Burnley. The Match Preview.
Burnley started this season with an impressive 3-2 away win at the chavs. We really should have taken note, Sean Dyche had almost perfected his rope-a-dope tactics.
Surprisingly in their next game they dominated, tried to play football rather than peek-a-boo and got out doped themselves by West Brom. They have not tried to play anything remotely looking like attractive football ever since. My heart and admiration goes out to their supporters who actually pay to watch them week in week out; no wonder the North of England has a reputation as a cultural wasteland, perhaps they should instead spend their hard-earned on a trip to the ballet? Less dives, more emotional intensity and skills that make your legs quiver. If I had a cloth cap, I'd throw it in the air.
Then they played us at Wembley, a few siren voices were raised and warned that they wouldn't be push-overs and most expected that they'd use a combination of the Alamo defence plan and a tactical rope-a-dope part II.
We battered them, took a skinny 1-0 lead and they then did what we had all feared in the 93rd minute - pinched an equalising goal. We'd been well and truly had. It was a portent of things to come when Wembley is on the cards. Teams we should beat find a new level of performance and managers have worked out that for all our sideways, backwards passing and retention it can be nullified if they pile up the bodies and are prepared to do a Kamikazee impression when we shoot, of course they also know that only around 20% of our shots these days are on target, so the outcome for them really isn't that bad. They also know that this season in front of goal if Harry isn't 100% we have the lethal bite of my Kissing gourami's and the sting of a sea sponge; Irritating, itchy but really nothing worth getting worked up over.
The bad news for Burnley is that they will have to cope with our Kissing gourami attacks without their impressive Centre back James Tarkowski who has just been hauled up before the beak for violent conduct - and rightly so, he has more sharp elbows than a spider, but at least he held up his eight arms when put on the spot and did not (could not) attempt to challenge the FA's totally warranted charge.
Sean Dyche has built another impressive defensive unit around Tarkowski and it has been noticed; the 25 year is now on the radar on a small list of top clubs as a possible summer target, including ours (yes we are stepping up our search for defensive alternatives to both Vert and Toby).
His absence will be felt and I fully expect us to profit from it. Burnley will set out to frustrate. They will be exceptionally well drilled and disciplined in their defensive shape, but they will make more foray's across the half-way line this time as the pressure of trying to show their home fans that they can play a passing game which remotely resembles football worth paying to watch is heaped upon them.
So I do expect we will have a bit more space between the lines and with Sanchez back I think recent defensive frailties will almost disappear, I say almost because if Trippier plays, they will look once again to exploit his weakness in recovery and poor ball control.
Although I am now convinced that we will not see the best of Aurier until next season, I am hoping that he will get the nod and continue to show the small incremental improvement in him that is beginning to get noticed.
Chris Woods is the man that stole 2pts off of us at Wembley and I do expect him to be a handful at set-pieces again, he is a kiwi but is almost a throw-back to the old-fashioned static English target man of yesteryear, who on occasion can even run a bit with the ball at his feet, although from what I have seen, Dyche does not encourage it in case they start realising that they can play football that southerners might recognise.
I don't expect a formation change for this one, and think we will set up again in our favoured 3-4-3 with Lloris in goal, Disappointing Dier, Super Sanchez, Victorious Vert, then I hope Ambling Aurier, Rambling Rose, So-so Sissoko, Wonderful Winks, Stupendous Son, Excellent Eriksen and one of our own, Harry. There might be a slim chance of Eriksen being rested and starting with Lamela, but I am told that this all depends on how he does into today's pre-match session.
As to the outcome, I do expect a win, it will not be a walk in the park, they are too well organised for that but I will leave my exact prediction to the Xmas Prediction Competition - as I want to win it.
Hopefully, Poch will not be tempted to play Alli and will put the proverbial arm around his shoulder and make him wear a blanket for the day, the lad could do with a couple of games under the blanket, but preferably on his own and not with his gorgeous girlfriend, whose fame is rapidly becoming greater than Alli's.
I cannot for the life of me imagine why, unless it is because her daily dose of selfies on instagram have left less and less to the imagination - as her followers have soared, can Alli's loose of form be blamed on this distraction?
We need to win this, they are above us and we need to back in the scrap for 4th, anything other than a win and I will be forced to drown my sorrows in a bottle of top class Armagnac, mind you, I will probably do the same if we win…
A Vital Merry Xmas to all, may all your dreams and wishes come true. If you get the chance do something exceptional for someone who didn't expect it and who you don't know from Adam, and may even deserve it - I promise you it will make xmas just that little bit more special
If you cannot, then console yourself with reading this utterly appalling Corny Christmas joke list:
What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney? Claustrophobia!
What do they sing at a snowman's birthday party? Freeze a jolly good fellow
Why does Santa have three gardens? So he can 'ho ho ho'!
What does Miley Cyrus have at Christmas? Twerky!
Knock, knock Who's there? Arthur Arthur who? Arthur any mince pies left?
What do vampires sing on New Year's Eve? Auld Fang Syne
Why did Santa's helper see the doctor? Because he had a low 'elf' esteem!
What happened to the man who stole an Advent Calendar? He got 25 days!
What kind of motorbike does Santa ride? A Holly Davidson!
What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker!
What is the best Christmas present in the world? A broken drum, you just can't beat it!
How did Scrooge win the football game? The ghost of Christmas passed!
Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas? Santa Jaws
Who is Santa's favorite singer? Elf-is Presley!
What do Santa's little helpers learn at school? The elf-abet!
What did Santa say to the smoker? Please don't smoke, it's bad for my elf!
What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees? Horn-aments!
Why are Christmas trees so bad at sewing? They always drop their needles!
Did Rudolph go to school? No. He was Elf-taught!
'What did Adam say on the day before Christmas? It's Christmas, Eve
Why did the turkey join the band? Because it had the drumsticks!
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite!
What do snowmen wear on their heads? Ice caps!
How do snowmen get around? They ride an icicle!
What song do you sing at a snowman's birthday party? Freeze a jolly good fellow!
How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas? One that's deep pan, crisp and even!
Who hides in the bakery at Christmas? A mince spy!
What do you call a cat in the desert? Sandy Claws!
What does Santa do with fat elves? He sends them to an Elf Farm!
What did Adam say to his wife on the day before Christmas? It's Christmas, Eve!
How many letters are in the Christmas alphabet? 25. There's 'no EL'!
What carol is heard in the desert? O camel ye faithful!
What do angry mice send to each other at Christmas? Cross Mouse Cards!
What athlete is warmest in winter? A long jumper!
What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations? Tinsilitis!
What's the most popular Christmas wine? 'I don't like Brussels sprouts!'
What did the beaver say to the Christmas Tree? Nice gnawing you!
Why are Christmas Trees like bad knitters? They keep loosing their needles!
What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk? Jingle Smells!
What do you call a bunch of chess players bragging about their games in a hotel lobby? Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!
What's green, covered in tinsel and goes ribbet ribbet? Mistle-toad!
Which famous playwright was terrified of Christmas? Noël Coward!
What is the best Christmas present in the world? A broken drum - you just can't beat it!
How do you know if Santa is really a werewolf? He has Santa claws!
What did the stamp say to the Christmas card? Stick with me and we'll go places!
Why did no one bid for Rudolph and Blitzen on eBay? Because they were two deer!
What does the Queen call her Christmas Broadcast? The One Show!
What did Father Christmas do when he went speed dating? He pulled a cracker!
Why don't you ever see Father Christmas in hospital? Because he has private elf care!
How did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born? They had a weigh in a manger!
Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars? Because their days are numbered!