Football: Kick-start for Sol


Rio Ferdinand has warned his England teammate Sol Campbell that he can expect a kick 'here and there' in tonight's noholds-barred Premiership collision with Leeds.

An Arsenal versus Leeds encounter is one of the most furiously contested in the Premiership and, apart from facing his former club Spurs, Campbell could not face a tougher home debut.

Leeds centre back Ferdinand said: 'Whichever combination of our forwards Sol finds himself up against, most defenders look upon playing Leeds as a hard game. You've got to concentrate 100 per cent against our lads - and be aware that you might get kicked here and there.'

Leeds' England striker Alan Smith will certainly revel in the cut and thrust of the Highbury showdown at some stage.

His feisty duels with Arsenal's Tony Adams and Martin Keown were at the heart of a clash that blew up last season at Elland Road - where Leeds boss David O'Leary clashed with Robert Pires - and Highbury, where a Keown elbow infuriated even the implacable Mark Viduka.

Keown still faces FA judgment over that incident and, while Ferdinand is a relative newcomer to the bitter rivalry that has grown between the teams, the new Leeds skipper knows fellow defender Campbell is in for a hard and painful night.

Smith is desperate to win the vote over Robbie Keane to partner Viduka after coming off the bench to undermine Southampton on opening day.

Ferdinand said last night: 'Smithy's a great player, but I don't even know if he'll start at Highbury. All our strikers are top notch and I wouldn't want to have to choose between them.

'Sol's tremendous, as he proved season after season for Spurs - a solid, all-round defender who's difficult to play against. But our strikers will relish the opportunity of coming up against him. They let you know they're around. But they've also got real quality, as Smithy showed with his goal against Southampton.

'I don't think that Sol will allow the Tottenham-Arsenal thing to affect him. But it's his home debut, so he's going to be under a little bit of pressure. Hopefully, our strikers can benefit.'

Arsenal have held the whip-hand over the past few seasons - Leeds have won only two of the last 10 League meetings - but Ferdinand warned: 'We intend to change that. Arsenal are there to be broken. It's a massive game, but if we take something at their place it sets our stall out for the season.

'At this stage, performances don't matter as much as results, but we'll be as pumped up as possible. We love the big games - we've got the players for the big stage and we've got them in abundance.

'We're not thinking of the past, just the present and the future. We're not worried about meeting Arsenal so early in the season. It might as well be now.'

Leeds manager O'Leary adds fit-again Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen McPhail to the squad that beat Southampton 2-0 on Saturday.

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