As we head towards the opening SPL game of the season at Parkhead, followed quickly by our home leg of the Europa League, I admit I draw a nervous breath.
I also find myself writing about a second injury sustained to one of the bhoys, and as it happens, another member of the defensive squad. This time the loss is in the form of Emilio Izaguirre. I am now admittedly unsure as to how to approach the predicted four to six months without the pacey defenders presence on the pitch.
Not to claim that we have no suitable replacement at the back, but Izzie provides pace, distribution, and creativity that is found in the elite of the sport.
With the addition of Adam Matthews, Kelvin Wilson, and the recent form of big Dan we are really not completely in outer space with regards to the back line. Perhaps cycling the defenders with Cha as well as Mulgrew, and maybe finally begin working Wanyama towards the back as a sub, we can ease the sting of this cruel twist.
Now is definitely not the time to get super experimental, certainly in regards to the defensive line, rather focusing on playing fundamentally sound defense, attempting to limit the number of speedy runs over the top (as the orcs are certain to do) and eliminate or at least minimize any potential damage done.
In our last game with the sheep, there were a few instances that found Majstorovic needing to run down, and make a play on an attacker that had already gained the ground. He fortunately was able to rise to it, and is reflected as such in the voting I have seen for him as MOTM. However the fact remains that there were instances of lost marking and a rather dodgy, spikes up challenge that could easily have changed our feeling to that.
All in all I am happy with his performance but with escaped strikers and nothing but goal and Zaluska to face, I fear it’s only a matter of time before this is an easy exploit.
So Saturday will see the tangerines come to paradise, hopefully to become the first victims of the year to get the treatment on the pitch. United’s form in the SPL has seen them take five points in three games on three goals scored while allowing two. I am looking forward to this contest for a few reasons. First of all the 3pm kick off will grant me the chance to sleep in until 6:30am!
The next reason and this is the primary, is that it will be our first look at the team minus Izzie. How will morale fare after the loss of two key players in as many games? What will be the Gaffers strategy going into this? I would be disappointed if there was any other pairing at the front other than Stokes and Hooper. Perhaps the midfield will show an appearance from Paddy in light of his performance in the Northern Ireland match against the Faroe Islands. And there are the hopes of all that there will be two shiny new fully operational big screens located in the East and West stands!
Ok, so I confess that I am not really as concerned with the one from Dundee nearly so much as I am in the upcoming contest with the Swiss side FC Sion. Maybe they are not a European juggernaut; however over the clubs history they have won the Swiss cup twelve times. Maybe that is not giving proper due. They have won the Swiss cup twelve times in twelve appearances including once as the first second division team to earn the hardware.
This is really more an indication to me of the side’s willingness to rise to an occasion that demands the best, and see it through.
They are managed (for the second time around) by the former French striker Laurent Roussey, who will be certain to have his balanced side looking to take advantage of any weakness they can.
It was just four days ago that Sion walked into St. Jakob-Park in front of some 27,000 fans and drew three goals aside with the perennial Champions League team FC Basel.
They also earned their way into this competition with a solid steady climb throughout the Swiss cup playoffs culminating with the 2-0 defeat of Xamax in the final.
To look toward this game with anything other than adulation for the Swiss [underdogs?] would be a mistake in my opinion. I absolutely believe that we can and will prevail in the knock out game, but I am not naïve enough to rely on them being a soft side ready to roll over in the face of the talent laden Glasgow team.
I was (as I believe most were) hoping that our first meeting with the club, would find us on the Suisse soil, where the pressure rests more firmly on the shoulders of the unproven Sion team. But instead of marching into their turf, we get to invite them into the welcoming arms of The Green Brigade and Co. This is now our opportunity to put doubt in their minds, as well as the chance to all but erase them from the Europa competition.
I am in no way intending to come across as a negative force, I am simply saying that before we run off ordering Absinthe with a Rivella back and some fancy chocolates on the side, we should actually play the team in front of us rather than relying on our history and reputation to secure us the win.
Written by SjH (twitter @dizinhoops and for podcast and website updates @TheLostBhoys)