England's national football team are rubbish. Do we care? Do we heck! It's back to our domestic leagues and cup this weekend, which means we can quickly forget about fancy Dutch ideas of positional flexibility, ball possession, tactical awareness etc and instead we can concentrate so much more clearly on getting that ball forward as QUICKLY as possible! HOOF! Hooray!
Four of London's finest were involved in Wednesday's dose of international football/morphine. They were : Frank Lampard of Chelsea, Paul Robinson of Spurs, Ashely Cole of Chels...sorry Arsenal and Andrew Johnson of Crystal Palace.
Mr Lampard's Chelsea have got a naughty-looking trip to Goodison Park on Saturday to take on the positively Stakhanovite Everton. This is potentially a defining moment for Chelsea. Last week's draw was pounced upon by many as signs of a blip and Mourinho's chest-waxers will want to state that yes, they can win without Arjen Robben and yes, the title is theirs. Everton are no monkeys, they're desperate to stay ahead of Liverpool and according to the boffins at Opta, they've got a good record of getting results after international breaks, but Londonist expects the Duffer to come up with the goods and inspire Chelsea to a 1-0 win. We're also keen to see if the Everton fans, with their 'famous scouse wit', can come up with a better Mourinho-baiting chant than Man City, who delighted in telling London's most handsome man that his overcoat was from Matalan. Ha Ha Ha....suppose you had to be there really.
Pie-eater Paul Robinson had little to do in the England goal on Wednesday, but we expect that he'll be busier on Saturday, trying to stop Rob Earnshaw (officially 'on-fire') from scoring. Spurs host West Brom in this FA Cup fourth-round reply and it's live on the Beeb! Yowser! We are expecting this to be a close contest, and with the new Spurs signings all ineligible to play, they're going to have to dig deep to get the win. Perhaps little Jermain, fired-up after his non-inclusion against Holland, will prove to be the key to the result.
There are three other Cup replys this weekend, and they all involve London teams. On Saturday, Fulham take on Derby at home (close, but the Cottagers to win) and Brentford travel to Hartlepool. According to Hartlepool striker Adam Boyd, Brentford are "not the greatest of footballing sides". The cheek! We look forward to Martin Allen's team sticking these rash words right up Boyd's chuddy. On Sunday, West Ham travel north to play Sheffield United, who have lost their last three matches. This is going to be a bad-tempered, bruising encounter, which will hopefully culminate in Neil Warnock spontaneously combusting on the touchline. If that doesn't happen, we'll settle for a Hammers win.
And what about Ashley Cole and Andrew Johnson? Well, they'll be lining up against each other, as Arsenal are entertaining Palace on Monday night. This, we think, is going to be a cracker. Two teams at opposite ends of the table who both have everything to play for. With Arsenal, it's no longer just about maintaining faint hopes of hanging onto their Premiership crown and building towards the knockout stages of the Champions League, they're now having to prove that HMS Gooner isn't a sinking ship. First the Cole incident and now poor Reyes is getting tricked into revealing his desire for a move to Real Madrid. A statement on his desire to remain at Arsenal has been quickly rushed out, but as Mandy Rice-Davies once pointed out, he would say that, wouldn't he? If Palace are going to get any kind of a result at Highbury, two players who had a disappointing time of things on Wednesday, are going to have to rise to the occasion. One is Johnson, who despite finding that his first cap involved being stuck out on the right wing with nothing to do, still has an excellent chance of staying with the squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan. The other is keeper Gabor Kiraly. We think Kiraly is ace, even if he does wear scruffy tracksuit bottoms all the time, but he's going to have to play a lot better against Henry and co than he did when facing Craig Bellamy in the mid-week . Our verdict? Arsenal edge a thriller.
In the First Division this weekend, Millwall are away to Gillingham and QPR take on Preston at Loftus Road. The Super Hoops are certainly buoyant again after positive recent results and bonkers manager Ian Holloway signing a new deal, but if they are serious about gaining a play-off place, then this is exactly the kind of game they need to win. Finally, in the Third, Orient host Swansea, hoping that they can end their recent slump.