Sorry, I lied. Sunderland away up next.
Arguably more important in the grand scheme of things than the Meelan game next week. Obviously not in the hairs on back of neck standing up way of importance (and excitement) but the game at the Stadium of Light is of the ilk that has the potential to leave us in the dark.
I'm not about to tag it with the 'must win label'. Last season we went up there and Darren Bent, armed with Blackberry and Twitter account, lol at us aplenty, as he pinged penalty after penalty towards the Spurs goal. Take that Sandra. Gomes his nemesis again, but alas, we still got trounced and for what seemed like the 100th time that season, some of us knee-jerked that 'that was that' shrug of despondency.
Hardly that was it?
But this season, what with its more apparent openness and the fact that it only takes one or two teams to go on a run of wins to completely change the balance of top tier power…a loss in a crunch match in terms of current standings could prove to be far more damaging than a loss this time last season. We competed against City and City alone last time out. This time round, it's fairly tricky to work out which team(s) are being pulled towards 4th spot because the maths are far more fundamental.
Hoping we're aiming for 3rd personally, but regardless of what Harry is working towards, I'm tagging it with the must win label. Yes, a contradiction after stating I wouldn't. But I've just talked my way into it. And it's all because of the necessity of momentum. Which is required going into the Meelan game and beyond.
And the whole point of Challenge Spurs is to win them all. Or at the very least believe/attempt to.
All season we've been waiting to find some proper full on form and haven't quite embraced it. We've experienced pockets of sublime. The same can be said for the teams above us. The teams below us have been less consistent but hardly a million miles away. Just a few hundred now.
We've dug deep, it's been gritty and ugly at times and lacking fluidity. But we are deservedly in with a shout still to reclaim a CL place. And dare I say the one advantage we have with 'the chase' is that we've been here before and shown we know exactly how to tune into the required tenacity and fortitude to power ahead with mental strength and belief. And tasty football too.
Chelsea, whether they push on with menace or not, we'll have to wait and see. There's the potential for devastating forward play there. But the politics and egos might damper the mood further and how they react to chasing 4th/3rd might breed more inconsistency. City - the pressure is firmly pushing Eastland's south as the push for north. The expectancy is for them to get it on the money this time round.
The pressure with us concerns our injury plight that has and will continue to effect tactics and formation. You feel Harry has to continue to use his bare bones mantra for that extra little kick. It's just a bit more serious compared to last term. We've got Bale, Modric, Huddlestone and Kaboul all out. King and Woodgate* forgotten men (although the latter is back playing and aiming for full match fitness). van der Vaart** should be okay for Saturday but you'd be right to be concerned about the potential for any more injuries (to the Dutch galvaniser or otherwise) what with that trip to the San Siro just days away.
*Sheeeeeeeeeeeeet. Woody is in the squad.
**vdV officially out
Crouch out too (back strain according to reports). So expect 442. Expect even Niko and/or Pienaar to start if vdV isn't risked. Bloody 'ell, even expect want away Pav up front. It's going to be disjointed and unsexy I'm sure, but a squad of quality finds a way and finds the result when perhaps they are not expected to. Spirit, grit and composure. You got that Daws, Wilson, JJ and JD?
And no capitulation please.
Sunderland will come out all guns blazing. A win will bring them within four points of us. Liverpool (at home to Wigan) will continue their march with King Kenny and upside down held up high scarves so it's best to retain the buffer between us and them and keep anchored to Chelsea just above us.
Now I know what you're thinking. Biggest game in our recent history coming up in the Champions League. The reason we worked so hard last season, the award for our metamorphosis was to bask in the elite European competition. Which we have. We have been refreshing exciting bold brave and ridiculous. So why on earth should we be considering Sunderland away when all our thoughts should be on AC Milan? By virtue of just because, we might not finish in the top four this season, simply because the teams above us might match our points tally all the way to the end of the season. So surely we should enjoy the experience and with a complete cavalier heart, go forwards with swashbuckle and pomp and just do our very best to produce another sensational result?
Well, sure. Yes. But call me greedy, I don't want to look back on this season with regret. Domestically.
Churn out a result at Sunderland. Go to Milan, keep it tight (yeah right) and come back with at least an away goal and a score draw or even a damage limited 2-1 defeat. Then drown them at the Lane in the return fixture with a down pour of glory glory superlatives.
Momentum. Winning breeds winning. Every game should be important, every game should be must win. If you start to prioritise games then you are prioritising performance and the team, as a unit, will fluctuate and stumble. Sure, we are depleted in key areas. We are missing our main counter-attacking weapon and our conductor of creativity. But others have stepped up in their absence and have to continue to do just that.
Team effort. I know it's moon on a stick to expect high octane football when we're running at 60%. Not asking for naïve stupidity rampaging forward without a care and over committing and equally not asking for a underwhelming lacklustre effort without bite, focus elsewhere. Just asking for unity and good old fashion blood and thunder determination. Saturday is all that matters right now.
Sunderland? Meelan? Smash 'em. I want our players hanging off the back of them.