It's crunch time for beleaguered Leeds

ENGLISH PREVIEW:If record debts and a place near the foot of the table weren't bad enough, the put-upon Yorkshire club must face league leaders Arsenal

AP , LONDON

Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 18

Leeds needs a change of luck.

Unfortunately, the penultimate team in the Premier League will attempt to change its fortunes today against league-leading Arsenal at Elland Road.

Off the pitch, the news is just as bad.

On Tuesday, Leeds posted the worst-ever financial results for a British soccer club, telling stockholders it is swamped with a debt of ?78 million (US$132.3 million). Hours later, Leeds lost 3-2 after extra time to a second-string Manchester United lineup in the League Cup

It was the second loss to United at Elland Road in 10 days, adding to recent league defeats against Liverpool, Everton and Birmingham.

"Things just don't seem to be going for us," Leeds striker Alan Smith said. "Decisions even themselves out during a season, and for us I hope they do because we are owed a few.

"But we can take heart from our last three performances, in particular against Man United in the Cup on Tuesday and the league a couple of weeks ago. We were unlucky not to get something out of both games."

Leeds' losses have increased the pressure on manager Peter Reid, whose future is uncertain amid the financial turmoil.

"We're wondering when the tide will turn, but we'll keep working hard and we've a gaffer [manager] who is 100 percent behind us," Smith said.

Leeds reached the semifinals of the 2001 Champions League but as debts increased, the club sold off many of its key players and never really recovered on the pitch.

Arsenal leads the standings with 24 points, with Chelsea on 23, Manchester United on 22 and Birmingham on 19.

Winger Jermaine Pennant could play for Leeds. Pennant is on a four-month loan to Leeds and could face his best friend Ashley Cole.

"We know each other very, very well but you've got no friends on the football field," Pennant said. "I'll just be trying to do what I do in training. It's going to be a bit weird [playing against Arsenal] but I am just hoping to play well."