Shall We Cheer On Marseille?
As you are probably aware of it, Liverpool face a crucial Champions League game tonight in France: they must win in France to get through to the last sixteen of the competition after a horrendous start (a draw could be enough but it's unlikely that Besiktas win at Porto).
You are probably also aware of that United will play their next league game up at Anfield on Sunday, a fixture that could be as crucial in the title race as the last one, back in March. The question is relatively simple: bearing in mind that they are due to face us five days later, is it better if Liverpool get knocked out tonight or if they go through?
Of course it would be a wonderful laugh if they went out of the Champions League group stage after their fans' smugness about their recent European achievements. They would still be jabbering away about their great history but that could not be heard amidst of the laughter emanating from Manchester.
But try to analyse the situation. The atmosphere around the dippers has been quite tense recently, Benitez's criticism of the owners, then that hilarious press conference, the owners' public rebuke... and now they've even lost their unbeaten record in the league after a string of great results. So it's a bit up and down for them this season. Their Champions League form was dreadful in the first three games: out of ideas, short on flair, on spirit, on everything. The 8-0 thrashing of Besiktas was impressive but the 4-1 result masked the inadequacies of the performance against Porto: it made everyone forget how they struggled to break down the opponents and how only a fantastic piece of skill from Fernando Torres enabled them to burst from relief.
Now the stiffest test is coming up. Marseille so comprehensively outplayed them at Anfield that it was embarassing. The French side might be struggling in Ligue 1 but they are more than capable of matching Liverpool tonight, even without Samir Nasri who is a slight doubt with injury.
Should they do that? Well, imagine the prospect of facing Liverpool after, against all the odds, they secure qualification from the group and lose a massive burden that had been loaded on their shoulders. You remember how they played after defeating Barcelona at the Nou Camp last season? Though they weren't creative, they outplayed us at Anfield and we had to be thankful for our fortune after eventually winning the game.
Now, imagine Liverpool getting knocked out of the Champions League. They will be out of Benitez's favourite competition, his first priority and will have to concentrate on the Premier League which we all know they can't win. The new owners will be desperately disappointed and the pressure to deliver will be higher than ever on Benitez and co. I would say the latter situation looks much better ahead of a trip to Anfield.
To summarise: I think that if they lose we'll have a better chance to win on Sunday AND it will be the source of much amusement, especially as we are still flawless in the European Cup this season. So, it's clear: go Marseille!
Oh, yes, one more thing: tomorrow we'll be back with a little round-up of our recent league games against Liverpool. You know: Fergie 5 Benitez 0.