Stoke City away in the third round of the Carling Cup. Not one to set the pulses racing it has to be said. Still, given some good draws and a bit of luck it’s a competition we can do well in so the fixture shouldn’t be dismissed entirely as irrelevant to our ambitions for the season.
However the bookies think this isn’t one of those ‘good draws’ and the home team are slight favourites. Maybe the odds setters have got wind of our team news. Harry’s declared “We want to stay in the competition, we want to win and go all the way if we can.” but then he’s contradicted that by stating that the side will be made up of returning crocks, senior players who need a game and some youngsters who deserve another chance. Hm.
Still, Stoke will field a changed team as well so it’s not as if we’ll be pitted against the full range of muscle and beanpoles at their disposal. It’s unlikely we’ll see all of Woodgate, Crouch and Palacios in the opposition. Wilson is a probable to play given that he’s been mostly used as a sub so far so presumably Pulis will want the Sergeant to see some action. Woodgate will return to his cotton wool cocoon until the weekend and Crouch given more time to explain to Abbey that there are bright lights in Staffordshire but they’re mostly from power stations and collieries.
Stoke’s thumping by Sunderland at the weekend was something of a shock given the recent form of both teams, but maybe the Potters’ Europa League induced early start to the campaign is starting to take a toll. The defeat was their first of the season, i.e. their first in ten games. In their previous nine outings they scored exactly once seven times so it’s no wonder they were desperate for goal machine Crouchy to join their ranks. They kept clean sheets in six of those nine games. Altogether – “One-nil to the long throw boys”. Maybe not.
Lee Probert is down to ref, he’s the one who looks a bit like Gary Lineker and Lee Mack’s lovechild. He was in charge of the very forgettable visit to Old Trafford in August.
So, with Redknapp apparently feeling slightly more favourable to this competition than the European ‘nuisance’, we can feel confident that we’re going to give it a go. As we saw last week Livermore, Giovani and Falque are more than capable of moving the ball around sweetly if given the space and with Bassong and Corluka (and Gallas?) at the back we’ll have experience in key positions. Whether we’ll have enough of a cutting edge to take advantage of any possession we get is another matter. If nothing else, we may well get a look at Sandro’s new must-see haircut. COYS.
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