Hello, you. The Bagel just popping in for a mo while Oog’s out and about keeping the dogs fed. I’m finding it very hard to think about the league. Naturally, our next game is our Cockney friends who’ll be looking for a right old barrel of upset and a good knees up afterwards if there are any battle cruisers left on the High Road that they haven’t fire bombed.
All the same, The Bagel’s eye is very much on the Champions League and perhaps yours is too. It would be a bit of a disaster not to beat West Ham on Saturday, so Hitzlspergers and a slightly tougher looking central midfield proposition than we’d have liked to one side, let’s just consider it a win and worry instead about our irresistible route to the Champions League trophy. So. Who are we going to pull out of the hat on Friday? Who do we want to pull out? This is the way I see it.
Pros: Not much to spend on travel, we have a decent record against them of late
Cons: Not very exotic and it’s bloody Chelsea
Ok, so Chelsea aren’t through yet unless you’re reading this after Wednesday evening, in which case they almost certainly are. Out of the two other Premier League clubs left in the competition, there’s no doubt that this match up would be the more winnable. Chelsea are desperate to win the Champions League. The pressure would all be theirs. It’s been their raison d’etre ever since Abramovich turned up and that’s one hell of a monkey to carry around on your back. As Oog pointed out a few weeks ago, we’re relatively monkeyless at the moment and, more to the point, this would be a tie representing only a small simian for us and one that we wouldn’t even need to remove in order to progress – an away win at Stamford Bridge.
The only real downsides to this one are that it’s not a great fixture for the travelling supporter. Yeah, relatively speaking, it’s cheap but it’s not a big stadium, so tickets could be hard to come by.
Pros: Good chance of getting a ticket away, they owe us one
Cons: Not beaten them for donkeys home or away
A sharp intake of breath will be defined as the reflex reaction of a Spurs fan on getting drawn with Manchester United. There’s not a lot of positives to take from a tie with Red Faced Fergy and his troop. I’ve never been to Old Trafford, so that’s something that The Bagel could enjoy about it but I can’t say that that’ll help anyone else.
United have a large barrel of experience on how to win these things and it’s a game where the monkeys are all ours. We haven’t beaten them since the 99/00 season and even then, if you take the return fixture into account, they would have gone through 3-3 on away goals. Not good reading. What we’d really have to hold onto is hope and fate. It’s widely accepted that United aren’t that good at the moment. They’re a lot better than people give them credit for but they’re definitely beatable. Anyone who was at the Lane for the fixture would have seen the first time that they were consistently on the back foot against us in the last 10 years.
For the hope, we would have to hope that Vidic and/or Ferdinand were out. As for fate, well, we’re going to beat these buggers one day and, kharmically speaking, they owe us big time for that goal that never was. That was 2 points that would have seen us into the UEFA Cup the following season. Add a few years of interest and passage to the semis could just about weigh up.
Pros:Already beaten then 6-5 on aggregate
Cons: Enough with the San Siro already
What kind of a European tour would send us to Milan three times? It’s not so much that it’s a tough tie. It would be a tough tie, but, for Oog and The Bagel, that would make four trips to the San Siro in the last two years. Milan just isn’t that nice a city.
Anyway, personal issue aside, beating Inter over two games is likely be tougher than it was before. We no longer have the element of surprise and they no longer have a manager they dislike. What’s more, there’s a matter of pride for them. Fortunately, what we would have is 11 players on the pitch for 180 minutes – we hope, anyway – not that we needed it the last time.
Pros: We might be favourites
Cons: We might be favourites
Objectively speaking, Schalke would be the best draw. They’re probably the weakest team, ignoring us; they’ve just fired their manager and they’re lying 10th in the Bundeslega. That said, they won 4, lost 1, drew 1 in the group stages – one win better than we did – and they only let in 3 goals. They also brushed aside Valencia fairly comfortably with a 1-1 at the Mestalla and a 3-1 result at home – the same nights as our fixture with AC Milan. I can’t say I know anything about their defensive ranks but they must be pretty good and the headline names to worry about are Raul and Huntelaar, who are probably a little scarier in name then form, and Farfan who’s probably the opposite and was probably the best player on the pitch when PSV knocked us out of the UEFA Cup.
That said, they’ll have plenty to worry about with us and it would be an excellent away trip for the travelling fan. Beer, sausages and good hospitality all the way. Just a shame we’d probably only get an allocation of around 3,000 seats which might make it tough to get a ticket.
Part 2 tomorrow!