Ask the Oppo: Champions League 3rd and 4th Place Play-off

Well after a very disappointing week, we meet Chelsea in a winner takes nothing encounter. To try and get excited about the game I’ve decided to view today’s fixture as the ‘Champions League 3rd and 4th Place Play-off’. It will be interesting to see our starting line up today, I think Ade should be made to play every minute of the remaining few games and told to prove he knows how to work for the team and I’d like to see Theo played up top alongside him, give the lad the last 3 games to show what he can do in a central role. This week I’ve been talking to Denise about todays game and Chelsea’s season.
PGL: So what’s been going on at the Bridge since we last met?
Denise: Oh you know, just the usual game of musical chairs in the managers seat. The last time we spoke, Scolari was still pretty new to us and seemed to be doing a decent job. Unfortunately, the honeymoon lasted about as long as one of Elizabeth Taylors and we were looking dangerously close to slipping out of the top four before Scolari was given the push. The up-side to that was Guus Hiddink agreeing to step in temporarily, he’s been the clichéd ‘breath of fresh air’.
PGL: Big Phil was a flop and it seemed the players went above his head. How much sway do you think Terry & Co have with the owner?
Denise: I don’t think the players had much choice but to go over Scolari’s head to be honest. The bloke was so laid back he was only ever a breath away from being comatose. There seemed to be a lot of complaints about his training methods and poor fitness levels was something Hiddink picked up on straight away anyway, so I think it’s fair play for the players to talk those sorts of concerns over with Abramovich – it’s protecting everyone’s interests.
PGL: How much do you want Hiddink to stay?
Denise: Only about as much as I’d like back-to-back trebles! Seriously though, who wouldn’t want Hiddink as their manager on a permanent basis? Having taken over mid-way through a season under less than ideal circumstances, I don’t think there’s any doubt what a good job he’s done. Ok, we might be out of the title race and the Champions League but neither are those are down to anything he has or hasn’t done. In fact, if it wasn’t for Hiddink, we wouldn’t even have got as far as the semis.
PGL: After disappointing (for different reasons) european exits for both of us, one of our players went clubbing and dropped his pants, some of yours went off on the ref. Do you think it’s unfair to expect players not to be human in these situations?
Denise: Yeh I do. Whilst the general consensus seems to be that certainly Chelsea players went way over the top, I have to say I can see why they did. Phil Neville made a few comments about our players’ reactions, something like ‘we want to see emotion from players’ and ‘it’s only those who’ve never been in that sort of situation who criticise’, and I think he was spot on really. Yeh ok, so our players maybe showed a little more emotion than others have before them, but would I rather they were emotionless robots who shook everyone’s hands and took it? I don’t think I would.
PGL: There has been talk about a mini-clear out happening in the summer at Chelsea. Which players do you see departing this summer?
Denise: I think that’s harder to predict now than it might’ve seemed earlier in the season. For instance, I’d have said Malouda for definite back then but he seems to be favoured a bit more these days. Ibramovich is another I’d put in that bracket. Possibly Kalou – he prefers Arsenal anyway apparently, lol. Deco hopefully – he’s been a waste of space, maybe Ballack and I guess Didier Drogba because let’s face it he wants to leave every summer anyway.
PGL: Who has been your player of the season?
Denise: I have to admit, my choice for our player of the season definitely isn’t one I’d have seen myself choosing at the start of the campaign but for me it has to be Frank Lampard. He’s always been one of our key players anyway but this season he’s developed much more in terms of leadership and that’s had a really big impact in a lot of our games.
PGL: Will we see a full Chelsea side considering you still have the small matter of the FA cup final to play? (BTW How shocked were Chelsea fans Arshavin didn’t play in the semi final?)
Denise: I can’t see Hiddink making any major changes for this game really, we’ll still want to finish as close to the top two as we can so there’s no point taking any risks.
As for Arshavin – his absence was a bit of a surprise and a very welcome one at that!
PGL: You’ve seen Drogba score again and again against us. Do you think he gets especially ‘up for it’ for games between our clubs?
Denise: Who knows what motivates Didier Drogba? I mean, there’s plenty of ‘big’ games you’d assume he’d be up for but that isn’t always the case, so seriously, who knows?
PGL: How will Hiddink deal with Arshavin, surely he must start this time!?
(These questions were asked on Thursday!)
Denise: Trip wire?
PGL: And finally what’s your prediction for the game?
Denise: I’m one of them weird superstitious people when it comes to predictions so I’ll make this as ambiguous as ever. I don’t think it’s an easy one to call really. We’ve both had disappointing weeks – to put it mildly – after pretty tough games, but it’s hard to say what sort of effect that will have had. Whilst either side could be excused if the game lacks a bit of energy, there’s also the possibility we could see the ‘wounded animal’ syndrome with a proper fight to the death. I think the midweek results will have affected us more than you though so if we could get a draw out of this, I think we’ll have done pretty well.
PGL: So that’s the view from the Bridge. It will be an interesting test of character for our squad… interesting to see who really wants to win. I really hope we can extend this unbeaten run to the end of the season, it’s the one target left and it would be great to see our side really go for it. Chances are who ever scores first will lose, as is the way with our games against Chelsea, so hopefully we go one down and then Theo bags a second half brace. 2-1 to the Gooners.
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