LE SAUX'S LEEDS MEMORIES

Posted on: Wed 19 Dec 2012

It is more than nine years since we last travelled to Leeds, and more than a decade since our last knockout fixture, a 2-0 win at Elland Road in which Eidur Gudjohnsen netted twice.

Graeme Le Saux captained Chelsea that evening, and despite being stretchered off late on following an elbow from United's Alan Smith, he remembers the occasion, and what it meant to the Chelsea faithful well.

At the time, Leeds and Chelsea were both Champions League contenders, nearly teams that with a signing or two, the right run of luck and a lack of injuries, might be able to stake a claim for the Premier League title.

'The majority of the time I played, Leeds were a very good side, around the top three or four in the country, and always had a very competitive, physical team,' Le Saux recalls.

'Given the history between the sides, if you're not 100 per cent aware of it when you go there, it doesn't take long to learn! We had a lot of physical encounters with them, with people like Alan Smith and Danny Mills there at the time.

'The team we had then had some fantastic players, and we had some match-winners in there, but we were flawed in that we made silly mistakes, weren't quite as consistent as we should have been. Claudio Ranieri had been there a while but it was a kind of transitional time as Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet had both gone.

'I was captain for the game, as I was quite a bit around that period after Wisey left and if Marcel Desailly wasn't playing, before John Terry took it over.'

A nervy first half in late November saw Ian Harte threaten with a free-kick, just like he did for Reading at Stamford Bridge this season, while William Gallas escaped a possible foul on Robbie Keane.

After the break, Le Saux crossed to a young Frank Lampard in his first Chelsea season to nod down for Gudjohnsen to turn and finish, and the Icelander then finished off a breakaway to complete the win.

It was an important win, as the Italian had been coming under pressure after two goalless draws, and three days later we would win handsomely at Old Trafford in the league.

Rafael Benitez will be hopeful that victory will spark a similar reaction for his side in the league now, with a key period of fixtures approaching over the Christmas period.

Leeds and their passionate home support will be keen to stop that happening, and instead book themselves a place in the semi-finals and a potential two-legged tie with Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City.

'Elland Road has always been a difficult place for as long as I can remember, and a lot of that was because of the FA Cup Final in 1970,' says Le Saux. 'Now the sides haven't played each other for a long time, and I'm sure it will be equally as competitive on Wednesday.

'They will be seeing Chelsea as a huge scalp now, rather than the equal footing it was then, and it will mean a lot to them. I am sure it will be a really intense game and I look forward to it.'