This is it. I was recently texted the pearl of wisdom that being a football fan is like sitting next to Jessica Alba, with her alternately kissing you and punching you in the face. Well, following punch after punch the good times are now rolling. It’s been years in the making – ye older folk have been waiting five decades for this – while more recently we wept over dodgy lasagne, but when Crouchy nodded in against City last season, it set us up for nights like this. Tottenham against Inter in the San Siro. Crikey. What a night.
Yes, lovely and exciting – but instead of lapping it up I’m actually dreading the possibility that we might take a right thrashing tonight. My spies inform me that Inter have one or two chaps in attack who are pretty handy, and rumour has it that they actually won the entire competition last season. Slightly scary stuff, no?
As it happens I fancy us to beat Inter at the Lane, given the way in which we beat Chelski and l’Arse last season, but tonight, away from home, I do rather fear the worst. The drill tonight will presumably be 4-5-1 with the emphasis on a defensive, risk-free game – and I cringe at the prospect. It is eminently sensible and appropriate in theory, but our lot might as well be asked to go out there and play ice-hockey. The defensive, containing game just is not in our nature, and goodness knows how it will pan out. I suspect we will end up going at Inter hammer and tongs anyway, and come out the wrong side of nine-goal thriller.
The absence of Ledley is a particular cause for concern up against Eto’o, Snjeider and whatnot. We have coped without Ledley many times before in the past, but tonight of all nights his absence is a blow. Gallas, Bassong and Kaboul are all decent players, but this isn’t Fulham, this is Inter Milan, and one suspects their forwards will be a darned sight more clinical than that Kamara chap was against us on Saturday.
On a personal level too I feel sorry for Ledley – the poor blighter has been at the club for years, and if anyone deserved a chance to lollop around the San Siro with the Champions League logo on his sleeve, it his him.
Grounds For Optimism
But enough of the negativity. Hudd is maturing, has a passing range to die for, and will be licking his chops at the prospect of mixing it on the European stage. Bale was born for such nights as this, while Lennon looks to be inching back to form, and those two on the counter-attack ought to give Rafa Benitez good reason to stroke his goatee. I am also intrigued to know what Inter fans will make of Jermaine Jenas, now they finally get to clap eyes upon the man they have coveted for the last couple of seasons.
The absence of VDV is also a crying shame make no mistake, but we did a darned good job of things without him last season, and if anything his arrival seems to have gently nudged Modders into his shell a little. Fingers crossed then that he crawls back out again tonight.
The 4-5-1 formation means that ‘Arry must pick a different face for the VDV role, in the hole behind the striker. Modders himself, as well as Jenas, Kranjcar, Lennon and Keane could all in theory be selected for the role, while our glorious leader also has to choose between Pav and the gangly one in attack. While I have never been a massive fan of Crouch, I am convinced that his rack-stretched frame counts for an awful lot in European/international football, where opposition defenders still seem a tad bewildered as to whether they ought to challenge him or just stand back and gawp.
And so on. Tonight’s the night. Crack open a few beers, settle down and enjoy.