If any game is going to be viewed as a free hit to us this season then it’s this one. It’s rare of late that we’ve entered a game as such underdogs, an away win is available at 6/1 this morning and despite our excellent record away from Wembley thus far, five wins in a row, we’d be surprised and delighted with a draw. Real’s attacking prowess & personnel, confidence in their ability and self-belief will be a test that will make me want to reach for my tin hat and I’m only watching.
Facing the Moneybags League winners for the last two seasons on their own grass would be a daunting task at any stage but several factors have unhelpfully conspired against us. The suspension of Dele Alli will mean a sharp drop in our creativity and goal scoring potential, the absence of Rose and Davies means at least one player playing out of position with Pochettino unable to field his chosen formation and the lack of match fitness of Wanyama and Dembélé dilutes the strength and experience in the middle. We’re liable to have to once more break up the centre back partnership that is one of our main strengths and put Vertonghen at left back in a 4-3-2-1 type formation with the tyro Winks, the unreliable Sissoko and the out of form Son all starting. It’s far from ideal.
The speed of Aurier is likely to be introduced on the right but given the vulnerability Sanchez showed against Josh King on Saturday I wonder how much thought Poch has put in to using Trippier or KWP on the left rather than split the two Belgians? I think it’d be wise for us to take a chance with either risking Rose if he’s at all near fit or playing Trippier on the wrong side which would allow the middle three to stay together.
Given that we are far from likely to keep a clean sheet our potential for a successful outcome depends largely on Kane. His clinical finishes against Dortmund saw us through that night against a technically superior side and we’ll need more of the same tonight. His willingness to run himself to a standstill, hold the ball and create a nuisance is probably our best chance of giving the defence some relief as well as nicking a goal.
Real beat Getafe at the weekend with a late goal from Cristiano. They rested Isco and Modric amongst others, if only we had the resources for such a luxury. Keeper Navas has been injured but is liable to return tonight whilst Bale is definitely out. Apparently Kovacic and Carvajal are also out, I’m not going to pretend I know enough about Spanish football to say whether or not any of these are a big miss.
Real’s home record in La Liga is remarkably similar to our Premier League one at the Hated Wembley, two draws, a loss and a win which suggests that they’ve not been having things all their own way in the Bernabeu thus far. Any team that has the wherewithal to put Dortmund to the sword as they did in the last round of Champions League fixtures needs to handled with respect though.
A free hit, as I say but one that the players can only benefit from in terms of experience if nothing else.
The referee and his chums are from Poland.
A great night is in prospect. COYS.
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