And just when we had all got our breath back after the Milan game, and switched our focus back to domestic matters, Gary Lineker of all people matches us with Real blinking Madrid.Minor Digression
Some lilywhites of my acquaintance reacted with dismay to the draw, but around these parts there were back-slaps and whoops unconfined. Drawing Schalke or Shaktar (or indeed Man Utd or Chelski) would not have felt like Champions League fare, but this lot most certainly fit the bill. Inter, AC Milan and now Real Madrid – it jolly well feels like we’re rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite, which was precisely what we had in mind when Crouch nodded in at Eastlands last May. Marvellous.
Marginally Less Glamorous
Back to today. Give us teams from Milan and our lot – Messrs Dawson, Gallas and Sandro in particular – defend the lilywhite net as if their lives depend on it, the threat of Ballon d’Or nominees snuffed out with élan. However, in recent weeks when we have trotted out against Premiership riff-raff our defenders have promptly flicked the dial to “Clueless”, gazing on statically while some of the country’s most mediocre journeymen fill their boots. Capable we certainly our, but unless some inspired soul blares out the Champions League theme over the tannoy five minutes before kick-off it is debatable whether the motivation levels will quite reach the dizzying heights of midweek European nights.
Bale should by now be fighting fit and straining at the leash, which will shove Niko Kranjcar even further down the pecking order, poor blighter. There is apparently an injury concern over Gallas, so Bassong should slot in (or, if injured, one of Corluka or Sandro will presumably be pressed into action at the back). Young Master Defoe has presumably spent the 10 days or so since the Milan game engaging in some surly grumbling at his omission, and given his record against former employees would be a good bet to score (or miss a penalty) today.
As for the other lot, my 15 month-old niece has been deploying her nascent linguistic skills in recent days to inform me repeatedly of the threat posed by Ba. The emergence of Sandro in lilywhite means that we no longer have to look with covetous eyes at Scott Parker, but he and the fantastically-named Hitzelsperger have been central to the recent resurgence of West Ham, so the midfield today ought to be quite the battleground.
The early kick-off gives us quite the opportunity to make the teams above squirm for a few hours, and transferring our Milan form to the Premiership would straightforwardly take care of things – but when was that ever the Tottenham way?