Thursday, 9 April 2009

Hours to go

We are hours away from our biggest match in years. Having played fourteen matches already in the UEFA Cup, we're just five away from glory. And of those five, this is surely the hardest one. We go into this shorn of some of our key players: Vincent Kompany is out, Wayne Bridge and Stephen Ireland are doubts. We have survived thus far in our European adventure without the long term absentees Michael Johnson and Martin Petrov, and without the ineligible Valeri Bozhinov and Nigel de Jong - but to progress without Kompany, Bridge and Ireland is a huge ask.

We are also up against a team stronger than anyone else we have faced so far in Europe (pace Paris St. Germain). Hamburger SV are second in the Bundesliga, only behind Wolfsburg on goal difference. They may have lost some big names this year - not just Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany to a certain nouveaux riches Premier League club but also Rafael van der Vaart to Real Madrid but are performing better than ever. Their main threat comes from Croatian strike force, Ivica Olić (think Paul Dickov but with talent) and Mladen Petrić (whose goal got Steve McClaren sacked) - who have twelve goals each this season. Another key forward, the Peruvian José Paolo Guerrero is struggling with injury. The most important players elsewhere on the pitch are midfield dynamo Piotr Trochowski and Dutch international centre-half Joris Mathijsen. They're a good team.

So what hope do we have tonight? Presuming Bridge and Ireland don't make it, we're looking at Garrido at left back with a midfield of Zabaleta, Elano and one other - Fernandes is most likely, with Hamann and SWP outside possibilities. A lot would have to be entrusted in Dunne, Onuoha and Given at the back. As the away team, our task is to maximise the chance of our scoring an away goal while not opening ourselves up and allowing HSV to score two or three. Fortunately, with Wright-Phillips, Robinho and Bellamy we have enough pace on the break to cause real problems. Even if we just score one we're in a strong position (as long as we don't concede more than four) for next week.

Prediction? Lose 3-1 (and then win 2-0 at home!).


clevblue said...

Our back five is strong, I think we have the desire to get past them

Jack said...

easy-peasy 1 - o for the mighty blues both legs.

1.618034 said...

Nice one Jack!

I just hope your prediction is correct???

Well here's to a great night next Thursday... I'll be there!

Lee F said...

You got your prediction right Jack. Just hope it's right for the return leg too.