Quick Thoughts On Fixture List And Euros Enter Knockout Phase
Away from the Euros, the fixture list for the coming season was released a couple of days ago. Arsenal begin at home to Sunderland followed by a trip to scintillating Stoke while September sees us take on Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
I like the fact that we’re playing Stoke and Liverpool away so early in the campaign. Unlike 2010-11 when we finished on a low after dropping points during the last two months, we’ve ended 2011-12 in a positive fashion by finishing third. The team played well to take a point at Britannia on our last visit in April, and that will be fresh in the player’s mind. Playing a transtional Liverpool in the third match of the campaign is also encouraging. Desi Gunner has more thoughts on the fixture list on his site, do read if you are interested.
So after a day to catch our breath, Euro action returns today with the first quarter-final between the Czech Republic and Portugal. Tomas Rosicky is back with the team, but whether his Achilles injury has healed substantially to allow him to play tonight is not entirely certain.
While the Czechs beat Poland without their most influential player, Portugal are far more formidable in midfield. Miguel Veloso will try to shut down the attacking midfielder once again, after successfully negating the threat of players such as Mesut Ozil and Christian Eriksen during the group stages. I am not certain Tomas’ replacement Daniel Kolar has the required quality to unlock the Portuguese defense.
Besides the midfield, the two interesting battles will be the left-sided attacking players of both teams against the opposing right-backs.
On Portugal’s left, the impressive Gebre-Selassie will come up against Cristiano Ronaldo. Jiracek will also have to work hard to track the pacey and direct Coentrao. If Ronaldo shows the kind of form he did against the Netherlands, Petr Cech could have a busy evening. On the other hand, the Real Madrid man is prone to bouts of frustration when he’s well marshalled by defenders, so how Gebre-Selassie performs against him early on will be crucial to the Czech’s chances.
On the Czech Republic’s left, Vaclav Pilar has been in fantastic form during the tournament. He’s scored two goals and put in a man of the match performance against Poland. Portuguese right back Joao Pereira is not as adventurous going forward as Coentrao on the other flank, and it’s just as well because he will be required to stop Pilar from creating too many chances from that side.
If Michal Bilek’s side can get off to a solid start defensively and neutralize Ronaldo’s threat in the first half, they could get some joy from the flanks themselves and stun the Portuguese. That job will be much harder without Tomas Rosicky though.
Coming back to Little Mozart’s injury, it is slightly worrying for Arsenal as well. We don’t know the full extent of his Achilles problem, but Vermaelen took almost a season to recover from a similar injury. Both Rosicky and his team are desperate for him to play, and you just hope they are not resorting to quick fixes to allow him to compete at the moment. Although Jack Wilshere is expected to return next season, it would be big blow to have him sidelined for an extended period given his current form.
Hopefully, the injury is just a strain and Rosicky will be fit to play. I am willing to wager you a caramello that the Czechs will win if Tomas is involved.
Enjoy the game, match thoughts tomorrow.