Poch didn’t have much of a choice but to send out the same XI save Rose for Davies that lost the plot v Wolves, did he? To inspire them to shed the memory of those final 20 minutes, but because with our injury list he had few other good options. The front line made very sure to show the world that the loss was a blip, what with three goals in the first half-hour.
It got me wondering, given the two hugely important games at Wembley next week (first leg of semi-final v Chelsea and then the Poch dramafest against Ole’s resurgent Man United) just what lineup will be featured in the first FA Cup game at Tranmere? And whether any of today’s XI will feature? (My answer is: not if Poch can avoid it) And then a second question: we want to win both those Wembley games, but if you could have only one—and the other might be a loss or a draw, which would it be? I’d say Chelsea because the promise of a trophy, even the lowest rung Carabao Cup, is immediate. And let’s face it, a loss to United, or even a draw, might pour a fair amount of cold water on those “Poch is their only choice” rumours even as it might entice him further. So a dangerous game either way—maybe we ought to just win them both.
But as for Tranmere—it would seem to follow that we’ll see Gazzaniga, with a back four of Davies, Foyth, Sanchez and Walker-Peters- or perhaps Aurier at right back, Walker-Peters switching to the left, next to Davies at CB and Sanchez on the bench. The front four would seem to be Llorente, Lucas, N’Koudou and….Amos??, Skipp and I can’t think of another holding midfielder. I do not believe any of Dier, Dembele and Wanyama will be fit, unless I am missing something. I guess we can just trot out Moussa with his incredible engine and hope he can get through. There might be a temptation to load up on Son and try to get ahead of Tranmere, since his responsibilities are to country after next Sunday, but the two Wembley affairs are so vital I don’t think the risk is worth it.
Surely a Dembele sale and Lucas-like forward addition is coming in January. With Lamela out now for an indeterminate period, but likely into Son’s approaching absence, we need another attacking body, whether we are in a fight for the title or not. We might have a cup final in February. We have a crucial knockout home and away with Dortmund. And we are hardly secure in our Top Four ambitions. Levy and Poch must supplement this squad—the risk of going thin and depending on better injury luck is simply unacceptable.
So here we sit on New Year’s Day. On the fringe of a title race, in good but not yet secure position for Top Four. In a familiar cup position where we must defeat two very tough opponents to finally secure that needed trophy. Alive in Europe with a legitimate chance to advance to the quarter-finals. Alive in four competitions. And.. dare we say it? Perhaps within a month of saying “adieu” to Wembley and occupying the wondrous new ground. And yet, we can hope, there will be at least one more Wembley game in our future and perhaps two more after that. Everything to play for—it could truly be a very happy new year.
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