BRADLEY JOHNSON insists Leeds United have heeded the lessons of last season and are better prepared for the return to league action after a glamour FA Cup tie.
The Elland Road club face a quick turnaround tomorrow with a trip to Portsmouth that comes just 65 hours after a draining defeat to Arsenal.
Last term, United struggled after an FA Cup meeting with Premier League opposition, the win at Manchester United being followed by a draw against lowly Wycombe Wanderers and Swindon Town inflicting a 3-0 defeat on Simon Grayson's men just a few days after their 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
This time around, however, Johnson is adamant there will be no repeat and points to last weekend's 4-0 win over Scunthorpe United as proof – the visit of the Iron being United's first outing since drawing 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
The 23-year-old said: "We learned from last year that the bread and butter of the league is what matters. It is nice to play the big teams (in the Cup) but the league is the important thing.
"We are out of the Cup now so we can concentrate on Saturday and trying to get the three points. Portsmouth is not an easy place to go but we are confident."
United's stirring Cup ties against Arsenal were further indication of the huge strides that have been made at Elland Road under manager Grayson.
Now, the challenge facing the Yorkshire club is to maintain that progress in the race for the Premier League.
Johnson, who netted a spectacular goal against the Gunners on Wednesday night, said: "We were not expected to go up but we are in a good position now. Anyone can beat anyone else in this league on their day but we went on a long unbeaten run. We need to do the same again.
"We believe in ourselves and playing Arsenal twice has given us a boost. They had to bring on their big guns in (Cesc) Fabregas and (Robin) van Persie to kill us off so we can take a lot from that. The result was not good but we performed well against a team from the Premier League, which is where we want to be next year."
Johnson's mention of "next year" suggests a desire on the part of a player whose contract is due to expire this summer to stay at Elland Road.
However, when pressed by the Yorkshire Post as to whether any progress has been made in talks over a new deal, the lifelong Arsenal fan said: "I am not in a position to say anything about contracts. I am signed until the end of the season – when that comes around I will sit down and weight up my options."