Thursday night, ITV4, the Europa League and a visit to the Stadiooo ooh ooh ooh Olimpico.
Ever since our first meeting in September this is a game a lot of people have been dreading as it seems somehow inevitable that the evening will end once more with a nasty taste in the mouth and an even worse sound ringing in the ears. UEFA’s reaction to the monkey chanting at White Hart Lane (a €40,000 fine) will have done little to make the locals cogitate for long over the rights and wrongs of targeting players due to the colour of their skin so it seems inevitable that we’ll get more of it. Tim Parks’ book A Season With Verona reports on and gives an insight into the Verona fans similar chanting and those compelled to make the sound, it was though written in 2002 and one would hope that things have moved on since then, but apparently not.
On the other hand, if the Lazio fans do think that risking more punishment, I’m sure they don’t care about any general opprobrium, is in their interests it would suggest that things are going our way on the pitch. Like ourselves they’ve have had an up and down time of it since we last played gaining only 14 points from 10 games. They’ve been more consistent in Europe, a win in this game will see them qualify for the next round as group winners with a game to spare.
Miroslav Klose and the Brazilian Hernanes remain the danger men though the Czech Libor Kozák is their top scorer in the competition so far. They’ve conceded only twice in the Europa League in six games which is good going. It might be childish to point out that we had two perfectly good goals against them disallowed but I’ll do it anyway.
For us, walking powder keg Emmanuel Adebayor is free to play I believe so should start. His reaction to any unpleasantness from the crowd will be interesting. There’s good news generally on the injury front but whether any of the returnees will be ready in time for this one I don’t know. So few players are fully fit and raring to go that Villas-Boas’s options are restricted but throwing Carroll in can only be a good thing in my opinion. I’m loath to guess a side but one similar to that that started on Saturday with Carroll and Sigurdsson replacing Huddlestone and Defoe might not be far off. Or it might be.
If we win, that gives us 9 points, which is good enough to qualify. If we lose then a Maribor win against Panathinaikos would see them go above us with their last game against an already qualified Lazio. Oh dear. So we need to get at least a draw, we’d qualify then if we beat the Greeks in our last game.
The officials are from Spain, let’s hope they’re in for a quiet night. COYS.
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