Leeds United v Arsenal: Full house guaranteed to turn up heat on Gunners

'WELCOME to 'Ell,' is a headline beloved of many a national newspaper down the years when referring to Leeds United's often intimidating home.

No doubt it will be getting an airing or three in the media today as Elland Road prepares to host not only a first visit from Arsenal in seven years but also its first full house of the season.

A near 40,000 crowd is expected, including just over 3,000 visitors from the capital after the Gunners sent back an additional 1,800 tickets from their original allocation that were quickly snapped up last weekend by home fans eager to see if United can claim another Premier League scalp.

It means the atmosphere come kick-off tonight is guaranteed to be white hot as the city of Leeds attempts to provide another indication to the watching millions at home that something special is stirring in the West Riding.

Whatever starting line-up Arsene Wenger chooses to put out, the visitors are in for a rough ride.

Every touch by an Arsenal player is likely to be jeered to the heavens with Theo Walcott, following his admission of diving to try to win a penalty in the 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium 12 days ago, likely to come in for particularly ferocious abuse.

"I know Arsenal have played on the big stage and also have players who have appeared in World Cup finals," said Leeds manager Simon Grayson ahead of trying to repeat last season's stunning Cup upset that saw Manchester United knocked out by the then League One club.

"But maybe this will be a bit different. The Elland Road crowd is very vocal and very passionate. A crowd of 40,000 at our ground can sometimes feel like 60,000-70,000.

"I am not sure if many of the Arsenal players will be aware of what the atmosphere is like at a full Elland Road but they will about five or six minutes before kick-off when they come out of the tunnel.

"Our fans are not just woodwork fans. They have travelled in numbers over recent years to Hereford and other places like that."

As for Walcott, if the England international does play then Grayson concedes the home fans are likely to give a damning verdict on the dive that almost brought the Gunners an undeserved penalty at the Emirates Stadium.

The Leeds chief said: "I have not spoken to the lad but he apologised on television. To be fair, I suppose he was honest enough to admit what he did.

"But it is an area I don't agree with in terms of diving. He came out and said what he said and full credit to him for that.

"But, in general, my ruling on diving is if they get caught then they should be banned for the next game. Then, suddenly, people trying to influence decisions will stop.

"I feel there needs to be a set ruling from UEFA or FIFA to cover if the referee misses it and then sees it afterwards.

"To be fair (to Walcott), you don't see many being as honest as that. He should be applauded for that. He will have learned his lesson probably and not do it again.

"But if he is playing, our fans will make their feelings known."

United came within a minute of knocking Arsenal out when the two sides met in north London a week last Saturday only for Cesc Fabregas to net a dramatic equaliser from the penalty spot.

Conceding an equaliser so late on came as a huge blow to the players, who had battled so hard and been the better side for much of the second half.

In terms of the club's finances, however, a replay – and, particularly one being shown live on ITV – will bring welcome additional income.

Already, some of that cash has gone on bringing Sunderland left-back George McCartney back to Elland Road on loan for the rest of the season.

More signings are also planned with Grayson keen to bolster a midfield that is still without Neil Kilkenny due to the Australian being away at the Asia Cup.

Asked what effect the two ties against Arsenal have had on his transfer plans, the United manager said: "I am not looking to bring too many players in because I don't think we need them.

"We know there are certain areas of the pitch where we are a bit short and I would like to bring in a couple to tidy the squad up.

"But the Cup games won't make a difference in terms of me spending 1m on a player or not because we were never going to do that anyway.

"I don't think any other (Championship) club will be doing that. It might allow me to get someone in a bit cheaper than that or maybe pay some decent loan wages on a Premier League player.

"It does help but I was being backed by the chairman anyway."

The flipside to being back in the spotlight is that impressive performances against a side of Arsenal's ilk can alert rivals clubs to the quality that can be found at Elland Road.

Robert Snodgrass, for instance, was outstanding at the Emirates but, when asked if the Cup run could bring unwelcome bids, Grayson insists he is not worried.

He said: "We don't have to sell any players. Any players who are enquired about will cost a lot of money to take from this club.

"There are not too many clubs, even in the Premier League, that are bigger than Leeds United."

Ben Parker could return at left-back due to George McCartney being ineligible having signed since the first meeting with the Gunners, while top scorer Luciano Becchio is a major doubt with a back injury.

Right-back Bacary Sagna is available for Arsenal again after completing a three-match ban and winger Tomas Rosicky is expected back after a virus.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey could make his first Gunners appearance since recovering from a broken leg, while Nicklas Bendtner could be handed another chance in attack.