Morning, that’s me back then. I’ve been gadding about the north of England over the Easter weekend.
And the funny thing about having a long weekend is that, before you can whistle, it’s Tuesday and there’s only one day to go before our biggest ever European night. Is it the biggest European game we have ever played? It has to be, I suppose. Now I’m not as a rule a fan of overusing the word fitting, but it’s somewhat fitting that the very last European night at Highbury is the semi-final of the European Cup. It gets no bigger than this.
The papers are giving increasing room to the match, so the excitement is now building.
What can we say for sure about the line-ups? Well currently, from our own point of view, it looks as if Fabregas will play. Reyes, however, will not, as he is suspended. So I suppose we can expect the same 4-5-1 formation with the midfield consisting of Pires, Gilberto, Ljungberg, Fabregas and Hleb. There’s lots of experience in there.
The defence and one-man strike force pick themselves, so short of the unexpected inclusion of the recently excellent Diaby, we can predict the starting eleven with some confidence.
As for Villarreal, well like many people I know less about them than I should. Everyone is talking about Riquelme as the main man, but looking at their side, there’s a lot of South American experience in there – Sorin is the captain of Argentina, for god’s sake – but they don’t seem to win that many games. In the group stage, they scored just three times but let in just one goal – winning only twice. Not counting the preliminary stage, they have won just three of ten ties.
Nor do they lose often either – in those ten games, just one ended in a defeat, at Internazionale (2-1).
What can we gather from this? Well it looks like it will be close, doesn’t it? They don’t lose much, but nor do they win much. They are perfectly capable of scoring (five in the two knockout stages) but also perfectly capable of conceding (again, five in the two knockout stages).
In both knockout stages, Villarreal have won on aggregate, courtesy of the away goals they scored, so the biggest thing for us tomorrow night is not to concede.
So there you go; it’s taken several hundred words and plenty of pointless stats, but I’ve come up with a rather obvious winning formula; keep a clean sheet at home.
The more I write, the more nervous I become. I think I need to stop. Have some coffee. Stop picking through stats. Stop.