And so it comes down to this: Two teams, one game, winner takes all. Well, winner takes all in our case, win or settle for a draw takes all for Man U. And it’s at Old Trafford too, so there’s no doubt the ball’s in their court. That said, considering where we were a month ago, it’s a miracle the ball’s on the court at all and not back in the plastic tube in the boot of the car. So, you know, the moral victory is ours already, if only for tennis fans.
Anyway, getting back to the point: it’s game time. It’s time for Fernando to lollipop inside the box, for Sideshow Luiz to ruffle some Manc feathers and for Frank to slam home the penalty. With any luck Carlo will keep the Drog on the bench and use him as a 60th minute battering ram to terrorise a flagging defence (the best way to hide his ever so slightly dwindling burst of pace). Whatever happens, Carlo’s got to roll the dice on this one, because if the tabloids are to be believed – which they always are – he’s looking down the barrel of an extended summer hols. In a nutshell: it’s our Champions League Final.
It’s not Man U’s Champion’s League Final of course, the Champion’s League Final is their Champion’s League Final, so maybe they’ll play a bit more defensively. Maybe they’ll park the bus. But I doubt it. This Man U team isn’t good enough to park a bus. They find it tough to keep a clean sheet at the best of times, so instead they play to score. This is why Fergie’s talking bullishly about the Barcelona game. Don’t be afraid, he squawks, come out fighting and blah blah. The fact is, the only way they’re going to beat Barcelona is if they score three goals, because you know Messi is going to lollipop his way to two and finish with an average of a goal a game for the tournament. (52 goals for the season so far… that’s more than most Premiership clubs.)
So we can expect an open game, with plenty of opportunities, a few lollipops and goals. Loads of goals. The thing to remember is that Arsenal, Spurs or Man City would die for the opportunity we have on Sunday, but the chance has fallen to us. Of course we couldn’t have done it without our London cohorts: Spurs did their bit by rolling the ball over the line(-ish), and obstructing lino’s view(-ish), and Arsenal did theirs by seeing out a win for a change. In many respects Sunday’s game is the culmination of a joint London effort to upset Man U. Even Wembley is getting in on the act.
But is that fair? Is it fair that teams with such long-standing rivalry as Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham, wait, no, not West Ham, they haven’t done anything, should club together to keep the trophy in their home city? In a word: No. No way. Because of course, they aren’t. Arsenal beat Man U because they hate Man U, and Spurs lost to us because they’re shit. It’s just serendipitous that these things should play into our hands. I might be mistaken here, but my hunch is that most impartials will want Chelsea to win this Sunday, and Man U to beat Barcelona. Screw it, I’d settle for that. One last push and the trophy is ours!
On a lighter note, I recently broke my arm on the footy pitch in what some have seen as a physical manifestation of my innate desire to shirk the responsibilities of impending fatherhood. I prefer to think of it as sympathy pain for our aging and battered Chelsea squad. It has taught me two things however: it’s almost impossible to squeeze the right amount of shampoo directly onto one’s head without feeling like a Christmas pudding; typing with only your right hand is slow and laborious. Unless you’re typing the word lollipop.