Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dirk delivers

We don't like to do it the easy way, do we? That was too close for comfort. I thought that we'd batter them after the first leg where they were great. As it happened we were only marginally better and they were marginally worse. Even though we had almost three quarters of the possession, we didn't do a whole lot with it. Babel did well when he came on and beat the right full to put a far post into Kuyt who stuck it away. That's 9 goals in his last 15 champions league matches. Astounding record considering he was playing on the wing and his poor league record last year. But it was all he did last night as he was terrible. He wasn't the only one. Most of the team was poor bar Pepe and the defence. Arbeloa wasn't great. Gerrard didn't look fit which makes his sense given his groin op today. Honorable mention goes to El Zahr who looked lively when he came on. The ref somehow failed to give him a peno when he was taken down in the box. Between that decision and the pen given against us which was a yard outside the box in the first leg, we didn't have great luck with the officials. But despite all that, we're through. Cheers Dirk.

Our Olympians will return for the Villa match and we'll need them with Gerrard out for 2 weeks with a groin op. Here they are flanking scouse Olympic boxing medal winner David Price. I expect to see Javier slot in beside Xabi for the trip to Villa Park. It's going to be a tough one, despite their shock defeat to Stoke last weekend. O'Neil will have them fired up against his number one Rafa. Young and Agbonlahor can cause us problems with their pace. Carra at right back perhaps?

The Riera deal isn't done yet but I expect it to be completed shortly according to what's knocking around in the media. An initial £6.5m will be followed by £1.5m in add ons depending on appearances and success. This is a lot better deal than the £16m they had been looking for earlier this summer. Everton bid close to £12m which was turned down because the player only had eyes for us and would you blame him? On last nights evidence, maybe.

Gareth Barry to sign a cut price deal next summer perhaps? He's staying at Villa for now but won't discuss a new contract for 12 months, at which point he'll only have a year left on his current deal.

Thanks to Dirk we made it through to the CL draw today. Unfortunately we got a pretty tough draw. We drew arguably the easiest team possible from pot 2 in PSV but 2 of the hardest teams from pot 3 and 4 in Marseille and Atletico Madrid. PSV we've beaten comfortably in the last few seasons and I'd expect us to do so again. Marseille gave us loads of problems last year and beat us at home. We made up for it by dominating them in the Velodrome in the final group match. Atletico Madrid will be difficult. In Sergio Aguero they have one of the most exciting young talents in the game, one who Rafa tried to sign form Independiente. I would imagine that El Nino is glad that he gets to make a homecoming and I'm sure he'll receive a hero's welcome. I reckon it'll be a bittersweet victory for him if we win in the Calderon.

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