Europa League or Carling Cup, which ought we to want less? It’s a tricky one. The Europa League trophy is a sizeable beast, and its lack of handles gives it a pleasingly Neanderthalic edge – one cannot help but handle it in rough, uncouth manner when raising it aloft, which is rather apt after 90 minutes of blood and thunder. The Carling Cup on the other hand has three handles, which is just plain weird, and ‘Arry will no doubt have taken this into account ahead of kick-off.However, we only need to win five games to make the Carling Cup Final, whereas five games in the Europa League won’t get us much further than half-time against Shamrock Rovers. Presumably the strategy in both tournaments will be to use the reserves, kids and those returning from injuries in the early rounds, before putting pedal to metal in the later stages. As such, everyone’s favourite gifted-yet-calamitous Brazilian gets to pop his cheekbones once more tonight, Gomes lining up between the sticks. With Gallas and Sandro returning, and Bassong, Corluka, Pav and presumably Giovani also involved, our lot ought to make a decent fist of it. The opposition won’t need too much introduction, it having been only five minutes since we were treated on a weekly basis to the sights of Crouch looping headers harmlessly into the stands, Sergeant Wilson mis-placing six yard passes and updates on the official club website about Jonathan Woodgate’s latest injury setback.
In all competitions we have five clean-sheets in seven games to date this season, and while it won’t matter a jot how we fare ce soir if we’re still pushing for fourth come next May, it would still be most satisfying if we could furtively eke our way into the quarter-finals of this thing, as has been our wont in recent years.