I was thinking about the Europa League qualification we finally secured on Thursday night in Udin.
Some fans, me included, have questioned the validity of the Europa League suggesting that priorities lie elsewhere ie. that is a hindrance to, for example, progress in the league.
The format certainly doesn’t help, I hate the play Thursday play Sunday arrangement that we find ourselves in and the group stages unnecessarily prolong the tournament. It’s too much like the Champions League without the financial reward or, more importantly, the prestige. The use of the word “prestige” to describe the Champions League is of course a mute point. I think that it’s only now, with the draw for the knock out stages imminent, that it becomes more exciting?
UEFA have suggested that they may revamp both competitions possibly even merging them into one big European football jamboree. Hopefully UEFA will take the opportunity to get it right perhaps to move away from the ever present threat of a European League that the group format suggests by injecting some freshness and going for a straight forward unseeded knock out arrangement, I’m not holding my breath! As for us I guess we can take some positives from this year as we have used our youngsters and gained some valuable experience which will be useful should we ever return the Champions League?
To West Ham today and its ironic that the game that sees Luis Suarez suspended is against the team that has Andy Carroll on loan, the player who was, inadvertently, part of a series of events in the last transfer window that have lead to us being one or two strikers short of a full load for most of this season.
BR appears to be philosophical about Suarez’s ban.
“We knew it was coming at some stage so I’m not going to lose any sleep over it”
True, Suarez has been one card away from today for some time and his significance to the team is not only underlined by the fact that he’s scored 10goals in fifteen games but also all the other things he brings to our game. BR has had time to think long and hard about how he’ll deal with Suarez’s absence. Despite limited resource BR has options, Suarez isn’t the only striker we have but he is only one with extensive experience Daniel Pacheco and Adam Morgan have turned out for the first team before however, I suspect they won’t be particularly confident about being given the nod today? Perhaps more likely is that someone such as Jonjo Shelvey or even Steven Gerrard will be asked to fill in?
Team wise Steven Gerrard returns from illness however Sahin may miss out after going off against Udinese with a facial injury. Other than that and Suarez we have all the usual suspects available. Lucas, who didn’t start in Italy, will surely do so today. In case you are interested Andy Carroll won’t play because of a clause in his loan deal.
Prediction? West Ham have a good home record with only one defeat so far this season and will no doubt be confident after last week’s win against Chelsea. In this game Chelsea where clearly the better side in the first half however after the break West Ham took the game by the scruff of the neck and battered them. Strong heads and concentration are called for throughout the entire game. I guess we also have to consider that while West Ham have been putting up their feet and reflecting on the Chelsea result we’ve been at Udin and also stayed a day longer than planned because of plane trouble, a ready made excuse for BR to use if we foul up, I hope not? Unfortunately I take it to come to the fore as our lack of punch up front tells and we share the points 1-1.