Today sees the first of the semi-finals take place between Barcelona and Chelsea and I hope that Barcelona give them a good stuffing. I’d prefer to have a Barcelona v Arsenal final, should we reach the final. Given Barcelona’s defence, I’d fancy us to get a few against them and vice versa I suppose. But, it’d make for a much better final in terms of entertainment than the borefest that Chelsea would undoubtedly bring about.
Anyway, getting a bit ahead of myself there. First Barca have to give them a good seeing to tonight and then we have to take care of our end of the deal against ManUre. The hardest thing about living in Japan for these kind of games is that you miss 90% of the hype and hysteria in the build-up to the game. Sometimes that can be a good thing, especially in the aftermath of a game when Sky inevitably go apeshit over something Arsenal have done. But, it takes away some of the excitement in the build-up to the game all the same. Not that I am not excited, but anyone living abroad and reading this will know what I mean. No Sky Sports News spewing detritus 24/7 here.
The first game is a huge one and it’s important not to lose it. A score draw would be a good result, but let’s hope for a 2-1 or a 1-0 to The Arsenal. We don’t want to have to chase the game in the second leg because with ManUre’s ability to hit us on the counter and from set pieces we would be in trouble should we lose the first leg.
I expect Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Djourou and Gibbs to line up in defence. Well, I hope that Djourou starts in place of Silvestre as he is too much of a liability in a game of such high stakes. I think Djourou would be a more solid option alongside Kolo. In midfield I imagine that we will go with Song and Denilson playing more of a holding role, with Cesc playing in a more advanced role with Nasri and Walcott out wide. I almost wrote Arshavin there instead of Nasri. God, I wish Arshavin was available for this tie, he would make a huge difference for us. Up front I reckon the boss will go with Adebayor, what with Van Persie not being available.
Six months ago I would have been very worried going to Old Trafford with that pairing of defensive midfielders, but due to their recent form, I am pretty optimistic that we can make a real game of it.
I think we’ll play with a 4-5-1 as it seems to suit us very well, especially in Europe and also because we are missing Van Persie and Eduardo hasn’t kicked a ball in anger for a few weeks, so we probably don’t really have much of a choice anyway.
We will need to make sure we don’t give away any silly free-kicks around the edge of the area as Ronaldo will pose a serious threat on those. The manager should be reinforcing that idea along with ‘don’t cock around with the ball in the box’, when in doubt put it into row z. The last thing we want is to concede a needless or sloppy goal. Keep it tight, close them down and use our heads. That’s called for. Fancy football is no good if we don’t produce an end product. Cesc says as much himself in that any mistake now which leads to a goal could be huge. There’s no could about it, I suppose.
It’s time for the players to pull out a massive, massive performance at Old Trafford. The fans need it and the club deserves it. We don’t want to see ManUre go to another final and risk seeing them do back-to-back Premiership and Champions League doubles. Could you imagine that?
Toure has a positive vibe for the game and he is a player that I really like, even though he hasn’t been at his best for us this year I think he is a good player to have in the squad. I wouldn’t agree with his view that we have replaced Pires with Nasri, not yet anyway. Pires was sensational. absolute quality and playing at the top of his game. Nasri has a bit of work and development to do before he can be considered in the same vein as Pires, but the early signs are promising. Nasri looks like he could be great, but he is no Pires. How great would it be should he reach the same level as Pires?! Let’s hope that he does.
This is a big game for Alex Song too, can he keep his good form going on the big stage? I think he will have a good game, but he’ll need to stay focussed for the entirety of the game and make sure he closes down their players at all times when they are in or around our box, without commiting a foul. Likewise for Denilson.
As I write this I am getting more and more excited, it’s a shame that the game isn’t until tomorrow! It’s a huge game and to get a positive result at Old Trafford would give the whole squad such a huge boost. The fact that we are now ten points ahead of Villa in the league gives the boss the option to rest some players in league games, should there be any doubts over their fitness, so that should help us for the second leg. A negative result for Chelsea against Barca would mean that they’d probably rest some key players for their game against us, which might give us a shot at giving them a run for their money for third spot. Never say never. They can’t win the league and the hierarchy there will be thinking solely of silverware and that might give us a chance against them.
I think that Walcott and Fabregas will be instrumental in everything we do from an attacking perspective and I fancy Theo to terrorise their defence. He is playing really well and now looks dangerous every time that he gets on the ball. With Fabregas and Nasri we have two players very capable of giving him the killer pass to run onto and rip the ManUre defence a new one. Let’s hope that Adebayor is there to get on the end of his balls into the six yard box.
Some detailed facts and information about the tie can be found here.
Clichy should have had a scan on his back yesterday, so let’s hope that there’ll be good news on that. I hope that we can get him back before the end of the season because we need all the fit players we can get in order to be able to challenge in both the league and champions league.
Right not sure exactly where, if anywhere, I am going with today’s posting so I’ll leave it there. I knew I shouldn’t have gone with an iced-coffee. Iced coffee always makes it hard to focus.
Have a good one.