It's been a long time coming but NUFC are back in Europe. We take a 19 man squad over to Greece to try and get a result to make the home leg as simple as possible. The squad is Harper, Krul, Simmo, Willo, Saylor, Perch, Raylor, Santon, Tavernier, Amalfintano, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Gosling, Cabaye, Anita, Jonas, Obertan, Campbell & Cisse.
The last man on that list has to start tonight for me. Given the lack of options up front, sticking Campbell in a team that will already be weaker than our strongest line-up may be one step too far. It's imperative that we come away with a goal or two at least, no matter if we win, lose or draw to give us something to work off in the home leg. The theory of putting Cisse on with 20 mins left if we need him sound's ok, but there is no guarantee he will come on and get the chance needed to score. Playing him from the off and then taking him off as early as possible depending on the scoreline is surely the better option. Why take the risk of not qualifying for the sake of Chelsea on Saturday? As far as I am concerned this game in Greece is more important than the one at Stamford Bridge. Even though we will have the chance to rectify any mistakes in the 2nd leg, we don't want to leave ourselves too much to do and not even qualify. That would be horrendous.
The theory of leaving our best team for Saturday is also slightly flawed as our strongest team could still be turned over comfortably by Chelsea. Beat Atromitos and then cross the Chelsea bridge when we come to it.
In a perfect world we would send out our reserve team tonight, win & then beat Chelsea with our first team on Saturday. Worst case scenario, this slight risk Pardew is taking could bite us on the arse and be climbing a mountain come the 2nd leg and then get beat on Saturday anyway. If this happened I would cry. We need to rest key players tonight only in areas we can cover with significant quality. Raylor, Willo, Marveaux, Anita, Obertan, Gosling & Amalfitano fall into this category. Campbell to start ahead of Cisse may be a step too far. I hope I am wrong. If the lad does start, I hope he has a stormer but it's a big risk to add to the slight risk we are already taking.
All of this is ridiculous anyway as having to play Chelsea 2 days after an away leg in Europe is an absolute disgrace. What are UEFA & The FA thinking of? Would Man Utd for example have to deal with this? No chance. It's a joke. A joke that could cost us a result tonight or a result on Saturday, or worse, both.
Howay lad's, let's get these Greeks beat.
Ever seen a mackem in Athens...?