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David O'Leary
"It's not a grudge match for us"
 real 28k

Dave Woods
"It's cold in Sofia - but it's nowhere near as bad as Moscow last week"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 14:00 GMT
Leeds confirm Moscow complaint
David O'Leary: Players must concentrate on the match

Leeds have confirmed that an official complaint will be made against Spartak Moscow after the teams have played both legs of their Uefa Cup third round tie.

The Premiership club play the Russian side in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Thursday night.

The stakes for this game are high, just like the war in Chechnya
Alexander Shokhin
The first attempt to play the first leg was ruined by a frozen pitch in Moscow a week ago.

Since then Leeds have been accused of running scared and then of offering Spartak cash to play both legs of the third round tie in England - allegations which United have angrily denied.

Now a senior Russian politician has compared the tie to his country's military campaign in Chechnya.

I think they see this, at the end of their season, as a matter of national pride being restored
Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale
Former deputy prime minister Alexander Shokhin was quoted as saying: "The stakes for this game are high, just like the war in Chechnya.

"It is vital that the team match people's moods in Moscow and they beat Leeds. They have said many things about the Russian people, and this is a match we dare not lose."

Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale has confirmed a complaint will be filed to Uefa over Spartak's behaviour, although not until after next week's second leg.

Batty's loss is a blow to the young Leeds side
He believes the war of words is down to hurt national pride on the part of the Russians.

"It is very disappointing," he said. "They didn't qualify for Euro 2000 and I think they see this, at the end of their season, as a matter of national pride being restored if they can beat us.

"We have already compiled a dossier, I have spoken to the chief executive of the Premier League and we will be submitting the dossier to UEFA after the two games being played."

Although it was freezing in the Sofia stadium when Leeds trained 24 hours before Thursday evening's kick off, there was nothing like the minus 20 celcius temperatures of Moscow a week before.

Manager David O'Leary was happy with the pitch, and delighted with his Bulgarian hosts.

"We have been made to feel very welcome here," he said.

"The pitch is good, as long as it doesn't cut up badly, and it was also getting a bit crusty and so given the kick-off time, let's hope it's okay."

The English went to Moscow with one aim - to cancel the match
Spartak coach Oleg Romantsev earlier this week
O'Leary must get his players to concentrate on the match and not the dispute between the clubs.

Republic of Ireland international Gary Kelly will captain the side in the absence of the suspended Lucas Radebe and injured David Batty.

"I'm just raging that after all the travelling last week we didn't get to play," said Kelly.

"But the stuff we've heard about hasn't affected us. Anything that has been said, we've just turned a blind eye to it."

Michael Duberry is likely to slot in to Radebe's centre back slot, while Batty may be replaced by Norwegians Eirik Bakke and Alfie Haaland with Michael Bridges on his own in attack.

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Football
Leeds' Russian clash called off
05 Nov 99 |  Football
Leeds return to Moscow
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.