Viduka's quality gives O'Leary attacking option

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The Independent Online

No one said it was going to be easy. One hundred and one days after booking into the third qualifying round of the Champions' League on a nerve-shredding afternoon at West Ham, Leeds United tonight attempt to reach club football's most prestigious and lucrative competition against TSV 1860 Munich with the most depleted side David O'Leary has fielded in nearly two years as manager.

No one said it was going to be easy. One hundred and one days after booking into the third qualifying round of the Champions' League on a nerve-shredding afternoon at West Ham, Leeds United tonight attempt to reach club football's most prestigious and lucrative competition against TSV 1860 Munich with the most depleted side David O'Leary has fielded in nearly two years as manager.

For a match likely to define Leeds' season, in that it dangles the prospect of tangling with the European élite plus a £10m-£15m windfall from television rights, prize-money and receipts, O'Leary is without seven internationals. Five are injured and two suspended after their dismissals during a costly final quarter-hour in the first meeting at Elland Road.

Unless the Leeds manager gambles on Matthew Jones, who has just resumed training after a summer blighted by shin splints, Lee Bowyer will be the only recognised midfielder in his line-up in the 70,000-capacity Olympiastadion. The precarious nature of Leeds' lead, which was trimmed to 2-1 in stoppage time, means the 19-year-old Welshman may well be deputed to shadow the influential veteran Thomas Hassler.

Jones' availability gives O'Leary 12 outfield players who are realistic contenders for his starting line-up. Since they are top-heavy with centre-backs and strikers, there will inevitably be some square pegs in round holes. However, it is entirely possible, given his instinctive preference for positive solutions in the face of adversity, that he will again field three attackers and take the game to 1860 rather than dig in for a 90-minute siege.

Whatever permutation O'Leary settles upon, Mark Viduka is a certain starter at centre-forward. The Australian, a £6m signing from Celtic, is not only the one Leeds player with Champions' League experience, gained with Croatia Zagreb, but his ability to hold the ball up could be invaluable as an outlet when Leeds come under pressure.

Viduka's new manager views him as a player who can only improve at Leeds. "He had a better offer at Celtic because Martin O'Neill didn't want to lose him but the lad wanted to get out because he thought the league was poor up there," said O'Leary. "He scored goals in Scotland but I didn't take that as a big benchmark. He fits into my budget and I can develop him because he's young.

"When I first met him I told him he gave the impression of being a lazy so-and-so. He laughed and told me he had only had to play to 70 per cent of his ability in Scottish football and still scored all the goals. But he said he now wanted to be pushed. I said I'd do that and warned him there would be times when he'd wonder what he had let himself in for."

The Germans will look to their own Socceroo, Paul Agostino, who followed up his potentially priceless header at Leeds with Saturday's winner against Werder Bremen. His compatriot Ned Zelic is also suspended, while Norway's Erik Mykland may be absent from midfield because of a high temperature.

After 1860's only previous appearance in the European Cup, 34 years ago, they plummeted into regional amateur football. Now they are meeting - and beating - Bayern again, while their followers, including many hippies, punks, anarchists and other bohemian Bavarians, claim priority in Munich hearts much as City supporters do in Manchester. Desperate as Leeds are to feature in Friday's draw for the first group phase, 1860's sense of destiny burns with equal intensity.

TSV 1860 Munich (1-2-5-2; probable): M Hoffman; Passlack; Kurz, Stranzl; Cerny, Hassler, Mykland or Riedl, Votava, Bierofka; Max, Agostino.

Leeds United (3-4-2-1; possible): Martyn; Duberry, Radebe, Woodgate; Kelly, Bowyer, Jones, Harte; Smith, Bridges; Viduka.

Referee: C Bo Larsen (Denmark).

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