Tonight the stuttering league form is put aside, and a team still outside the Champions League places put one of the leakiest defences left in the competition up against an talented attacking force, hoping to come out unscathed.
But enough about Roma.
It is remarkable how similar our seasons have been. Roma have lost away to numerous sides near the foot of the table, and have conceded the most in the entire top half of the league. But they’re still in Champions League contention, and have only just had their unbeaten run ended. In reality, had they not started the season so appallingly, they’d be doing just fine.
But it isn’t just their league away form that is poor, their record in England is abysmal, having lost on their last five visits. But we haven’t been winning home knockout matches either, in fact we are yet to win one at the Emirates, hence the title of this piece. Our 1-0 win over Villareal at Highbury in the run to the final three years ago was our last, since then we’ve drawn with PSV, Milan and Liverpool.
As for the team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Van Persie at the head of a 4-5-1, with the returning Diaby playing in the attacking role he thrived in at Fenerbahce back in the group stages. We’re a little short of attacking options, with Adebayor and Eduardo missing out, Arshavin ineligible, and Walcott still a couple of weeks from recovery.
It is easy to see this as a mere distraction from the league campaign, or to put it another way – the twelve cup finals we have between now and the end of the season, but I’m genuinely excited about the match, and the entire round of the competition. The draw couldn’t have been scripted better, with cracking ties all over the place. Of course the first legs will be cagey, but some huge names will be dropping out this round, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the media’s overconfidence in the English game will be exposed, with at least two of our number falling.
And despite the fact that Roma are an excellent side, and have the added motivation of the final being in Rome, we have the weakest opponents of the Anglo-English triumvirate, although Roma may be arguing the same in reverse. I’m predicting a narrow win that keeps both sides very interested, perhaps 2-1.
Enjoy the game, wherever you are.