This weekend we have the Magic Of The Cup to distract us from our less than bewitching current league form. Three results (let’s forget about the scorelines) that wouldn’t look shocking if sprinkled throughout the year have trickled through together and have thus given some of those from south London something to hang their season on.
The heat is apparently on as we enter mid March in third place in the league and one home win from the semi final of the FA Cup, a position the majority of us would’ve gladly taken in August. Bolton are the side that stand between us and that visit to Wembley. They’ve got their own pressures and will be even more relieved than us to face a game without crucial league points at stake. Their controversial win over QPR last weekend means that on paper they enter this tie with more confidence and in better form than us. On grass though, it’s a different kettle.
Our match up earlier in the season resulted in a straightforward 3-0 win after Gary Cahill was sent off, more of the same would be nice. Owen Coyle has stated that he’s going to ‘freshen up’ the side for the weekend – a euphemism for ‘rest ready for the next league game’.
The opportunity for us to rest players in this competition is now over, our strongest line-up, or the nearest to it we can field will be needed; Cudicini for Friedel and Gallas (if fit) for Ledley may be the only exceptions. With Lennon still out our midfield will once again be depleted and lopsided. Once more all eyes will be on where Bale and Modric start and if Van der Vaart does. The lack of cover for Lennon has had knock on effects all season with every plan B so far ending up as a crumpled ball of paper next to the rubbish bin. Moving our best players out of position rarely worked last season and this but it’s still something Redknapp feels forced to do. Even the potential return of Bentley has a vaguely attractive glow (and I can’t believe I’m saying that) if it means we retain some balance elsewhere across the middle. My personal suspicion is that Harry will resort back to Van der Vaart nominally on the right with Adebayor and Saha up front. That’s just my theory though.
No mention of Kevin Davies so far, very unusual in any preview of games between Bolton and us. Our traditional nemesis has been struggling to get a game despite the up and (mostly) down form of the rest of the side. Ngog generally leads the line with support from Miyaichi, Petrov and Mark Davies. At the back Wheater and Knight look large and not particularly intimidating. Flooding the midfield with one up front will probably be the tactic of the Scots George Clooney, perhaps even with one eye on a replay. All being well though, that should be unlikely.
Despite the ministrations of Howard Webb in the middle and Chris Foy on the sidelines, if we play to our strengths (possession, tempo, width and pace) we’ll be too good for them and will be in the draw for the semis on Sunday evening. COYS.
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