Més que un club: They’re Assholes

– The picture above is from an event that Cesc Fabregas attended two days ago. It was in his hometown and he told his adoring Spanish fans that he hoped to see them “more often and closer.”

– I’ve stated this as recently as a few days ago. I do not have a problem with Cesc Fabregas wanting to leave. Do I want him to leave? Of course not. Do I understand why he’d want to go home? Of course I do. A great man once said that Cesc’s penalty kick against Barcelona cemented him as an Arsenal legend, even if it was his last kick in an Arsenal shirt. I’d agree with that. He helped keep the club stable and in the Champions League when we could not afford to be major players in the transfer window. That will become apparent in the years to come, when we’ll be financially healthy and winning numerous trophies.

– What do I think happened? I think Barcelona has strung Cesc Fabregas out to dry. Read what Wenger said after the match against AC Milan in the Emirates Cup. “Barcelona gave up a long time ago.” Their actions don’t speak to that of course, with their daily regiment of unsettling Cesc and Arsenal now as routine as a roto-rooter inspection at Captain Caveman’s house.

– Today, Andres Iniesta, World Cup hero himself, appeared on Barcelona television and made his views clear. Of course, this was just a week or two after he stated that Arsenal should be respected. It’s as if they have nothing better to talk about, they only won the first World Cup for Spain.

– Captain Caveman wrote on his blog that he never said the quotes about Cesc and Arsenal, that an English paper fabricated it. Well, given their history of phone-paper sex they’ve conducted, why should I believe him? I’ll never forget the Champions League Final where Thierry was systematically hacked by Captain Caveman, who looks like a deformed Bret Hart, and Rafael Marquez. If they got the yellow cards they deserved, the match could have been very different.

– Next up is the Lionel Messi aka The Fake Argentine aka Barry Bonds. “When a player wants to come, and a club want a player, a deal can always be reached. And I am still confident he will arrive this summer.” Messi should ask his newly elected President how feverishly they’re working to deliver Cesc this summer, cause like I pointed out above, Wenger said they’ve given up. “I think Barcelona have acted in the right way. Yes, of course Barca players have come out and said we want Cesc at the club, but what’s the problem with that? Of course we want him to come home.” Hey Lionel, I’d like to invent a time machine, go back to 1956 and make love to Brigitte Bardot for hours, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Barcelona are broke, they’re desperate, and they’ve lost the battle. They’re playing Real Madrid’s game of using the media to pressure us into a sale. In other words, they’re acting like scumbags. The only way we sell him is if they pay us what Cesc is worth. Because we know this, Cesc will not put in a transfer request and he will play football to his utmost capacity when the season starts. I am not one to think that Cesc will give it less than his all.

– Finally, the cherry on top of the BarcaShit Cake was from their former president Joan Gaspart. He claimed that Wenger wanted to come to Barcelona but Peter Hill-Wood refused to allow that. Well, if I believed this was true, which I don’t, what is the purpose of saying this out loud? If you’re a gentleman, you don’t kiss and tell. Barcelona have a few gentlemen in their ranks, but it’s mostly a pompous club filled with talented, pampered babies. They’re an incredible footballing side, but this current crop have no class. But people always like winners, look how many bandwagon fans the New York Yankees have (I forgive you Emmanuel Eboue, but only you). I’m sure Wenger enjoyed listening to that.

– We’ve ripped Barcelona off before, and we’ll rip them off again when we’re ready. I guess they have a right to be upset at us, Overmars, Petit, Henry, and Hleb in recent memory. You know what those players have in common? They all love Arsenal more than Barcelona.

– Back to Messi for a moment, he also revealed this:

“Cesc told me about his recent chat with Arsene and the respect Cesc has for his current manager is huge. He says Arsene has the best footballing mind in the world, and that he owes the boss everything for the player he is today.”

Do not underestimate what Arsene Wenger means to Cesc Fabregas. Do not take Arsene Wenger for granted. In the rambling pleas for Cesc to return to Barcelona, Messi revealed something that was private and illuminating. It was clearly not an easy decision for Cesc to declare to Arsene that he wanted to leave. He expected Barcelona to make it easy for him by agreeing a fee that he’s worth. Instead, they’ve faxed two offers and conducted a public courtship of him while never seriously wanting to sign him. For his sake and ours, I hope they stump up the 50 million pounds that Cesc is worth and everything can be resolved.

– And if Barcelona can’t come up with the money, what part of FUCK OFF do they not understand?

Tired of It

– Barcelona deservedly advanced to the Champions League semi-final over us. Earlier in the year, I was watching Barcelona play and I openly wondered how somebody could tactically beat this team. Five months later, we brutally learned that this Arsenal team could not do that.

– When somebody pointed out the injured players for Arsenal, others quickly pointed to the fact that Barcelona had many key players missing as well. That is true, but the equivalents don’t really match up. If Barcelona were missing Ibrahimovic, Messi, Xavi, Puyol, then fine, but it wasn’t the same.

– Losing Alex Song was the final straw. Without him, we had to rely on Silvestre and Vermaelen as a pairing. That led to Vermaelen playing in the unfamiliar role as a right sided centre-back. Our whole team was virtually out of synch, and it showed. We were outpassed, outworked, and outclassed in the two legs.

– Most have conceded that Barcelona will win the Champions League again this year, but I’m not so sure. Frankly, playing against us suited them. We’re not the most tactically astute team. We try to outplay people with our football, and the emphasis is always on our own football. Rarely do we target specific players defensively. When we do target the opposition, it’s always a weakness in the opposition’s defense, something we can take advantage of offensively. That happened when Diaby released Theo up the right wing that led to our brief moment of giddiness. One minute later, we could have created another great chance, but Diaby failed to spot Theo’s run. After that, it was Messi, Messi, Messi, and Messi. Inter Milan is an entirely different animal. Mourinho will attempt to stifle Messi and Barcelona, and they possess the players to do it. They have numerous experienced professionals, and the tie promises to be tighter than most expect. What we learned was that this Arsenal team is not good enough to beat Barcelona yet. Not experienced enough, not astute enough, and we don’t work nearly as hard as they do. It’s a great lesson for this team to have to learn.

– With all that being said, I’m not overly down on the squad at the moment. We’re still in this title race, and while we need our opponents to drop points, we need to focus on winning our own matches. A fixture against Tottenham is the ideal tonic. If the boys can’t get up for this game, then our title hopes are as good as gone. But, if we win, it will put real pressure on Manchester United and Chelsea to win out.

– Manchester United have lost five games after Champions League fixtures. It’s too bad they’ll be playing Blackburn over the weekend. Allardyce is Ferguson’s lap dog, and his team will surely cave and allow Berbatov to bag a brace. Chelsea have Bolton midweek after the FA Cup semi. They’ll be tired as well, but Chelsea seem to be focused on the league.

– I’m getting a bit tired of reading about Lionel Messi. Yes, he’s the best player in the world. No, he’s not the best player of all time just yet. Yes, his performance against us was majestic. But enough already. While I was still cheering the boys on, even while 3-1 down, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Invincibles would have done against this Barcelona team. I’m not suggesting that they would have beaten this classy Barcelona side, but it would have been an intriguing contest for sure. Is this Barcelona side the best club side ever? They could be, but personally I’d still put Sacchi’s AC Milan ahead of them, but that could change.

– Tony Pulis really has a thing for Arsene Wenger. He’s hit out at him yet again for attacking McCarthy’s selection way back when he fielded a team of reserves against United. In his argument, he states that seven of the players are now enjoying an extended run in the side. That is true, but at the time, he made ten changes and clearly punted the game. Even McCarthy couldn’t deny that, and the fine amounted to a mere slap on the wrist. I wish Wenger really did have that much influence, then perhaps we wouldn’t get yellow cards after one foul every match. He also said that the Arsenal players got Karl Henry sent off. Karl Henry got Karl Henry sent off. Seeing the tackle in full speed, I thought it looked like an orange card bordering on red. Only the English would suggest that it wasn’t a sending off. Tomas Rosicky had four visible stud marks on his calf, and Pulis claims the fact that he could play against Barcelona is suggestion enough that it wasn’t a violent tackle. Think again. Maybe Pulis is just peeved that Aaron Ramsey himself didn’t let Ryan Shawcross off the hook for the tackle. Wenger makes a comment about it, Pulis dismisses it. Ramsey says Shawcross could have pulled out of the challenge, other parts of the statement are used to support the claim that it was an accident. Pulis was in contact with Mike Riley, the head of the referees, about how Mike Dean unfavorably refs games when Stoke City are involved. What is worse, players sticking up for their player when he was clearly hacked down (illegally or not) or a manager trying to gain a decisive advantage by not having a certain referee ref their games? Unbelievable. We are vilified for defending our players, while the tackler gets away with an England call up and a pep talk from Steven Gerrard.

– Arjen Robben’s goal against United was a beauty. At least Bayern knocking United out provided me with some entertainment this week.

Wow!

Shock
a sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience
a feeling of disturbed surprise resulting from such an event

I’ve gone on record stating my admiration for the footballer Wayne Rooney – I can’t stand the sight of him in United colors but the boy can play. Lionel Messi is beyond amazing though. I won’t bother describing his performance. His imprint on football is plain to see. Scary that he’s only 22.

I thought I could make a good argument as to why I favored Rooney but clearly Messi is like no other player I’ve seen since Zinedine Zidane. We had no chance as long as he was on the pitch. I can say Diaby and Rosicky were shyt until my mouth hurts but it really was never about Diaby or Rosicky.

I can tell you that Denilson was as effective as Theo was, which was not effective at all even for all the running they did. Saying it though wouldn’t mean a thing. Messi ruled the day. That’s all that really mattered.

There was a time when Thierry Henry was other worldly. He has embarrassed a few teams while wearing our uniform. Just how he felt watching Messi perform against us on that super human level is something I would love to know.

What now?

We certainly don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Wipe the blood on Scum next Wednesday and chase down Chelsea. That’s the agenda for the rest of this season.

Will we hear the Arsene must go chorus if we fail to catch Chelsea? I would bet that we will. Human nature demands it.

The Negatives are warming up the band. I’m sure of it. They don’t want to hear about injuries. We should be deep enough to cope. We should stop being so frugal and pay top level players to fill our bench or play in the reserves while even higher level players comprise our first team. That’s how they see it.

It’s an argument we’ve heard before. What do you tell those people? I gave up arguing with them a long time ago. They are not important right now but I had to bring them up because they are just waiting in the background for us to finish empty handed so they can have another go at Arsene.

I’m more worried about finishing strong and lifting the EPL title.

Keep the Faith

Resurrection

– We’ve been left for dead many times. Here’s a small list: when van Persie was injured, when Chelsea beat us 3-0 at home, when United beat us at the Emirates, when Chelsea beat us at Stamford Bridge, when we went down 2-0 to the World Champions Barcelona one week ago, when we entered the 93rd minute against Wolves. We fought back from every single situation. There is a great spirit in this team. Wenger speaks about it routinely, and this year the team has been backing his words. We are not the complete package, but you can never count this team out.

– We needed a miracle after being down 2-0 to Barcelona, and we concocted a resurrection. Now, with Cesc, Arshavin, Gallas, Song, and van Persie all out, we need another titanic effort. Wenger has never seen such an injury list before, but it’s something we’ve been dealing with for the whole year.

– In the first leg, Barcelona rightly earned plaudits for their possession exhibition in the first half of the game. But, we did not possess the right mentality to start the game. We were in awe of Barcelona and it showed. We allowed Dani Alves to run amok on the right flank, which is where most of their dangerous play originated from. Noted as massive underdogs, we must come out as if we have nothing to lose, because that’s simply the truth. Lose, and nobody can knock us for it (except for people like Myles Palmer). Win, and everybody will single out the dogged determination that this team is increasingly becoming known for.

– At the same time, let’s not forget that Barcelona will be missing their two first choice centre-backs, Iniesta, and Ibrahimovic. They have their share of selection problems as well.

– It would be highly beneficial to us if Sol Campbell was passed fit for the match. Playing Silvestre would give us two left-footed centre-backs, something that may be a bigger disadvantage when having to face Lionel Messi. Messi had a subdued match (on his standards) in the first leg, but at the Nou Camp, he will be itching to deliver a vintage performance. If you look at the two goals that Barcelona did score, both came off of poor attempts to play offside traps, an error that came from Alex Song having to shift back into defense. Our keeper failed to cancel out those errors, but to his credit, he did pull off “a thousand saves” according to Guardiola.

– In the midfield, we should start Denilson, Diaby, and Nasri. As noted yesterday here on 1886, Denilson may thrive more in a European style fixture. He was one of our better players in the first leg, and his passing may help to absorb some of the pressure that Barcelona will definitely deliver. Diaby may be told to put in more of a defensive effort. We must contain Barcelona at all costs and play like an away side. A 0-0 halftime result would not be a bad thing for us. Nasri must become the talisman he was for Marseille. He is capable of big performances, and his cameo role at Wolves showed much of his class.

– Up top, I would play Walcott on the right wing. There has been debate about whether he should start or not, but with Rosicky being a 50-50 for the match, the team shouldn’t take the risk of having to make an early sub. We were forced to make two early subs in the first leg, which deprived Wenger of making game changing subs. Thankfully, Theo did make a big difference, and Barcelona are only talking about Theo. Abidal has talked about how it’s not how fast you are, but what you do with the ball. He said Walcott will have to go through four defenders. Frankly, that would be a huge boon if Walcott attracts that much attention. That would create space and take away defenders from Barcelona’s line. Whether he does anything with the ball or not, Theo should be fed balls in between the Barcelona’s centre-back and Abidal. Guardiola responded by stating that the way you stop Walcott is by not giving up the ball. He’s a smart man.

– On a quick note, what ridiculous statements by the English media and Karl Henry. During the match, there was a moment when they showed Rosicky’s calf and it had four stud marks with blood. So, after three leg breaks in four years, we’re already running out of “sympathy”? Our players crowded the ref and forced him to make a decision? What team doesn’t do this? An outrage? Give me a break.

– Bendtner is a given up top. He scores crucial goals and provides variety in our attack. On the left side, I would like to see Eboue start. That would help alleviate Clichy’s duties with Dani Alves. We must pay attention to that man. He is a dangerous, dangerous player.

– It’s been noted that the Nou Camp has a huge pitch, but it’s actually no bigger than the Emirates. That being said, it’s one tailor made for Barcelona and their style of play. Guardiola has already suggested that whoever keeps the ball will win. I can almost guarantee that Barcelona will keep the ball more, but actually, it’ll be who converts their chances which will be more decisive. For all of Barcelona’s devastating play, we could have equalized soon after Ibrahimovic’s first goal if Bendtner took his chance when he headed straight at Valdes.

– We have failed to keep a clean sheet away from home in the Champions League for 11 matches. That means that we may need to score two goals. That could lead to extra time. Anything could happen, but we must be the first ones to score.

– History is made when you seize an opportunity. This team has a chance to grab that opportunity by the throat. Everybody is ruling us out, and if Barcelona play the way they did in the first half of the first leg, we’ll be lucky to be in it. But could they really play much better? And could we really play much worse? That may be tempting fate, but we go into the match with confidence after staging two late shows. Whether we win a trophy this year, we’ll have to see. But I do know this much about this team, we’ve learned how to fight. That’s usually when talented players graduate to becoming champions.

– A great man once wrote that football is not predictable. Don’t ever forget those words.

Glamour Tie

– The pre-match talk has focused on how both teams play an attractive style of football. What is annoying is when journalists call us Barcelona “lite”. Despite adopting the 4-3-3 permanently this year, we’re not merely a replica of Barcelona nor do we attempt to mimic their style of play. If they’re talking about success, any team would have been Barcelona “lite” after what they accomplished in the past twelve months.

– Guus Hiddink’s tactical master plan caused Guardiola to change his positioning of Messi for the Champions League final and the next season in La Liga. Hiddink deployed a right footed Bosingwa on the left flank. That cut out Messi’s tendencies to drift inside, as opposite foot wingers are in vogue nowadays. If Messi got by Bosingwa, Essien was there to snuff him out. Chelsea did a good job on him last year, but an Iniesta thunderbolt prevented Chelsea from advancing to the final for the second straight year. The bottom line is, if you decide to take out Messi, it will leave others with more space and opportunities to bust you open. For that reason, Wenger has already announced that he will not man-mark Messi. I personally would have, but that means that Alex Song must be deployed in midfield to help zonally mark Messi. He is a supreme threat.

– Messi’s elevation this year is due to the fact that he’s playing more centrally this year. While operating on the right flank, your job as a defender should be to push him closer to the edge, so as not to let him pass the ball with his left foot or square up his body to take a shot. Now that he’s operating in the middle, he has an extra option which makes it that much harder to defend. With Daniel Alves patrolling the right side, he has enough energy and threat to defend and attack with vigor. For that reason, Arshavin needs to be at his best tomorrow. He needs to provide real menace to Alves to prevent him from becoming an offensive force. Frankly, it’s time for Arshavin to step it up. He plays better in the big matches, and his miss at Birmingham was the first time his error has led to dropped points. He’ll be aware of that, and on his best day, when he’s dribbling at a defender, Arshavin can scare people as much as Messi can.

– Zlatan Ibrahimovic was brought in as an attempt to provide a Plan B and variety to the attack. He was on a prolonged slump, but he has scored in the last two matches. He is the definition of a mercurial talent. He has all the skill, but I feel he lacks something that Eto’o provided to the team. That being said, he scored against Real Madrid and he’s capable of hurting us in a real way. But a part of me would fear this Barcelona team more if Eto’o was still on it.

– Messi was rested last weekend. Cesc was banged up last weekend.

– Iniesta is out for the first leg. A lot of Barcelona fans have been complaining about Iniesta’s form, and both Guardiola and Cruyff have launched attacks on him. He hasn’t been at his best, but removing him from Barcelona’s midfield takes away creativity from their team. They will probably field Keita along with Busquets and Xavi. That’s more like a Premier League midfield, but they still possess the ball better than most.

– Abou Diaby must play in this match. He picked up a “knock” (of course he did), but he’s come through training. Diaby is a player that Barcelona will not be prepared for. The way Diaby uses his body to shield players from the ball and retain possession, the way he quickly turns and swiftly dodges defenders, both things bring a smile to my face. He’s direct, but he has a lot of skill people don’t necessarily pick up on until you see him play. He’s made one huge error this year (the OG against United), but he’s been one of our finer players when he’s played. He provides something different, and in a team, you need that.

– Samir Nasri was great against Birmingham until he decided to square the ball for Arshavin instead of chipping Joe Hart. We need to be ruthless. That’s what the Champions League is really about, finishing the one chance you get. Still, I think he’s coming on strong, and he’ll be yet another threat on the right wing.

– We must defend like lions. If Sol is ready, we have no choice but to field him. Everybody needs to concentrate at all times. Maybe if Manuel is busier, he’ll play better. That’s all we can pray for at the moment.

– The tie will come down to who controls the ball better. Both teams rely on heavy possession to wear the opposition down. Naturally, whoever is playing at home will probably enjoy more possession. I expect us to shade them 55-45 in the first leg, and them to outpossess us 60-40 in the second leg. Can we maintain our composure, avoid mistakes, and strike some killer blows at the Emirates? Can we withstand a surge at the Nou Camp, one that will undoubtedly come? We shall see.

– For Cesc, this tie means everything. When we played them in the Champions League final, it was Thierry’s team. Barcelona was also Ronaldinho’s team. Now, with his peers in direct view, he has to show that he is one of the best players in the world too. I don’t think the result has any impact on what he’ll do after the season ends. They’ll come for Cesc, but I have the feeling he’s going to stay. And if we show the world that we can compete with Barcelona, why would he want to leave?

– The final note is about Thierry Henry. I don’t know how much he’ll play, but he can be a useful weapon for Barcelona. Pedro scores in big games, and that’s his main asset; he’s a goal scorer, but Henry would provide creativity that Pedro cannot give. For that reason, I’m glad Thierry is so beat up about playing us. It will affect his form. If I was Pep, I don’t think I could play him, but I’m sure we’ll give him a warm welcome. But after the referee blows the whistle, he’s just another Barcelona player.

Medals Collect Dust

– I was surprised that Arsenal contested Vermaelen’s red card against West Ham. Sure, I felt it was harsh, but you can’t say there wasn’t contact, however slight it was. I was worried that we’d get another game tacked on the original one match ban if we failed in our appeal. Thankfully, that didn’t occur, even though the red card stood. Perhaps if you appeal against a violent conduct three match ban, the FA will add another game onto the ban. Anyway, we know now, Vermaelen will be out against Birmingham, but just that game.

– Birmingham seem to be slightly off form, but they have a sturdy defense and are capable of springing a surprise. They are lacking in motivation though, as safety is assured and Europe is probably just out of reach. It is an away fixture, and our minds will be on Barcelona (try as they might to ignore it, but that’s just the truth). It will be a difficult match.

– I pay very little attention to articles predicting where the Premier League title will end up, but I read most of them anyway. Lee Dixon predicted Arsenal to finish 2nd behind United. That’s a good man, no need in publicly jinxing our team. Most people expect United to run away with it, and while their fixtures are easier than Chelsea’s, I see matches that will give them a difficult time. There is very real pressure on all three teams to win every single match. This is a real title race.

– I expect Wenger to rest Sol for Birmingham, draft Silvestre into the side, and play Alex Song at CB. Wenger knows that Sol cannot play two matches a week, and he’ll want him ready for Barcelona.

– Sol has made four appearances in the Premier League for us this year. He needs to get to ten in order to get a medal if we win the Premier League. With Gallas due to return (hopefully), the chances of him getting to that number appear slim. Martin Keown famously choked Wenger playfully during the end of the 03-04 season when it seemed as though Wenger was not going to sub him into a game. He knew that those appearances would give him the ten appearances he needed. That year, we had the title in the bag, and such courtesy will not be lent to Sol Campbell. But, who cares about medals? It’s lifting the trophy that’s the most important thing. Medals are locked away in closet and frequently given away by true winners. If we emerge as Champions, Sol will know he’s played a vital part in making that happen. That’s far more important than some medal.

– Likewise, Carlos Vela and Armand Traore are stuck on eight appearances each. The latter has regressed to the point where he might not feature again, and Vela has been in and out of the side. Their hopes for a medal should not be considered, unless perhaps we’re winning by 8 goals against a side.

– On a short note about Barcelona, Lionel Messi was absolutely incredible against Zaragoza the other night. The second goal was stupendous, and if you watch closely, you’ll notice that every dribble was a clean one. He meant every single element of it. He’s astonishing. I have some ideas on how to stop him, and English sides have done okay to nullify his threat to a degree. But on current form, he’s showing why he’s the World Player of the Year, undisputed.

– Despite their position in the league, I believe Portsmouth will give Chelsea a good fight today. We’ll see if it’ll be enough though for Chelsea to drop points.

A Dream

– Drawing Barcelona in the Champions League is a dream come true. I am not one of those supporters who wants an easy route. If we were handed an easy one, I wouldn’t have minded, but I don’t fear any team, especially in a European cup tie.

– Despite what people think, Barcelona are not an all-conquering side this year. They certainly were last year, and even that team had difficulties against the brute strength of Chelsea. By swapping Eto’o for the mercurial Ibrahimovic, they’ve downgraded. The reason why they’ve maintained consistent form is the more centrally-inclined Messi and his form. Zlatan was signed to give Barcelona a fall back option when they can’t break down defensive minded teams. That shouldn’t be a factor against us, but he’ll start against us regardless.

– As impressive as Messi was against Stuttgart, it was only Stuttgart. You could say the same about our impressive show in Europe; it was only Porto. Regardless, both clubs have done what they had to do. I’ve also seen Messi have stinkers this year, so while he is a supreme threat, nothing is impossible in this tie.

– I don’t want to go heavily into this tie just yet (there are other matters at hand), but I’ll point out a few more things. We wanted to draw Barcelona now. If we beat them, it’ll give us the confidence to know that we can beat any team in Europe. With the way the draw is arranged, we’ll face United (our bogey team in Europe I suppose) in a one-off game. Lose the tie and we’ll re-focus our attention in the Premier League. The game directly following the second leg of the Barcelona clash is at White Hart Lane against Sp*rs. So, while we would be deflated after a loss, we would have instant motivation for getting our groove back. To that end, it pains me to say that it’s preferable that Sp*rs beat Fulham in the FA Cup so that our match against them is pushed to a midweek fixture. That’ll give us a full week to recover from both travel and heavy fatigue (we’re going to give it our all, I guarantee you that). I’d rather have a full week to prepare for Sp*rs (who are increasingly getting crocked) than for Wigan. Coincidentally, I believe Barcelona play Real Madrid at the Bernabeu after the second leg. Some things are just meant to be.

– For Thierry Henry, his nightmare has come true. He is gaining some form, and he does provide a different option for Barcelona. Will he play against us? I think so. Will he play well against us? I certainly hope not.

– This matchup is a football purists’ dream. Barcelona are probably heavily favored, but I promise you, this is a 50-50 tie. Ask Wenger.

– With how it’s set up, we could potentially play Jose Mourinho, then United in the Final. That’s wonderful. I couldn’t wish for a better challenge.

– Now, for West Ham. Earlier in the season, we squandered a 2-0 lead and threw away two points. I remember kicking the side of a wall when this happened. It was the beginning of the end of Vito Mannone’s spell in the team, and it was definitely one of the lows of the season. That’s something we have to remember, especially if we end up losing the Premier League crown by one point.

– West Ham will be determined and will battle for their pride today, but they have bigger plans in mind. Scott Parker is absent. Carlton Cole is not 100%. They’re playing at the Emirates (despite their sterling record at the Emirates, they’d be mad to think they’re some sort of bogey side). And most importantly, they have a six-pointer against Wolves at Upton Park on Tuesday. Honestly, that’s a much more important fixture for them, but they won’t pull a Coward McCarthy by fielding a weakened side. They’ll still give us a fight.

– Blackburn play Chelsea at Ewood Park. They have won their last four home games. Wayne Rooney has not scored against Liverpool in 16 hours. I hate looking at other team’s fixtures and hoping for dropped points, but that is the position that we’re in. We need a positive result (other than us beating West Ham) this weekend from one of those two games. I want to be in a position where if we win, we’ll win the league. I hope that comes sooner than later.

– Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song will return. They are pivotal players and automatic first choice for us.

– Again, I don’t want to jinx us, but a rout would be most welcome.