Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Santander preview

News today that Dunne is not travelling is not a disaster: we have Tal Ben Haim and Nedum Onuoha to fill in. More worrying is the Achilles injury to Danny Sturridge and Jo's new virus. This leaves Ched Evans and Felipe Caicedo as our only fit centre forwards.

Ideally we'd be able to rest Robinho, Ireland and Kompany for this game: none of them looked 100% for the Everton match but are all needed for our Premier League Christmas programme. But injuries in other positions, and Hughes' insistence that we need to win the group (true, but not as much as we need to beat West Brom, Hull and Blackburn) mean we might play something like this: Hart; Garrido, Richards, Ben Haim, Zabaleta; Kompany, Ireland, Elano; Robinho, Evans, SWP. To preserve Kompany, Robinho and Ireland I wouldn't mind seeing Hamann and Fernandes anchoring Elano in midfield with Vassell charging up and down the left wing. But we'll see tomorrow night.

Racing Santander are having an average season (certainly better than ours though): they're thirteenth in La Liga with 17 points from 15 games. Their top scorer is Mohammad Tchité, a 24 year old Belgian-Burundian, who scored a hat-trick against Valencia earlier in the season. Check it out here.

Their most high profile player, though, is Ezequiel Garay. The 22 year old Argentine centre back was bought by Real Madrid from Racing last summer, and loaned straight back to them. He played alongside Sergio Aguero, Leo Messi et al - under the captaincy of Manchester City's very own Pablo Zabaleta - in the Argentina's 2005 U20 World Cup winning side, and again in roughly the same team in the 2008 Olympics. Aside from being a good defender, Garay is a free kick specialist. Have a look at what he did against Almeria last Sunday.

If we want to do well in the UEFA Cup, we really need to win the group. Come second and we get a Champions League third-placer (Bordeaux, Bremen, Shakhtar, Marseille, Aalborg, Fiorentina, Kiev, Zenit) - most of whom will beat us. Win the group, though, and we get a UEFA Cup third placer, none of whom are nearly as good. We can win the group without winning on Thursday - we just need Twente to slip up at PSG.

1 comment:

jfell said...

"Hamann and Fernandes anchoring Elano in midfield with Vassell charging up and down the left wing"

I think I might take my boots...