By the time the single-term Champions arrive at The Lane tomorrow it’ll have been a whole ten days since our semi-tragic parp-parp-whoops exit from the Europa League. In that period, Arsenal and Everton will have played thrice and Chelsea and City on two occasions. These things rarely boil down to the machinations of a diary, of course, but with just five points betwixt 6th and 3rd even the smallest scheduling advantage could be crucial for the teams involved. It’s all about the little things, as I’m often told by the good lady- with no regard for my self-esteem whatsoever.
As well as giving a rest to the world-weary lambs who were put through the extra-time ringer in Switzerland last week, the enforced sabbatical has allowed a sizable hunk of downtime for the recuperating trio of Defoe, Lennon and multi-award nominee, Gareth Bale. While risking all three from the start would be a dick move in the extreme, the noise from the camps is that all are in contention. Here’s some of that noise now, in the form of words:
“All of them are in with a chance of making selection.”
“Gazza has been training for the last two days with the team and on his own since the beginning of the week.”
“He has made good progress from the beginning of the week to training with the team, so definitely will be up for selection.”
“We recognise the impact he has had for us. With the run that he is on it can have that factor.
“It is good having key players around and players who have been decisive, especially in this last part of the season is always inspirational for everyone. It’s good to have him back”
Phew! Well this team picks itself:
Man City away. This fixture last season will be remembered fondly as the game in which Mario Balotelli tried to pierce Scott Parker’s ears with a football boot. Of all things. Instead of being shown a red card, though, as most agreed would’ve been fair in light of such a dastardly act, he stayed on and scored the winner. It was a great day!
In a season reliant on the swing of minuscule events, this one was particularly agonizing. At the other end, it was dear Jermain Dizzly being a proton’s width from making it an altogether different game, as he nearly got his own studs to Bale’s low cross, which would’ve put us three-two to the good. Tiny, teeny margins.
That being then and this very much being now, Spurs head to the Eitihad this lunchtime in curious if not trailblazing form. Injury-riddled and still finding our feet, we never seem too far from the ridiculous scenario when booing a performance out of the players is some folk’s idea of a plan. The midweek besting of NK Maribor would’ve helped lift troops’ morale. Casually dusting over the fact that the opposition looked like they’d sniffed glue shortly before kick-off- really, quite terrible- you can’t underestimate the value of a good win. After the Wigan, ahem, incident it was just what the butcher ordered.
The question now, after his goal-getting joy against the Slovenians, will Villas Boas feel obliged to plonk Defoe straight in the team at the expense of the excellent, if less goal-y Emmanuel Adebayor. My instinct is that he’ll stick fast with JD but I’d be none too surprised if he started them both in an attempt to bring the game to Mancini’s often defensively suspect lot. Dempsey, you’d guess, would make way.
It’s in central midfield where things look particularly delicate. Sandro’s being the most recent case of bad stuff happening to good people. He kindly Tweeted that he was having intense treatment on his calf this week, in a bid to get himself in showroom condition. Tom Carroll’s marvellous showing couldn’t have come at a better time but even his most devoted enthusiasts wouldn’t wish Yaya Toure on the poor lad without some Sandro-shaped beef along side him. He might never recover.
Brad or Hugo
This is still a Big Issue, obviously. So, I don’t know, maybe wrestle for it?
Huge game, huge performance needed.
Well, what a day in the old Anglais de Premiero that was. (Pretty sure that’s a flawless translation) Barely had we put on a pair of trousers that could be deemed fit for public display was Fernando Torres and his new chums doing a hilarious job of not beating Norwich at Carrow Road. Torres, of course, at the heart of the Lol-cano; spewing out Lol-ten hot lava for everyone to see. He’s all about the comedy. Then, it all got a bit weird when Robbie Keane started peeling the years back in the Midlands derby in early afternoon. Weird in the way that you might go to a nightclub with your dad. You know? You’d laugh if only it wasn’t so pathetic.
Oh, yeah. And then Liverpool lost to Bolton in the evening kick-off. Only they said it was Bolton. To me it looked suspiciously like Real Madrid. Nigel Reo-Kaka doing some lovely things in the white shirt of Los Blancos as Andy Carroll did some equally puzzling stuff in the rouge of Merseyside.
Now, of course, it’s Spurs’ chance to benefit while others have stumbled. Whatever joy there was to be extracted from the results yesterday, it’ll count for the equal sum of bugger all if nothing’s taken from Manchester in the cold light of the here and now. Thems the breaks, kiddo.
So what are we to expect? Well, one thing I will guess. If there’s any of that pretend card waving nonsense in the technical area, I’d imagine it wouldn’t be too long before a rather angry Joe Jordan made it his personal business to reduce the number of limbs Roberto Mancini was able to use for such skulduggery, down to zero. Nothing says ‘keep a lid on it, son’ like an arm dislocated at the elbow and shoved up one’s nether regions. Shocking stuff from the silver- plumed Italian in recent weeks. And doesn’t his voice sound like a zip? Yes. Yes it does.
On the pitch it’s likely to be even more exciting. There’s every indication that there won’t be a repeat of the August fiasco, and that can only be a good thing. Both teams are missing key men. Suspension and The Africa Cup of Nations claiming two of City’s finest- while so-called ‘contractual obligations’ leave our most potent striker in the stands. The colossal Ledley King is a doubt, too.
Much, then, rests on the shoulders of one Jermain Defoe and his capacity to operate as a lone-striker. The force is strong in this one but so far in his career there’s been little to suggest this is entirely his bag. A terrific finisher with oodles of raw, explosive talent but he’s more of a ‘cover me, boys- I’m going it alone’ type of player and his greatest gift is perhaps is his greatest weakness. Selfishness. Harry, though, seems to have little doubt that he’s up to the task and that’s more than enough for this humble onlooker. So there. Bring on the City, says I.
Back at Eastlands, then, where the mood is decidedly less ‘go forth and conquer’ as ‘try not to make too much of an ordeal of aiding the inevitable.’ City need a draw this evening to all but knock us out of the race- barring a cricket score against Birmingham- a result which, let’s face it, we’ve been pretty adept at offering in recent weeks. And against lesser opposition of that which we face tonight. Six of the last eight have been evenly spread affairs, if you were wondering. I’m not morbid enough to remind you of who they were against.
Still, at least we can rely on a cheery Harry Redknapp sound-byte to lift our sprits. It’ll all end in tears for those overpaid nancy boys, right? We’re going gung-ho for title next year, you say?
“I think they will win the Premier League in the next few years,” Redknapp told Sky Sports.
“I think they can be a real force next year. They’ve got a strong squad which is only going to get better now, because they’ve got unlimited funds to buy anybody they want, and they can pay the wages.
“They’ve got players there now earning £200,000 a week. I mean, it’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s another world really, isn’t it?”
“What can you do though?” he added. “I don’t know. We’ll have another go next year. We’ve got good players here. It’s hard but we are close this year.”
Um. Come on you Spurs?
The truth is we’ll probably win tonight. We just need it to be in a fashion so comprehensive, that it plunges City into a paralysed state of shock and self-doubt. One that questions them not only as footballers, but as people.
6-1 to Spurs it is, then.
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