Ostensibly I suppose this has little to recommend it. Our lot are without the glamour boys Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart, and there is no Darren Bent sub-plot for added intrigue. It’s the sort of game for which Tony Gubba in the final slot on MoTD was invented – but fie upon the BBC schedulers. From a lilywhite perspective this game is darned well crucial. The eight-game run of winnable fixtures enters its third leg this afternoon, and with Man City the latest of the Top Four to have dropped points opportunity remains bright and gleaming in front of us to continue gnawing away, Champions League-obsessed beavers that we are.The Darren Anderton Award For Most Injured Blighter in Lilywhite is hotting up, with Jonathan Woodgate causing jaws to drop the length of the isle by completing a full 90 minutes in midweek without bits of him dropping off, and a place on the bench beckons accordingly. The absences of Hudd, Bale, VDV and Modders would be enough to reduce other teams to tears and white flags, but while perhaps impairing our quality slightly it does nevertheless give opportunity for various other attacking types to flex their muscles, and Jenas, Pienaar, Kranjcar and Pav could all feature accordingly.
Things it would warm the cockles to observe today include the usual fare, of three points and preferably a clean sheet. If I may be a tad indulgent a return to goalscoring form from Defoe would also be frightfully well received around these parts, and a goal from a set-piece would make a pleasant change too, but I appreciate that I am now veering wildly towards the realm of the absurd. Victory, preferably one not marred by any further injuries, would be just dandy, in continuing our furtive ascent towards the Top Four.