With the papers full of yet another potential take over bid it’s very tempting to dwell on this and perhaps, as is the case every time this sort of thing is rumoured, the future of Rafa. However, as ever, football should come first and it’s an important week.
Today we play Portsmouth in what I guess should be termed as a “must win” game. Arguments along the lines of “if we can’t beat the bottom team at home” are relevant but are overtaken by the simple need to win, whoever the opposition are, especially as we travel to Old Trafford next weekend?
In between that we have to try and turn it around against Lille in the Europa League. The goal they scored on Thursday was symptomatic of our form his season – from a set piece and scored late when we’d looked like getting something from the game. There seems to be a stock response from Anfield every time we have such a set back. That is to wheel out one of the senior players to say “yes we can turn it around” or “it was a set back but we will get better” or “we need to improve and I know we can”. It’s sad that I’ve noticed this but, let’s face it, we’ve had plenty of set backs this season. This time, after Thursday, it was Dirk Kuyt’s turn…
“Obviously 1-0 is not a great score for us but this is what has happened. We have got to look forward. We can’t think how difficult it will be….. I’m sure it will be a good night at Anfield and I think we’ve got a good chance to go through. We are disappointed but we are capable of turning it around. Before Wigan, we had done well and kept many clean sheets. The only defeat we had suffered in the league was at Arsenal and it was getting better and better. Monday was just an off-day. We were all very disappointed, most of all with ourselves. We have got to change that. We put a lot of effort in and created some chances.”
Heard it all before? Yes but sadly this isn’t the first time our players have felt the need to speak in these terms. However, what is the alternative? Criticise the players as Rafa did after Wigan or say nothing? Perhaps they should all do a Tiger Woods apology, substituting the poor result for the sex addiction, on second thoughts let’s stick to what we already have!
The weekend Premiership results where mixed bag regarding our attempt to get fourth place. Villa and City drew but Blackburn lost to Spurs even though like he does with Liverpool Sam Allardyce presumably thinks he can beat them on “any given day”. It is two weeks since we beat Blackburn yet Allardyce is still bleating on about Rafa and his sarky “Blackburn are the model for Barcelona” comments. Get this from a few days ago.
“Personal criticism is not the road I go down. This is not the first time but he clearly doesn’t like me so I find that’s a benefit to my side whenever we play against them.”
Yes Sam, and the results really prove it!
This is fast becoming weird if not slightly spooky. Sam seems fixated with his relationship, or lack of it, with Rafa. Will he ever stop until Rafa joins Fergie on Big Sam’s list, no doubt written in crayon, of “managers I am friends with but will never be as good as”? Perhaps Rafa should extend the olive branch if he doesn’t want this unnerving form of “verbal stalking” to continue? Otherwise he might wake up one night and find Sam standing at the foot of his bed!!!
Anyway to Pompey. These days we seem to be playing in another dimension. Not content with being shunted out to Thursday night wilderness for Europe we’re now undergoing our second game in the Monday night “twilight zone” for ESPN, still at least we get an extra days rest from Thursday?
A week ago if you’d looked at our remaining fixtures you would expected to get six points from the two “EPSN games” however, that is not to be but three tonight is now a must. Thankfully we find a Portsmouth side ravaged by the unsettlement that goes with administration, some might say that might galvanise them to play better however, if you take into account their league position and the venue, there should be no excuses for us?
Team wise Benayoun, who missed out at Lille with an ankle injury, might play and presumably Maxi, who was cup tied, will return? I’d be interested to see how the defence performs with Glen Johnson back. Will they be exposed, as they were on one or two occasions against Lille due to him going forward. Go on Rafa, just have done with it and play him in midfield!
Prediction? With a fair few chances missed at Wigan and nothing from Lille, Torres is a probably a dangerous powder keg waiting to blow. I take Portsmouth to feel his wrath! 3-0 to us.
By the way this blog now has a full index of match reports since it started in October 2006 so for reports of previous games, against Portsmouth since this date click here.