Another big European night on the Turf
Olympiacos are at Turf Moor tonight and they come defending a two goal lead after they beat us 3-1 in the first leg seven days ago at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus.
It’s going to be some tough assignment to turn this one round. If we can keep a clean sheet we will need to win 2-0, otherwise we will require a three goal victory to progress into the group stages of the competition.
Sam Allardyce thinks we’d be better out of the competition. To be honest I think Fat Sam would be better off concentrating his attentions on his fight against the FA for what he believed was wrongful dismissal.
I think we’ve all heard the stories of how it will adversely affect us in the Premier League, and it is fair to say that hasn’t started well, but going out of the competition is certainly the last thing I want.
Qualifying for Europe has brought great prestige to the club and it has given the fans, so far, some incredible trips and nights at the Turf. The two home games have been tense, atmospheric affairs, winning through both times in extra time, and the two trips I’ve been on, for the away games against Aberdeen and Olympiacos, are trips that will live with me for a long, long time for so many reasons.
I’m nailing my claret and blue colours firmly to the mast of wanting to go through. It’s part of seeing the club I’ve supported for years progressing even further, not just in this competition but in stature as a club. What’s happened in the last few years is staggering and I want to see us go even further forward.
It will be tough, undoubtedly, and the number of players missing in terms of availability doesn’t help. Steven Defour and Robbie Brady remain out of the reckoning and they’ve now been joined by Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, injured at Fulham, and Ben Gibson who will serve a one match suspension following his red card last week in the first leg.
We’ve been shuffling the team around for these Europa League games and that’s likely to happen again tonight. One player who has benefited is central defender Kevin Long who has played in each of the last two games, the second leg at home against İstanbul Başakşehir and last week’s first leg against Olympiacos.
“It’s been enjoyable,” he said. “I’ve been speaking to all the lads and everyone has been saying the same thing. We’ve been enjoying the journey so far, but we want to get to the group stages. We don’t want it to end so we know the task that’s ahead of us and we want to win the game.
“We’ve visited big cities, played big teams in different stadiums. Everyone’s been enjoying it and it’s something that we want to continue. We’re playing in Europe and it was only a couple of seasons ago that we were playing in the Championship. We’re within touching distance of making the group stages of a European competition. It’s a fantastic achievement and an opportunity we don’t want to let slip.”
I expect Long will start again tonight but it will be a different partner having played his two games to date alongside Gibson who must sit this one out. I think Ben Mee is more likely to step in than James Tarkowski.
It’s difficult to suggest a team but I think there might also be starts for Tom Heaton, Ashley Barnes and Charlie Taylor.
But whoever starts, tonight is a big game, one of the biggest in half a century according to chairman Mike Garlick.
It would be just brilliant if we got through to the group stage.Follow UpTheClarets:
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