What’s the point of tonight’s match? Good question. Given our likelihood of success, experience mainly I guess. Bentaleb, Naughton, and Townsend will all become more rounded players having had the chance to play in a nice ground in an exotic location in front of hostile fans. That’s the theory anyway. If Kaboul fails to make it, and the fact that he has started three games in a week is one of the major surprises of the season, then Veljković may get a debut to remember; two goals down before we even kick off and playing alongside Sandro? The stuff of dreams.
What’s the point in us putting out a strong team? We have a much more important game on Sunday. We do have an important game it’s true but it’s only more important if you think the Europa League is worth striving for. Of course we want to finish as high up the league as we can and at the moment anywhere between 5th and 8th is possible but for the majority I suspect the thought of a midweek break rather than play in this soul sucking competition would be very much preferred; I’m talking about the fans, I’ve no idea whether the players enjoy it or not. The Saints game is followed by a visit to a currently rampant Liverpool. If results go against us we could be struggling for 7th by the end of March, we should ensure we do everything we can to get a result on Sunday.
So which players should be rested then? All of the injury prone ones, so that probably means everyone apart from Bentaleb, Naughton, Lloris and Soldado. Not really of course. Adebayor shouldn’t go, nor Eriksen, Townsend, Rose, Walker, Kaboul or Sandro. Injuries and suspensions mean that’s not going to happen but if Adebayor plays and we don’t qualify for the next round, given his status as our only viable goal threat, questions should be asked.
What’s a realistic goal on Thursday? I don’t know whether Benfica have ever lost by three clear goals at home in Europe, they probably have and even if they haven’t there’s no reason why it can’t be done. Except that our side is in a state where a three goal win in Leicester would be an achievement let alone Lisbon. Much as I’d love to go through all this again against Napoli or Juventus or whichever Champions League failure ends up winning this competition, I’d take an injury-free draw, who knows where Tim’s latest tactical innovation will lead us though.
Where are the officials from? They’re from Slovenia. COYS.
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