So it’s The Arse (cheers for the text Stuart – I had a gut feeling it might happen).
The initial reaction is to unintentionally mirror the words of Father Jack – “Fe*k Arse!” However, at this stage of the Champions League we should be prepared to play anyone and, having got this far, should always fancy our chances, regardless of who we are paired against.
We have the “benefit” of playing the second leg at home but as Arsenal proved at Anfield last October, and at the San Siro a few weeks ago; this might not necessarily be an advantage. Anyway no doubt this tie will be chewed over and over in the weeks to come so I’ll save my own bout of mastication for nearer the time.
What does make the draw a bit of an annoyance is the fact that we will now play Arsenal three times in succession. The league game at the Emirates is sandwiched between the two European games. This makes things difficult and adds an unwanted aspect to the tie. However, with Arsenal still very much in with a title chance the problem for them may be greater especially as they have to play Manchester United after the second leg? We have a similar problem, but perhaps not as serious as it occurs before the tie, playing Everton (a vital game in deciding the destiny of fourth place) the weekend before the first leg. Difficult and tricky times for both clubs?
Interestingly rumours have sprung up about the possibility of the draw being fixed. A post left on the internet before the draw correctly predicted it. Did UEFA want to keep the English teams apart or, draw them together so that so at least one foreign team is assured of getting through to the final? They have succeeded in neither objective and surely they would need to have very elaborate arrangements in place, not to mention widespread collision, to rig it?
Incidentally there is one thing about the draw that does irk me slightly and that is the fact that the semi finals were also decided today, if we beat Arsenal we play the winners of Chelsea v Fenerbache. Why can’t another draw be held after the quarters? It all adds to excitement and anticipation, not mention giving club reps another junket to Switzerland!
So onto Reading at home. Reading fans will quite rightly bristle at this next sentence, especially as they beat us at their place earlier in the season, however, I hope they understand the point I’m tying, albeit hamfistedly, to make. Here goes… this is the last so called “easy” match before an extmly difficult run of fixtures! After Reading it’s The Mancs away, Everton at home, the three Arsenals. It is therefore vital to get three points in the bank, especially as Everton will be expected to win at Fulham.
Team wise Alonso is back after attending the birth of his son, congratulations to him. We certainly won’t be fielding Daniel Agger who has now been ruled out for the rest of the season. He needs an operation to cure his metatarsal injury. Hopefully we can ride this via Carragher, Hyypia and the slowly and steadily improving Srktel? Otherwise no changes.
Prediction. With no match until next Sunday I expect Rafa to field a full strength team. The 3-1 defeat at the Madjeski was a blow as we really would have taken extremely close order in the title race. After that we faded badly. The players will surely want to exact some kind of revenge so, against my better judgement, I’ll stick my neck out and go with 4-0!