The Camp Nou Redemption.

First off, apologies for the lack of posts of late. I am trying to balance work, a MA dissertation and drinking, all of which leaves precious little time for writing a post. Though if you follow me on Twitter, @colm_smyth, you can stay abreast of my thoughts, rants and witticisms. (Disclaimer: witticisms may be sporadic.)


Anyway, late in the day I know, but the only thing that I really have to say about the ManUre game is that we offered absolutely nothing from an attacking point of view and also we really have to get rid of Clichy, he is an accident that just can’t wait to happen. No waiting there, no siree. I’m not suggesting for one minute that Gibbs is ready to step into his shoes. If sold, we would certainly need to buy a left back, or else buy someone like Chiellini that could play centre or out on the left, which Vermaelen could also do.


Yesterday saw the draw for the Champions League group stage take place and the draw was as follows:

AS Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham
Valencia v Schalke
Inter v Bayern Munich
OL v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Marseille v ManUre
Copenhagen v Chavski

Personally, I can’t wait for the game against Barcelona. It will be the ultimate test of the intelligence and growth of this squad. Have they learned from the games against Barcelona last season? Will they be able to match the work rate and pressing of Barcelona?


I think that drawing Barcelona is better than drawing Real as their style of play will offer us more space and, in theory, they should be easier to open up than the likes of Real who Mourinho would have been set up to be tight and stifle our play.


Playing a team like Barcelona is what the Champions League is all about. Already I have been checking my working schedule for those days and trying to figure out whether or not I will be working, or taking a sicky the next day. Hehe.


Another upside of drawing them in the first knock-out round is that we now have two months to prepare, get our house in order and there is also a transfer window in which investment can be made, should the manager wish to do so, in order to give us the best chance possible to progress to the next round. I don’t know about you, but I am excited already at the prospect of coming up against Barcelona again. Yes, Chavski got the easier tie of the English teams, but they don’t get to look forward to  truly massive game for the next two months. We do. Enjoy it. Don’t fear it.


Looking at today’s game, RvP, Walcott and Cesc are available to start, though there is still a question mark over whether that will happen or not. I have a feeling Cesc may get the nod. Fabianski is still a doubt, though apparently he is 80% ready to play. Bendtner may not be part of the squad as his partner is due to give birth to the couple’s first child. Almunia has a twisted ankle. *cough cough* Diaby will be a bit short for the weekend. Though word on the street is that being a bit short isn’t a problem that Wilshere suffers from…


So, assuming that Fabianski doesn’t pass his fitness test, we will probably line up with Szczesny, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Cesc, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.


At least I hope that Szczesny will start as he seems better on crosses than Fabianski, although his kicking needs a bit of work judging by his performance at Old Trafford. I think that having a keeper that is solid on crosses (and throws) will be important against Stoke. After Arshavin’s performance against ManUre, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ‘rested’ today and Walcott get a start. I’d also like to see Djourou get the nod ahead of Koscielny, but I think that the manager will stick with his summer signings in central defence for this one.


Shawcross returns to the stadium for the first time since trying to rip Ramsey’s leg off, here’s to a very hostile reception for him. However, we should give Whelan a warm welcome for his part in trying to comfort Ramsey as he lay stricken on the pitch. We should not forget what Whelan did, just as we will never forget what Shawcross did. When Whelan’s name is read out, he should get a big cheer, or applause, from our fans.


The game is live on J-Sports 2 and coverage begins at 23:54. The game will be followed by Liverpool vs. Fulham on J-Sports Plus at 02:24, in case you need something to help you sleep.


I the manager’s press conference it was interesting to hear that he will listen to what Almunia wants to do with regard to a transfer. Not exactly a big vote of confidence with regards to keeping the player. I think he is on his way out the door in January.


Finally, cheers to the folk at the Three Up Front podcast for giving me a mention at the start of this weeks podcast, although they mispronounced my surname, I can let them away with that.


Right, I’m off out for a night of beer and karaoke in Shibuya, Tokyo.


Take it easy!


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