We don’t usually bother with match previews here at The Scratching Shed, but it’s January and since this is Leeds United with the Ken Bates transfer embargo functioning well, there’s little else to talk about.

Defensive Woes 

The major injury crisis Leeds United are currently experiencing is most noticeable in defence where we have only one fully fit centre back – the Celtic loanee, Darren O’Dea.

O’Dea will likely be paired alongside Alex Bruce, who himself has been injured recently and could be lacking fitness. That has opened the door to speculation that Arsenal target Monty Gimpel may make his first start for The Whites, but it seems unlikely Simon Grayson would throw the youngster in at the deep end against the returning Thierry Henry.

At full back, the most likely starters are Paul Connolly and Aidy White since they’re the only recognised full-backs on Leeds United’s books at present. However, Zac Thompson slotted in at right-back against Burnley last week and Danny Pugh could play at left back allowing Aidy White to play further up the field.

Creative Restrictions 

The chances of a third round shock are limited by Leeds United’s lack of creativity in the centre of the park. With captain Jonny Howson and winger Robert Snodgrass both sidelined, Leeds will be without two of their key players.

A likely formation of 4-5-1 suggests starts for Michael Brown and Danny Pugh – unless he plays left back, in which case Aidy White may start in his place. Any danger of Leeds causing a problem will be centred around Adam Clayton, Ramon Nunez and on-loan Tottenham Hotspur winger Andros Townsend.

Starting with Adam Clayton, the former Manchester City trainee has been a little out-of-sorts lately, but a noticeable improvement in the 2-1 win over Burnley could be the first sign of a return to early season form.

Ramon Nunez is something of a wildcard at best, his performance prone to wild variation. From misplaced passes and hopelessly wide efforts on goal, to sensational game-changing performances, it’s difficult to predict which Ramon Nunez will turn up.

That leaves Andros Townsend, perhaps Leeds’ biggest hope of an upset. The Tottenham Hotspur loanee only arrived at Elland Road last week, but his performance against Burnley was enough to raise expectations. Extremely fast, with the confidence to take on his man, Leeds’ attack will be looking at him for service.

Lone Attacking Ranger

A predicted 4-5-1 line-up means Leeds will play only one man up front leaving Simon Grayson to decide between Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio.

The limited amount of time Leeds will have on the ball lends itself well to a long ball game which makes Luciano Becchio the obvious choice. Considering The Whites biggest threat will come from the wing, Luciano Becchio is also better equipped to get on the end of these crosses than the comparatively short Ross McCormack.

And The Opposition… 

With the amount of players Arsenal have to call upon, it’s difficult to predict who they’ll start with but I suspect the majority of their first team will be rested. Arsene Wenger will be aware of Leeds’ injury woes and should see this as an ideal opportunity to rest big names.

I note a few Arsenal sites expect Thierry Henry to start from the bench, making his return as a second half substitute. A predicted line-up from our opponents fans can be found here.

No Surprises 

It’s difficult to see how Leeds United can cause an upset at the Emirates tonight. Even if Arsene Wenger plays his reserve team, they should be too strong for the wounded Whites and win by a comfortable margin. Prediction: 4-1 

An Aside 

The Scratching Shed would like to welcome back our old nemesis Clarke One Nil. The site went offline a while back but has been rescued by the founder, Michael Green. They say timing is everything, so it seems only fitting that a site named in tribute to our FA Cup win over Arsenal should return ahead of tonight’s game.