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  1. No anagrams. The last away game of the season, and it's on Sky's MNF slot. I think this was pencilled in for the Monday night weeks before our season took a downturn. At the time, we were in the hunt for the title so I can well imagine that there was a great deal of expected interest in this one. As it stands, it has managed to give Villa an extra day to recover from their trip to Greece. We'll know if they've managed to turn around their first-leg flop against Olympiakos in the Conference League semi final. Hard to gauge how up for it the Villa team is likely to be. When they are good they are very good, and, whether Spurs' continued woes mean the top 4 is secured before this game or not, Villa can cement a Champions League spot with a result against us. Last season's fixture was on Boxing Day. We'd been largely dreadful on the road, and Darwin was struggling for consistency despite a raft of chances. It's fair to say that the glimpses that he might have cracked it since then are exactly that. Glimpses. It was in evidence at Villa Park in a game where Villa created a few chances, but we created (and should really have taken) more. Mo got us under way with a brilliant team goal. A Robbo corner on the right was cleared out to Trent by the Villa defence. Trent was about 40 yards out and central, but picked out a peach of a pass with the outside of his foot back to Robbo on the right edge of the penalty area, who had both got back onside and angled his run to lose his marker. He played a first-time ball across the six yard box for Mo to fire home. Villa had a great chance to equalise but Bailey fluffed his lines. They fashioned another decent chance when Watkins lost Big Bird at the far post but could only head into the grateful hands of Ali. A Konsa error from a long clearance had Darwin racing in on goal. He did very well to pick a high dropping ball out of the air with a first-time volley but as is so frequently the case, hit it straight at the keeper. He had a bit more time to bring the ball down and pick his spot. We did make it 2 when Virgil hammered the ball home after Villa didn't clear the ball and it fell to Mo to tee up the Big Dutchman. Into the second half, we allowed Villa too much momentum, which allowed them to pull a goal back through Waktkins with a tidy header. Darwin should have settled the match when he again raced clear, this time from another excellent through-ball, but he failed to hit the target with his left-footed effort. He was a menace to the Villa defence all night though, and it was via another of those bursts that the ball fell at the feet of the newly-introduced Baj. He showed great composure to create the space to first a shot through the defender on the line. It finished 3-1 and we were full value for the points. For Villa, Martinez has missed a couple of games so they've had to put Olsen in goal. It wouldn't surprise me if he's back for this one. No idea who they will be missing, and the European game might take a lot out of them whether they retrieve the situation or not. For us, we should have the same availability as for the last couple of games. Hopefully Diogo is back to full fitness, and hopefully no-one picks up a 'knock' between this write-up and the match. That happens an awful lot and it is incredibly annoying! Do what we did against Spurs for the first 70 minutes. Don't do what we did against Spurs for the last 20 minutes. The title might be gone, but lets target a points total that runs into the 80s. It's short of where we'd liked to have been but it would still be an impressive total. Maximum motivation, concentration, attitude and application from first minute to last. Especially when Jurgen makes that triple change on 70 minutes that he loves to do. The changes need to be effective though. Not disrupt our momentum or make us do anything that gets Villa or their crowd up. Three points please. Get it done!
  2. And so the domestic season comes down to this. We need a win against Wolves, and hope that Villa upset the odds by taking something other than a good hiding away from the Etihad. We can do our bit, but we have no control over what happens over there. Though we had a couple of games in hand on City in early January, they were so far ahead on points that the league title was all but wrapped up for them. For us to close the gap down to a point with just one game to go speaks volumes for this manager and his players. They’ve done so while also getting to the final (at least) of every cup competition they’ve entered this season. It’s genuinely extraordinary, and it still has the possibility of being something even better than that. First things first though. Nerve. Intelligence. Nous. Energy. Tenacity. Yer ma. Tactical flexibility. Winning touch. Order. I don’t ask for much. Last season’s fixture finished with a comfortable 4-0 win for the Reds. Following a fine full-stretch save by stand-in keeper Kev/Queef/whatever he’s called from Podence’s delicate chip from the edge of the area, we took the lead when Mo latched onto an error by Wolves’ former Red Conor Coady to slot the ball past the keeper. We had a few thousand fans in the ground for this one and they made a hell of a racket. Coady then hit the deck in our penalty area and Wolves were initially awarded the spot kick before VAR intervened to rule it out. Sadio had gone in to challenge but pulled out at the last second, so the expected contact Coady was looking for never arrived. Gini doubled our lead in the second half when racing on to meet Hendo’s clever pass following a swift break, and firing a sweet effort into the top corner from 20 yards. Big Bird got in on the act to bullet a far post header into the net from Mo’s right wing cross following a short corner. In the dying stages, Trent’s peach of a low cross was put into his own net by the despairing Nelson Semedo who’d tried to prevent a tap in for Sadio. In truth Sadio should have finished it off himself but got his timing wrong, scuffing his attempted effort onto his standing leg with the ball ricocheting in off Semedo. December 1977 saw Wolves visit Anfield just after Christmas. The Reds were doing well in the European Cup (which would be retained with victory over Club Brugge at Wembley) but in the league, it was Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the ascendancy. Their story is not too dissimilar to when Leicester won the league. Unlike Leicester, Clough’s team would also prove to have the cojones to win domestic and European trophies over the next couple of years. Liverpool saw off Wolves 1-0 thanks to a twice-taken penalty by Phil Neal in the first half. It sounds like one of those games where we struggled to get going but did just enough to claim the points. Couple of interesting points about that Wolves team. Their manager was called Sammy Chung (an unusual sounding name for that era), and they had Steve Daley in their ranks. He’s the player Man City would piss away the best part of £1.5m on at the tail end of the 70s, which was a British record sum at the time. Not the first time City have spent over the odds on a player, though of course these days most of the cost is kept off the club’s books and placed on that of the secretive parent company and the ruling regime. I can’t find highlights of the game so here’s the Guardian’s match report. The big box office smash around Christmas 1977 was John Travolta’s other big 70s hit, Saturday Night Fever. The story of a working class teenage New Yorker named Tony Manero who seeks escape from his humdrum existence working in a hardware store in the form of being a god on the dance floors at the disco. It’s a story about disaffected youth seeing the medium of dance as a (albeit temporary) chance to be a somebody and stand out from the crowd. The basic premise has been successful in cinema before. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is an example from the late 60s (and one that featured in one of my match threads earlier this season), and the likes of Footloose come to mind from the 80s. Anyway, Saturday Night Fever is a very watchable film in its own right but what really lifts it is the stellar soundtrack. The Bee Gees had a bit of a renaissance off the back of their new disco-infused sound, and there are other hits from the likes of The Trammps (‘Disco Inferno’) and Yvonne Elliman (‘If I Can’t Have You’). For me though, the standouts are by David Shire (‘Manhattan Skyline’) and Walter Murphy (‘A Fifth of Beethoven’), both brilliant musical interludes, the former sounding pure 70s disco and the latter modernising a classic. So successful was the film that only a couple of years later it got parodied for one scene in Airplane!, song and all! I’d imagine Klopp will look to more of his first choice regulars for this one, partly because they might be available, and partly to give them some match action prior to the following week’s big one. Commitment, attitude and application have not been a problem for the squad this season and I wouldn’t suddenly expected them to be. They can only play the game in front of them, and not think about what’s going on elsewhere. The fans will let them know anyway, as happened in this very fixture in 2019 when we took the lead and then heard that City had fallen behind at Brighton. There was a party atmosphere for a couple of minutes until news filtered through of a City equaliser. I was at a wedding party in Florida back then and the wifi was so shit at the venue, I only found out a couple of hours later what had happened on the day. Anyway, for this one all we can do is go all out for the win, and see where we are at the end. Just finish the job and hope Hendo gets to break out the shuffle sometime around 6:00pm. You should be dancin’!
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