3 years ago we also had a big Champions League match in the last 16. We were stumbling along in mid-table and looking like a side who were more likely to win the LDV Vans trophy than the Champions League. Then, we became the first English side to win in the Bernabeu and through that result we went on to gain enough momentum to reach the Champions League final and drag ourselves up the league to finish 4th.
This season is much like 2005/06. We're also struggling in the League, and we need something to lift us. I genuinely believe the way we've been playing, sooner or later we're going to hammer someone. I remember how after we lost the League in May 2003 we scored ten goals in two games because we were angry. We can do that again.
The media have been writing us off and that's always a dangerous thing to do. Because the Champions League is a competition where it's all about keeping it tight and nicking goals here or there. Undoubtedly, there's goalscoring ability in this team. And at the same time, in recent weeks we have been sound defensively. So if we can use our untapped goalscoring ability and at the same time keep on defending well, all hell will break loose.
Having said that, we cannot underestimate how important this match is. If we don't qualify for the Champions League, this team may fall apart: players could leave and what's more, Club Class renewals will drop through the floor. It's not a nice conjecture I've painted there but it's a real one. The future of this club depends on Champions League football. I genuinely believe that regardless of what happens this year, having seen the potential paucity of our team with a few key injuries in midfield the board will give Wenger money in the summer, for the first time in several years.
But despite this, we need to secure Champions League football for next season: there are two routes, both of which look difficult. I know which I'd prefer but Cesc lifting ol' big ears in May whilst a possibility, is very unlikely.
So we need to assume that qualification can only come from the league. But by beating Roma proficiently we will inject some confidence into our players, and some momentum into our team. As such, this is the most important game we've played since the corresponding game in 2006.
Hence, there are two important factors: the team and the fans.
The team needs to wind up Totti and De Rossi. They've both got tempers. I remember Keown doing it wonderfully at Highbury a few years back - he coerced Totti into elbowing him and hence, Totti had cheerio time. De Rossi is a great passer of the ball, but he's also angry. We need to keep those two in check and make sure they know their place.
Moreover, whilst Totti is always highlighted as the dangerman he tends to flatter to deceive. On the other hand, Vucinic scored two great goals against Chelsea. The defence has been in great form recently. They need to make sure they deny him space: Torres scored a great goal last season but that's only because we backed off him.
And so, to the role of the fans: firstly, bake a carrot cake. It's a proven superstition. I've done it before 3 big European games and we've won them all: Coincidence? I think not...
Secondly, get behind the team. We supported the team really well against the Spuds earlier this season. Fans need to stand and get behind the team.
Sing up, and keep the faith!