Oh dear, talk about counting your chickens before they hatch!
At work on Thursday morning everyone was talking to me as if the Carling Cup was already on our sideboard. It hardly needs saying that the semi final is a long from over, let alone the final if we manage to reach it.
For City the task is clear and simple. They need to come out at Anfield and attack if they don’t, they will go out. We, despite home “advantage” will have more of a dilemma, defend our lead or, as in the tradition of the home team, go forward and hopefully kill the tie off. Whatever the case I believe there will be more thrills, spills and heartaches,
Part of the fallout from Wednesday concerned Glen Johnson’s two footed tackle on Joleon Lescott. Steven Gerrard, clearly living up to his proposed post retirement role of Club Ambassador, clashed with City manager Roberto Mancini over this! Gerrard is clearly right in the sense that it would be hypocritical for Mancini to try and get Johnson sent off when he accused Wayne Rooney of trying to get Kompany sent off in City’s FA Cup game against the Mancs. I don’t know what Mancini’s take on this was. Perhaps his main beef was the inconsistency of referees and about how one player can see red whilst another, who commits what he feels is a worse or equal offence, can get off scot free? In arguing that it could easily be interpreted as wanting the player to get punished?
The issue of course is not about Kompany and Johnson’s punishments or “non punishments” nor is it about what Mancini or Gerrard says. It is about the law and the inconsistency of referees in the way they interpret it. To suggest that a two footed tackle is worse than a one footed and, should be an automatic sending off, is not necessary true, both can be just as dangerous. Both Johnson and Kompany won the ball cleanly without major contact so no damage done and so, if referees applied a degree of commonsense, no punishment warranted? Sadly the rules seem to leave no option for such an approach. Kenny said
“There’s always an interpretation of what the tackle is but I would have thought that, if it’s a tackle, then there has got to be a challenge. If I’m sliding in to clear the ball and there’s no challenge, then it’s not a tackle, is it? If someone is straight in front of me and I’m sliding in, then that’s a tackle as someone is trying to challenge me. If you come in from behind and there’s someone between you and the ball, then it’s the same thing. But if there’s a clear pitch in front of you and you can reach the ball, then reach it. People say he was showing his studs but you always have to show studs when you slide in.”
So that’s clear then!
So to Stoke and I have to admit that with the Oldham and City cup games, I’ve fallen into the trap of forgetting about the Premiership. Perhaps the team have as well and will go into today’s game refreshed and ready to take on the final run in with renewed vigour! Let’s be realistic, it will take a staggering collective collapse from the teams above us if we are to get back into the title race, but hope springs eternal! A Champions league spot is certainly within our grasp and therefore a more realistic target?
Stoke have given us an up and down time since they rejoined to the top flight. We beat them well at home, which bodes well for today, but always seem to crumble or be unlucky at their place. However, under Kenny things have improved we won at home last season and in the Carling Cup (click here for match report) and although they beat us in the league at their place, thanks to a dubious penalty, we battered them and were unlucky not to take something from the game (click here for this match report). Hopefully we can build on the Newcastle win having already made up for the last league defeat with was of course against Manchester City?
Team wise it seems that Jay Spearing’s hamstring injury was serious so he won’t start. Charlie Adam came on for him on Wednesday so presumably he will keep his place? I was surprised that Enrique was dropped on Wednesday and the BBC website suggests it was for tactical reasons I can only guess we wanted Kelly and Johnson to push up more but then again Enrique, who has been one of our best players this season, is no shrinking violet when it comes to bombing up the pitch?
Presumably Andy Carroll will start again? I felt a tad sorry for him on Wednesday. He was playing the loan striker role so opportunities were limited and, under the circumstances, did reasonably well however I guess there will no excuses this time? Stoke bring back Peter Crouch and Jermaine Pennant but an awful lot of water has gone under the bridge since they left so their experience as ex Reds, and what they can bring to Stoke’s approach, will be limited?
Prediction? Stoke have won three out of their last four Premiership away games and only lost one out of their last eight. However, they’ve only scored eight Premiership away goals this season. We have only lost twice in fifteen games. Pick something out of that lot! Sod it, of course I’m going to predict a win. 2-0 to us.