The news that a number of fixtures have been rescheduled due to Europa League and television commitments rarely causes much upheaval to the daily routine of the average football fan but this year it is somewhat different – for me at least.
Under normal circumstances planning in advance around a series of fixtures is never a problem except that on this year, of all years, certain dates are difficult to work around.
Take, for example, Saturday 15th March, a pretty innocuous day when we were supposed to play Le Arse at the Lane.
Nothing wrong in that, until you realise that we were always likely to have to change the date, due to a Europa League fixture on the Thursday. Consider however that the following day – Sunday March 16th – is actually my wife´s 65th birthday and we have had a family luncheon planned for around 30 people in England that afternoon – now right on the time of kick off.
Had the game been played on Saturday lunchtime I would have been able to watch the game here in Spain and then catch the evening flight to London – now I will miss the game altogether.
Poor planning – but it does gets worse.
Saturday 29th March this year marks my 60th birthday and it had been the idea for my birthday party to be held at Moores Bar on that day coinciding with our trip to Anfield. Now however that will all have to change as that match has also now been rescheduled for the following Sunday.
Very poor planning. But what can you do?
But before we get to either of those fixtures we have a number of other games to get out of the way – and none more so important than our next one – at home to Citeh tomorrow night.
Never has the adage “Taking one game at a time” been so apt. For once there is no need to consider other forthcoming fixtures, to consider whether this player or that has been playing too much and is in need of a rest. This fixture is far too important to consider anything other than putting out the best possible team available.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with revenge or getting our own back for the drubbing they dished out just a couple of months ago. This is about one thing and one thing only – a win and with it three precious points.
This isn´t even one of those highly regarded “six-pointers” where the three points we could gain and the three points the opposition could lose mean a potential six point advantage in our favour – the gap between us and them is probably too large for one game to matter.
This game is important because a win for us would be seen as a huge step forward, a huge improvement, and whilst it would bring us closer to Citeh – to within four points – and possibly the other two teams at the top of the table it could give us a little bit of breathing space over some other teams around us.
As it sits at the moment we are fifth, level on points with Liverpool and one point ahead of Everton. These giants collide tonight at Anfield in one of the most eagerly awaited Merseyside derbies in many years. With these teams in 4th and 6th something has got to give. A win for Liverpool would stretch them away from us for at least 24 hours, an Everton win would put them ahead of us both by two points – while a draw would be more than satisfactory for us.
That would mean a win for us tomorrow would put us back into fourth – with a long way yet to go in the Premier League admittedly – but nonetheless a positive step up.
This match will also mark a test of Tim Sherwood´s management style as for the first time in his short period in charge he may have virtually an entire squad to choose from.
Will he continue with the team that has served him so well in the League? Will he bring back Soldado and match Citeh´s 4-2-2 or will he utilise the pace of Defoe instead? Will Bentaleb be chosen ahead of everyone else to try to stop the freeflowing attacks of our opponents? Or will he draft in some of our returning superheroes – Vertonghen, Kaboul, Sandro and Paulinho in particular – all of whom have been out for way too long and all of whom came through the swiftly arranged reserve fixture against WetSpam last week?
One thing is for sure, Tim will have planned for this match. Preparation will have been meticulous. He has had ten days since our last competitive game – nothing will have been taken for granted, no stone left unturned, all bases covered – I think you get the picture.
While Citeh have played three times, we have been able to asses our injuries, get tactics spot on and study the opposition so we should be ready. Now is the time to put the last week and a half of training and preparation into practice.