial ruin. It was a calamitous collapse from which they are finally showing signs of emerging, with manager Phil Parkinson orchestrating a promotion campaign that remains the main focus despite the significant knockout element to their season thus far. Arsenal will be their 10th cup tie.
They will aim to intensify the scrutiny under which Wenger has had to operate by attempting to secure victory in front of Valley Parade's biggest crowd for more than half a century, one in the region of 23,000, the ground having been extended, untimely, to coincide with their fall from Premier League grace. "I couldn't get the players off the training ground this morning," said Parkinson, who worked for Arsenal as a scout before taking charge at Bradford 16 months ago.
"There's a good feel about the place because this is an exciting week. We've kept ourselves focused on the league and I've made sure we've had no talk of Arsenal until now, it's been banned. I thought I might have to hand out a few fines if the lads broke that particular rule, but they've been fully focused. Now I want them to enjoy the increased exposure."
Their best hope of passage to the last four would appear to be via penalties, with Wenger even admitting his team need to conclude proceedings in normal time. Wigan were dispatched by Bradford in a shoot-out in the last round, the eighth consecutive shoot-out in which Bradford have come out on top.
"If it goes that far, it looks like we're favourites," said Matt Duke, the Bradford goalkeeper who played with Hull in the Premier League. The 35-year-old saved from Jordi Gomez to spark memorable celebrations in front of an impressive following of 5,000 travelling fans at the DW Stadium.
Duke added: "It's difficult to study where the Arsenal players will put their penalties because we don't really know who their team will be. I'd have a good idea in a league game, but with Arsenal it's a bit different. To do my homework I'd have to study about 15 penalty takers, so it'll be more about how I am on the night if it goes that far, and the feeling I get from whoever steps up." After seeing Arsenal score six and seven in the last two rounds, Duke hopes the upward trend ends. "We'll settle for five," he smiled.
Kick-off 7.45pm TV Sky Sports 1.
Referee M Dean (Wirral)
Odds: Bradford 13-2 Draw 4-1 Arsenal 4-11
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