Fantasy vs Reality
At least on the pitch, this season hasn’t been a bad one for the dreamers amongst us. Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup at home by lower division opposition, a team from outside the Big Four won the League Cup (and there was genuine goodwill from most neutrals that they did so), and England’s celebrity-studded excuse for a football team got the wake up call that they deserved by failing to qualify for a sixteen nation European Championship. The suspicion remains, however, that the bad guys will win in the end.
I remain constantly surprised by the amount of coverage that is granted to the Champions League in the newspapers. This morning’s Independent devotes four pages to this evening’s matches although, somewhat predictably, the Barcelona vs Celtic and Sevilla vs Fenerbahce matches scarcely warrant a mention. It is, one can only surmise, very important stuff, and it’s this mortal fear that everyone else may be right and that I may be wrong which is the reason why, in spite of myself, I will probably tune in to watch the Milan vs Arsenal match tonight.
This all contrasts with this weekend’s FA Cup Quarter-Finals, in which a sizeable proportion of the population will be willing Portsmouth and Barnsley to overcome Manchester United and Chelsea. The gulf between the likes of United and Chelsea and the rest can be best exemplified by a story in this morning’s paper that barely warranted six lines. Andriy Shevchenko was picked to play for Chelsea reserves at Griffin Park, Brentford, last night. A £31m player, who is a national icon at home in the Ukraine, Shevchenko is currently the subject of what is starting to look like a series of public humiliations which leads one to believe that he is being railroaded out of Stamford Bridge. He hasn’t played for the first team’s Christmas match against Aston Villa, and Chelsea’s public statement that he is recovering from injury is somewhat undermined by the fact that no-one seems to be able to state with any confidence what his injury actually is. The weekend’s fixtures could, in an ideal world, finish up with Manchester United facing an unwelcome trip to the south coast for a replay against Portsmouth, Chelsea getting dumped out at Barnsley and Bristol Rovers continuing to fly the flag for League One in the semi-finals. The worst case scenario would see United and Chelsea both sail through, and avoid each other in the semi-finals. I think I know which of the above is more likely to happen, but I’m going to take a moment to dare to dream regardless.
Anyway, you can join me on here for live minute-by-minute updates on Milan vs Arsenal match this evening. It’s 0-0 at half-time, and Arsenal (whose league performances of late have been ropey, to say the least) will keeping their fingers crossed that they can justify the occasionally overblown statements about the quality of football that they play. I wouldn’t be expecting it to be terribly objective, though.