Leeds' Guinness Premiership future may look bleak, but the Tykes are refusing to give up the ghost ahead of tonight's crunch clash with Saracens.

The Tykes lie 11 points adrift of Bath at the foot of the Premiership with just four games remaining. Defeat to Saracens would leave them on the brink of a return to National Division One after five seasons in the top flight.

But Leeds are no strangers to relegation dog-fights and they have been inspired by Saracens' recent upturn in fortunes, which has helped the 'Men In Black' pull clear of immediate danger.

"I can't quite believe we're in the position that we are because I don't think we're that bad a side," said scrum-half Justin Marshall.

"Saracens have shown us what can happen if you get a couple of wins under your belt. Not only do you gain a bit of confidence but you prove you can beat the better sides and get yourselves into a better position on the table.

"We have just got to play with pride and show we deserve to be in this competition."

A Leeds victory would drag Saracens back into trouble and, should Newcastle lose to Bristol, the Tykes' deficit at the foot of the Premiership could be cut to just six points with three games left.

Leeds simply refuse to believe their season is over.

"If teams above feel they are safe and we can get a couple of wins, then all of a sudden some pressure comes on that's out of their control. Then who knows what it might do," added Marshall.

Leeds' confidence is not unfounded. They have not lost at home in four games and away defeats to Northampton, Sale and Leicester all came in the dying minutes.

Leeds received a boost with the return of full-back Iain Balshaw to the starting XV for the first time since undergoing surgery on an abdominal injury last October.

"The most frustrating thing is not being able to help the team this season," he said.

"We had a good chance a few weeks ago to have a big say on how the season was going to pan out, but we know now it's out of our control, we've just got to make sure we win."

Saracens head north on the back of consecutive Premiership wins that earned Mike Ford March's coach of the month award, but are wary of a Leeds side with nothing to lose.

"We know that this is a massive game for both clubs and we have had two weeks of hard work all aimed towards making sure we have made the best possible preparations," said Ford.

"With the right result we can make sure we avoid relegation but we know a victory for Leeds would put us back in trouble,"

Leeds captain Stuart Hooper, who has signed a contract extension until 2009, starts tonight alongside Scott Morgan with Tom Palmer relegated to the bench. John Dunbar starts at blind-side for the suspended Richard Parks while Kees Lensing and Gordon Bulloch return to the front row.

France international full-back Thomas Castaignede returns on the Saracens bench.