Thanks for contributing to some good debate in the last thread, chaps. I Really enjoyed that.
Anyway this early evening (thanks for alerting me about that Bum bum) we face an Alkmaar side who are bang in form and have collected a very nice 25 points out of a possible 27, which is second only to Eindhoven, who have won every game.
I’ve never really rated the Eredivisie and it’s certainly not on the level of the big 5 European leagues, but some of their constituents have done pretty well over the years.
As a sidenote it was a bit of a shock to see Ajax second bottom when I looked at the table, but hey ho.
So it’s obvious that Alkmaar are no mugs and are going to be a difficult nut to crack.
Can we do it?
The question that depends on is what side Unai Emery puts out, in my opinion.
I was reading the Brum Mail yesterday and John Townley wrote his guess for a starting eleven and it was basically full strength. It’s an assessment I entirely agree with.
I know we talk about not wanting to burn the players out, but we’ve seen that if we throw too many of the second string in, we’re not strong enough. Possibly not because the players aren’t individually good enough (although I have doubts about most of them), but because they haven’t got to know each other as a unit and it’s well, just too much change in one go.
Townley obviously thinks the same and I actually think that as much as Emery would love to rest half the side again, I very much doubt he will this time.
He hinted as much, I think when he recalled that the Dutch side beat Sevilla in 2012 when he was their manager.
I think he will actually go full strength and he won’t even start Duran, who wasn’t even in the squad on Sunday. Emery says he was injured, but there have been rumours that the lad has been unhappy about not starting enough. That’s fair enough, but if he’s made it be known, you have to wonder if Emery has slapped him down a peg a dropped him, which in fairness, he’s denied. I like Duran, but he’s only a kid and needs to know his place, which is still very much learning.
Anyway, I wouldn’t start him purely because I think Watkins is the better striker at the moment and I want us to win, it’s as simple as that. The lad can come on when/if we’ve got the game wrapped up, by all means.
Squad news and all is the same as previously, with Moreno and Ramsay still working towards fitness.
As for Alkmaar, Mayckel Lahdo is suspended after picking up a red in their victory over Legia.
Goalie Sem Westerveld is out, as is midfielder Mees de Wit, who suffered a foot injury a couple of months back.
I think if we don’t go full strength, there’s a very good chance we’ll lose this. Don’t forget, they beat Legia, where we couldn’t and while it doesn’t mean a fat lot, it does indicate that they’re a very decent side.
Even if we do go full strength, I see it being a very tough game with probably only the one goal in it.
Even so, I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
It’s pure guesswork, as I haven’t seen Alkmaar play in years. Either way, I just don’t want to be over confident. The expectation only leads to hurt when it goes wrong.
The game is on TNT sports (the old BT) and kick off is at 5.45 BST