We have reached that stage in the league season where it appears that someone’s ratcheted up the tension and intensity dials without asking you. The game that’s just happened appears to be the most important of the campaign, … until you start analysing the next one. The implications of each result and the associated relief from or application of further pressure mean that few games are taken in context, all are viewed as mini cup finals. Which brings us neatly to Thursday evening and a game which genuinely is sudden death but ironically is somehow also a bit of light relief compared to the ‘real’ struggle, the fight to jump goldfish bowls and get into the ones associated with another knockout (sort of) competition, the over blown and over hyped Champions League.
We’ve either 13 or 20 games left this season depending on our further progress in the Europa League. That’s quite a range for AVB and his staff to plan for and it’d be only natural if a part of him wasn’t too bothered if the worst happened on Thursday. He seems not happy to entertain such a notion though, the competition is there for the winning apparently. The game is about glory as a great man once said and nothing is more glorious than trophies. There are a lot of good teams left, Lyon amongst the cream. Deservedly beating them at WHL will have raised eyebrows, completing the job on Thursday will get us (and Villas-Boas) properly noticed.
Apart from the obvious (Sandro, Defoe, Kaboul and Huddlestone) I believe we’re fully fit, if a little tired. All of Dembélé, possibly due to him still forging a partnership with Parker, Lennon and Vertonghen have been below par of late. Tempo and rhythm will be key from the off, there will be a Lyonnaise potato writing a blog somewhere talking about the importance of an early French goal and they’ll be right. We need to get and hold possession as much as we can, as we did at White Hart Lane where we were the better passing team, and attempt to find some space for Lennon and you know who to exploit. Adebayor has another chance to silence the doubters; a strong performance from him is probably essential if we’re going to keep the pressure at a tolerable level.
If we get through the early stages, confidence will rise and much will stem from that. A goal to cancel out Umtiti’s ridiculously fortunate effort last week will probably be needed as a clean sheet is a big ask, Villas-Boas will very likely go for Gallas and Vertonghen once more and also Friedel one imagines in that quest.
It’s a game that smells of drama and promise, one that transcends tactical analysis and may well rely more on character and determination. We go in with the advantage; we’ll have done very well if we’ve still got it at the end.
The officials are from Germany. COYS.
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