Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Last night I dreamed of Milan away*
That's pretty much the match preview right there.
I mean yes, it's exciting. And yes this is exactly the sort of game we want, the sort of night we slogged through last season for. It's what we beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City away for. It's our reward. And we hope it's a taste of our future.
But still, y'know, gulp.
The way our defence is wobbling, the way our midfield is depleted and the way our strikers are misfiring, we have every reason to be fearful of tonight's game.
Nothing to fear but fear itself? Bollocks, Franklin, what about Ibrahimovic, Pato, Robinho, Nesta and Gattuso? Stupid yanks, know nothing about football.
Our last three wins have been thoroughly enjoyable, but basically we've squeaked past Blackburn, Bolton and Sunderland. I looked on Wikipedia and cross-referenced with Rothmans, and I can confirm that none of these teams are AC Milan.
The game before those three, our last in a cup competition, was a 4-0 defeat to Fulham. Again, research suggests they are not AC Milan.
You'll recognise AC Milan when you see them, they're the Italians that are top of Serie A by a thousand points or so and who won 4-0 at the weekend. Already bagged the European Cup seven times, you must know them.
This is a step up in class akin to ditching Jordan for Kristin Scott Thomas.
I'm not saying it can't be done, just that if we play like we have done for the last four or five games, we'll come up short. And end up having a knee-trembler Jodie Marsh. No, I'm not sure what that means in terms of the analogy either, but it can't be good, can it? That can never be good.
There's bullish talk elsewhere, from our camp and around the blogosphere, about 'going for it', dismissing pessimism as cowardice etc. Excellent, admirable. Seriously, I'm in awe of fans who predict and even expect great things. I sincerely wish I could join in and I fervently hope they're all right.
But allow me to at least acknowledge that AC Milan are a bigger and better team than us, have home advantage, are enjoying a better season than us and aren't as hampered by injury as we are. And if I start crying, I start crying. No need to laugh and point. It's my thing. You've got your thing, I've got my thing.
Look, I was delighted when we drew AC Milan. I think it's the perfect tie for us. But that doesn't mean I'm not dreading it just as much as I'm looking forward to it. It's like sex with a girl you've fancied for ages: you're thrilled it's finally going to happen, but you suspect it might end really badly. And oh Jesus, if it's all over in 17 seconds that'll be rubbish even for us.
Conflicted, see. I want the game to be kicking off right now and I want it to be over already. I want to revel in every second of the build-up and I want to hide away until it's all done and dusted.
I expect a defeat, I'd jump at a draw, and yet those strange men in white shirts keep doing amazing things and put fleeting thoughts of victory in my addled mind. Confused as well as conflicted.
If Modric is fit, and there were encouraging shots of him training last night, then might we consider a five man midfield? Palacios, Sandro and the Little Genius in the centre, Krancjar on the left and Lennon on the right. If that leaves VdV on the bench then, well, maybe...
Oh I don't know, it's probably not about systems, it's probably about attitude and belief. Our big away games in Europe have been so schizophrenic (not from game to game, but from minute to minute) and it's not been tactical upheavals that have prompted the changes, it's been our mindset; swinging from nervous and tentative to gung ho and heroic, depending on expectations, context and the scoreboard.
We need the first 15 minutes to be out of the way, for the score to be 0-0, for us to look like we know what we're doing and that we're comfortable on the stage. Then maybe I'll relax.
I'm lying. I need the entire 90 minutes plus added time to be over and for us to still be in the tie. Because even a Cassandra like me believes that if we're losing by two or less, especially if we've scored, then we still stand a chance of going through, and Milan won't be looking forward to their night at the Lane.
Until then, gulp.
* Sounds a bit like Manderley