Vieira faces another test of his maturity

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The Independent Football

Those managers who complain that the compilers of domestic fixture lists do little to help the cause of clubs playing in Europe will no doubt point to this weekend as a perfect example.

Those managers who complain that the compilers of domestic fixture lists do little to help the cause of clubs playing in Europe will no doubt point to this weekend as a perfect example.

Although the managers of England's three Champions' League teams are in good company - Barcelona meet Real Madrid in the Nou Camp in the Spanish league tonight just three days before what could be a decisive match for the Catalan club against Leeds United at Elland Road - that will come as little consolation for Sir Alex Ferguson, David O'Leary and Arsÿne Wenger as they continue to fight their campaigns on two fronts.

On Wednesday night Leeds were playing Besiktas in Istanbul on an emotional return to the city where two of their supporters were killed last season. Next stop in the Champions' League for O'Leary's team will be Tuesday's game against Barcelona. And the meat in that Continental sandwich? The small matter of a trip this morning to play Manchester United in the Premiership. Sir Alex's team, meanwhile, having beaten PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, will switch their attention after today's game to Anderlecht on Tuesday.

Arsenal, having returned from their triumphant trip to Rome, head east again today, with Wenger's men no doubt hoping that the visit to West Ham will be less confrontational but just as profitable as Wednesday's game against Lazio. At least Arsenal know that Wednesday's game at home to Sparta Prague is academic, qualification for the second stage of the Champions' League having already been earned.

Today's match will provide another test of temperament for Arsenal's Patrick Vieira, who was fined £45,000 and banned for seven matches following the corresponding fixture last season after spitting at Neil Ruddock and tangling with a police officer in the players' tunnel following his sending-off.

Vieira has already served a five-match ban this season after being sent off twice, but the Frenchman showed commendable restraint in Wednesday's heated atmosphere in Rome. Vieira was the butt of racist abuse from Italian fans and, allegedly, a Lazio player, Sinisa Mihajlovic.

"He behaved very well," Wenger said yesterday. "They tried to upset him but he has learned and is always improving. Since I have known Patrick every season he has made steps forward. Maybe a few months ago he would have reacted differently, but it shows he has made that step forward. When you are in the year 2000 it is surprising to hear such things but they have a problem in Rome, that's obvious, especially with the fans. I was warned beforehand but I did not warn the players because the pitch is so far away from the stands."

Meanwhile Wenger confirmed that the deal to sign Edu is back on, the Brazilian midfielder having apparently resolved his passport problems. Edu was detained at Heathrow and turned away after arriving with a fake Portuguese passport but now seems to have obtained genuine documentation through his Portuguese grandfather.

While the trip to Manchester United is a daunting one for Leeds' youngsters, at least one of their team will welcome the chance to put behind him the bad memory of his last appearance at Old Trafford. Just under two years ago the Leeds goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, was forced to replace an injured Nigel Martyn during the interval with the game in the balance at 1-1. However, his first touch that was to pick the ball out of the net after just 22 seconds as Roy Keane put the home team in front, setting them on their way to a 3-2 victory. That was one of just a handful of appearances Robinson has made for Leeds in his four seasons at the club, but he is back in the side as Martyn is out of action for up to six weeks.

The Uefa Cup resumes next week and Liverpool will prepare for their second round tie against Slovan Liberec by entertaining Leicester City, who came unstuck in the first round of the same tournament when they lost to Red Star Belgrade.

With Gérard Houllier's team facing six games in the next 20 days, Liverpool will be hoping that Robbie Fowler comes through today's game unscathed. The England striker, who has been plagued by injuries over the last two years, starts a League game at Anfield for only the second time in 14 months. He replaces Michael Owen, who is still recovering from the head injury he suffered at Derby last weekend.

Fowler said: "I felt good at Derby even though I missed a couple of chances, but I thought my overall performance wasn't too bad. I think those missed chances were down to a lack of match sharpness."

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