Having just read Blackheath Addicted's summary of the run in I am raising this game to the status of 'Must Win'. I am also, by the way, going to apply that criteria to every game between now and the end of the season, so I will try to avoid describing any future games as must wins, as I will assume it is known that they all are. I will reserve the right to want to win some games more than others, but until such time (please no) that we cannot realistically make the top two I will accept nothing less than a win.
To be fair I think I started the season with pretty much the same attitude, but now is the 'business end' of the season, and Pardew has spent the last five months promising me (well all of us really) that his teams are always much better in the second half of the season. Just as well really as more of the same will not be enough for automatic promotion and might even be insufficient for the play offs.
So our latest must win game (I'm sure I'll stop mentioning it soon) is away to the team that spoiled our opening game of the season by having the temerity to score an equaliser. We looked really good that day, and I was massively impressed with our new French U21 Captain, and thought we would be a shoe in for the title. It is, I believe, more than a coincidence that since Moutaouakil has returned to the starting line up we have looked much better going forward, and have played much better football.
Scunthorpe have now settled into their proper place in the league table. For me they look like going straight back to where they came from. I'd like to think that Coventry would be joining them as I'm still a bit bitter about the £4.37m of my money Dowie wasted (I'm only valuing Reid's sale at £3m as I am going to give the increase in value to Pardew and his influence). Anyway Coventry are for a later date (another must win). I cannot see tomorrow's game being a close or even an entertaining affair. I believe we will win easily if not convincingly. The games involving the other teams around us will be more interesting. Without even looking at their fixtures I will predict that of the other six teams in the top seven at least one will lose and at least two others will fail to win......
Ok I've just looked at the fixtures and with Cardiff playing Stoke I'm guaranteed at least one of the teams to fail to win, but both Watford and West Brom have tough games at home (Wolves and Burnley respectively), Bristol City have a tough game at QPR and Palace might find manager less Southampton a tougher prospect than the one that they beat 4-1 earlier in the season. So a win tomorrow could well see us close the gap on the teams above us, and even put more pressure on them (if that's possible).
As already mentioned I'm predicting a win tomorrow. I don't expect Pardew to change it around much, I would like to see Thomas on the left and Ambrose on the right - I think Sam was a bit poor against Stoke. I would also go for Varney and Gray upfront, but think Pardew will stick with Big Chris. As for the new boys, I wouldn't expect either of them to start, but I would imagine that with Dickson injured we could well see them both on the bench.
To be honest though tomorrow's game (all be it of massive importance - a must win) is merely the appetiser for next Friday. The Must, Must, Must Win!
Up the Addicks!