Sunday, 3 May 2009

The build-up to the one that matters

At the end of the day, it's the second leg that matters. Provided it's only a one goal deficit, anything can happen.

2 goals would have been decisive: Juve lost 2-0 in the first leg of the '06 quarter final and their performance in the second leg suggested what we all knew: that it was an insurmountable mountain for them to win the tie from then on.

But one goal means anything could happen: a tight 1-0 and penalties will send us to Rome; 2-0 will also do the trick; 3-1 would be magnificent.

So whilst the performance in the first leg was insipid, we have to put that out our minds. Thinking about it won't change it.

Whilst people say we have a leaky defence it had more holes at the beginning of November. Despite this, we managed to stop United scoring for 92 minutes before relaxing once the game was safe.

For that reason, I don't buy the argument it's impossible United won't score. It's definitely a possibility. But so is Bacary Sagna scoring the first goal: it doesn't mean I'll bet on it.

Almunia was excellent the other night so there's no reason he cannot be a hero again. You don't play in many Champions League semi-final in your career whoever you are; let alone against arguably your biggest rivals.

So, frankly the first leg, whilst being an important part of the tie, it is not crucial. It is not where the Champions League is decided.

It's just part of the build-up to the one match which really matters.

Of course, part of that build-up was our visit to Fratton Park. For me, this was a result which brought mixed emotions: of course I was happy but there was part of me which begged to know why my two visits to Portsmouth had brought no goals, but when I wasn't there, we scored three in a lovely day in the sun.

I know it wasn't the first team but a result like that will only boost morale and momentum. And what's more, the players displayed confidence on the pitch. If they can do that against United, rather than cowering like they did in the first leg, we're in for one hell of a treat.

A full preview tomorrow.

Keep the faith,