Bradford City looking to impress their extra fans
Bradford City v Arsenal, 7.45pm
11 December ~ The sense of anticipation in Bradford has been palpable in the past six weeks since the quarter-final draw for the League Cup was made. City have not made it this far in the competition since 1989 and tonight's home tie with Arsenal is the biggest game the club has been involved in since the two-year spell in the Premier League between 1999 and 2001. With a crowd in excess of 23,500 expected, there will be seats within Valley Parade that will be sat on for the first time in 11 years. I hope someone has managed to give them a wipe down.
Under Arsène Wenger, Arsenal have twice left Valley Parade without the easy three points they might have been expecting. In February, 2000 a cheekily taken free-kick by Dean Windass caught David Seaman out and though Thierry Henry scored an absolute belter to equalise, Dean Saunders coolly slotted home City's winner. Afterwards Wenger mentioned the narrow Valley Parade pitch as an excuse for his side not performing well; it was only later that someone pointed out that the dimensions were exactly the same as Highbury. The following season City legend Stuart McCall fired the Bantams ahead and it was a late Ashley Cole debut goal that earned the visitors a point.
Since defeating Wigan on penalties in the last round manager Phil Parkinson has banned all talk about the Arsenal tie. The prospect of a big game often causes the smaller club's form to dip but City have continued to be handily placed in League Two and have progressed in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and FA Cup – though the club's participation in the latter looks to have ended on a technicality due to an administration error over the registration of Newcastle United loan player Curtis Good. The club's appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears but technically the Bantams are still in all four competitions they entered this season.
The Arsenal game will be Bradford's 31st of 2012-13, so the moaning from Premier League sides about playing too much football doesn't wash here. City go into the game having already lost key central defenders Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies plus wingers Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines. But the tight-knit squad that Parkinson has assembled has overcome such setbacks so far.
Having seemingly set a world record of eight consecutive penalty shootout wins in succession, City's best chance may well be to try to defend for their lives and take Arsenal to penalties. If they do, don't bet against them putting another Premier League club out. But most Bradford City fans will just be happy if the team give a good account of themselves and prove to the extra supporters that this is a team worth supporting. Mike Harrison