Ah, ‘tis the unmistakeable scent of le grand fromage wafting into town. Oddly enough we find ourselves in the exalted position of being able to do the seasonal double over this lot, for possibly the first time since a wide-eyed and youthful AANP would stare transfixed at the shoulder-feints and mullet Chris Waddle and his mullet feinting this way and that. To this casual observer the champions-elect have this season hardly been the all-conquering, unstoppable juggernaut of recent times, with notable deficiencies in goal, defence and midfield for sure, but that blasted RVP seems to know a thing or two about the old net-ripple business, and there is only one of the Vertonghen-Daws-Gallas-Caulker quartet of options that I fancy to have any joy against him today. (Clue: His name rhymes with ‘Bertonghen’)As for our lot, a doleful minute’s silence has presumably been held across lilywhite abodes across the land for the repose of the knee of Sandro. The slightly unhinged Brazilian is out for the season, and one can only feel sorry for Mrs Sandro and any nursing staff involved in his recuperation, for a hyperactive young soul such as he strikes me as the worst possible nominee for sitting still with his leg up.
All of which leaves our central midfield in a pickle of sorts. Sandro may not necessarily be the most important cog in this machine, but the combo with Dembele has that same menacing air of Danny Trejo wandering the area with an Uzi on each arm – not necessarily the most effective, as Predators aficionados will testify, but a jolly imposing sight nonetheless.
In Sandro’s absence Scott Parker will step once more into the breach, and presumably run himself into the ground, like the good honest blighter he is. A most useful reserve no doubt on most weekends of the season, but if Euro 2012 delivered one rather sad truth it was that against the very best teams in Europe Parker’s indefatigable spirit only gets him so far. One crosses fingers on his behalf this afternoon.
Master Dempsey will presumably supplement the midfield today, and there is something a mite worrying about the complete silence over attacking reinforcements this January, with Adebayor now sunning himself on his African jolly. One hopes to heavens that Master Defoe does not chip a fingernail this afternoon, because a new big-name forward there be not, neither hither nor in the offing.
A difficult basket of figs to call, this one. Our heroes have already shown this season that they can beat this lot, particularly if the handsome young Welshman is in the mood, but emphatic defeats to City, Chelski and l’Arse pointed to shortcomings on these big occasions. Weather permitting, we’ll find out soon enough.