SAINTS manager Gordon Strachan believes the strength of his squad will be tested to the full over Christmas.

Injury and illness deprived Saints of five key players against Newcastle last weekend and Strachan fears his squad could be further reduced over the festive period.

He said: "We've been fortunate up until this month not to have had too many injuries but that's not the case now and it's starting to test us. We've got a few players out and that's starting to make us look a bit weaker but they are part of the game and you have to get on with it.

"I can't fault the effort of my squad - nobody is disappointing me. Everybody is working hard and that showed against Newcastle. If your team is playing with shape and trying to win then you can go home happy.

"That worked against Arsenal, West Ham and Birmingham and we will try and play football when it's right."

Previewing today's game, midfielder Rory Delap said: "Leeds are a class side. They've had a few problems recently but they should be in the top five.

"But we've proved we can play against the top teams and if we play like we have been there's no reason why we can't get a result."

Leeds boss Terry Venables, meanwhile, has admitted going through the pain barrier in a bid to getting the club back to winning ways.

But the 3-0 victory at Bolton on Monday considerably eased the pressure on the 59-year-old former England manager.

Venables maintains team spirit has never waned during his time at Leeds, which is why he disagreed with the claim made by deputy plc chairman Allan Leighton there is a lack of confidence throughout the club.

However, he added: "Where I would agree with Allan is that there has been a lot of difficulties at the club and circumstances weren't easy when I came here.

"We've had a rough ride, but sometimes you have to hurt before you can find out what's necessary. You've got to have the pain to get better.

"Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better, and I think it will get better. I''m sure it will. No doubt.

"I've said for a while there's been problems. But we've just not had the breaks. Earlier on I wasn't happy at all, then I felt we were getting towards where we should be.

"We have lost games - maybe three or four - when we've been going for it, instead of saying 'well, we'll take a draw'.

"That would have given us another three or four points, but we've gone on to lose matches in the 90th minute and 91st minute, especially after we've gone through that game having done pretty well. But we've been a bit shaky at the end. We've got to do better than that."

While the away win was pivotal to Venables' future, it is at home where Leeds must get their act together as they have lost six of their last seven - including the last five in the Premiership - at Elland Road.

Up front, Venables has Alan Smith available after a one-match ban, while Mark Viduka has recovered from a shoulder injury.

In midfield, though, Eirik Bakke is suspended for one match, Lee Bowyer continues to struggle with an ankle injury, and although Olivier Dacourt made his comeback from a hip injury with a midweek reserve run-out, he is not ready for a first-team return.