Another Twente quid on Spurs to win
So do we accept qualification and all it will bring regardless of finishing top of the group or second by fielding a side that's not the strongest available or do we seize the day and focus on getting into the knock-out stage as winners, thus avoiding football rape at the Camp Nou? Decisions, decisions. Why would we even contemplate not fielding our strongest side?
Oh yeah. Chelsea this weekend.
Okay, so it's not (blue scum) exactly the fixture of old which we'd brush aside and concede goals and points even before the kick-off. We've enjoyed success at the Lane against them recently and they're a pale shadow of the side that began the season with such relentless decimation of their opponents. Not that I'm naïve enough to think we'll walk all over them. Although I'd very much like us to do just that. It's a massive game that. Might put their gaffer under extraordinary early season pressure if we beat them. And the obvious upwards elevation/momentum/confidence booster - priceless.
But there's the small matter of Twente to deal with first. Irony not lost that I'm even entertaining league as a priority over Champions League. Hasn’t it mostly worked the other way?
The Dutch champions are seeking revenge. I can imagine they're come out at a pulsating tempo. No slow-build up play here. Home crowd behind them, up and at 'em attitude. If we've switched off already and the concentration isn't there then hello to complacency and second in the group.
I don't have a clue how we plan to line-up. I've seen plenty of discussion that has the side patched up (Bale rested, Keane starting etc) but will be content as long as the spine of the side isn't tampered with too much.
It's simple really. After this game is done and dusted, we're into the realm of two-legged cup football. I know this is an adventure for us and for the travelling away fans and our players it's what it's all about in terms of enjoying and building on the learning curve this top tier football is giving us. And savouring every second of it. But who wants to face the might of Madrid or Barca from the off when perhaps we could get through to the following round and then face them (or perhaps muddle through to the round after that and then face them).
We are hardly going to win this competition based on paper and on experience. But it would be foolish to suggest that we (traditionally a cup side that can turn it on and beat anyone on our day) don't stand a chance of progressing balls deep into the latter stages. Which is why finishing top (matching Inters result thank you please) will be delightful.
Finish top and we'll face Schalke/Lyon, Valencia, Copenhagen, Roma, Marseille or AC Milan. Not that any of these clubs don't have the capabilities to knock us out - but I'd fancy our chances to do just that to them.
Schalke/Lyon, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. If we're second.
All this is based on how it stands currently. I think. Correct me if I've got anything wrong.
If the likes of Porto and Liverpool (when they won it, care to remember how 'great' they actually were?) are proof you don't have to be the best side to go all the way. You do need to believe and you do need to remain committed and focus. Both clubs had tacticians at their helm masterminding their run and granted, getting lucky once or twice along the way.
I'd be over the moon with each additional game we get and would love to get far enough to play another English club. Run around Tottenham, a lot, and kick it in the net. That should do the trick.
We've made a name for ourselves this season. Would be wasteful if we didn't strive to guarantee our survival for a little bit longer. If it doesn't work out and we end up away at the Santiago Bernabeu or worse…oh well, so be it. It beats getting giddy about the Carling Cup.
To dare is to swagger and hit the barn door.