Why has the first set of Champions League games been spread over four days? No doubt there is a reason for this but is it linked to football – why collect two nights advertising revenue when you can have four? Anyway I guess this is irrelevant to us as we begin our second stint on the Thursday night Europa League “graveyard shift”.
When was the last time we played a Romanian team? Staua Bucharest in the UEFA Cup in 2003? However, one always remembers the 1984 European Cup Semi Final clash with Dynamo Bucharest. The first leg was at their place and it was memorable not only for the 1-0 win we secured via Sammy Lee’s goal but for old “Champagne Charlie” aka Graeme Souness exacting retribution on Dynamo player for some earlier offence by breaking his jaw in two places! Arh happy days and the sort of action that goes down in legend but, if were to happen today, would probably result in a lengthy ban, a massive fine and, if you had one, a split from your pop star wife!
I’m not condoning such action but, all the same, the past smoothes things as nostalgia takes over and I would like to view it in a positive light. How about a blow for the free world and democracy against Romania which was then ruled by the autocratic tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu! Apparently Souness was left out of Scotland’s team for a subsequent match against Romania supposedly because of fears for his safety – clearly those who made that decision weren’t fully acquainted with Souness, the man and his style of play! I know who my money would be on in any kind of revenge situation!
So what are our chances of protecting our 1-0 lead? Rafa seems fairly hopeful to the extent that he’s talking about the semi finals
“Any side that gets to the Europa League semi-finals will be good enough to play in the Champions League. We know it has not been a good season. But all teams go through periods like this. You just have to carry on, keep working hard and move forward. This is a different and difficult situation but we have to manage.”
Hmmm I think we have to ask ourselves why we are this competition as opposed to the Champions League in the first place. Anyway I think it will be fairly safe to assume that we will see a different Unirea from the outfit that “graced” the Anfield stage with its outstandingly expansive and thoroughly engrossing brand of total football! Clearly they will be chasing the game and will have to come out of their shells and try to score? We know of course that if we score they will need three and with our defence’s form at present that it is unlikely to happen – there I’ve said it which means it will!
Even when Unirea shut up shop at Anfield we still had enough chances to have made tonight’s tie a formality. Sadly it is not and we will need to be sharper in front of goal tonight especially if the Romanians manage to level the tie. Sadly it looks like we have to manage without Fernando Torres. He travels but reports suggest he won’t start perhaps being kept back for the Blackburn game on Sunday? Many will ask if he isn’t fit or ready then why is he going to Romania however, I see no reason why, like at Eastlands, he shouldn’t be given a run out of say twenty minutes if we need him.
Prediction? I suspect Rafa now has enough confidence in his defence to do a Unirea and shut up shop to protect his lead however, he will also know that Unirea will have to attack and longer the game goes on the more desperate they will get and the bigger the gaps will be in their defence, all he needs is another goal will all but kill the tie off. A difficult balance to strike but I think we will be positive enough to get the goal that will see us progressing after a 1-1 draw.
Enjoy the game, it can’t be any worse than the first leg or last Sundays?