“Anji, oh Anji” as Mick Jagger sang in 1973 in homage to Thursday’s evening’s Russian visitors. Not really of course. Like the greatest white Blues band ever’s follow up to Get Off My Ally McLoud, I Can’t Get No Shakhtar Donetsk and Paint it Blackpool though, this game has more than a small amount of an anticlimactic (Anjiclimatic?) air floating above it. Both teams know their ‘Europa League fate’, both teams have more important games to prepare for (probably – I’ve no idea how long the Russian winter break is) and both teams would rather just shake hands and move on thus avoiding any possibility of calamity in the form of injury or disciplinary measures.
Or would they? Well yes, they would, says even the devil’s advocate within me. With a game against the second place Premier League side coming up on Sunday and an injury crisis ‘rocking the Lane’ Redknapp would’ve done anything he could to avoid playing a first team player, there would’ve been kids everywhere with the remaining spots taken by players already planning on how they’re going to jemmy open the locks on the January transfer window.
The injuries at the back added to the lack of form of some players wedded to a lack of ‘game time’ for others coupled with Villas-Boas now legendary ‘liking’ of this competition married to AVB’s reluctance to ‘pitch the kids in’ in Tromso mean that it’s unlikely that we’ll field anything other than a side designed to win and win well. Soldado, Capoue, Friedel, Townsend, Sigurdsson, Fryers and probably Lamela are the players it’s easy to pencil in with most other positions a bit random. Eriksen and Rose may be available which would be a bonus but apart from giving them a bit of fitness it’s hard to think of any likely positives to come from this game unless McEvoy, Fredericks, Coulthirst et al are given a taste of the big time after all.
Still, it’s got to be played and finishing top of the group is certainly better than slinking away having been dumped on by PAOK Salonika so we might as well get on with it and get in tune for our next two cup games where we face bigger fish and keener competition. Finishing top of the group guarantees us a second leg at home in the next round by the way.
The officials are from Sweden. COYS.
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