Meaningless matches – what do they really mean?

Hibs are arriving. It’ll be a day out for them.

I suppose we’d better. When you won the first leg five-nil away there isn’t a lot of point playing the second one but we don’t make the rules so Thursday will see Villa Park’s return to European glory nights. It promises to be the most pointless game we’ve hosted since the second leg of a League Cup game with Exeter in 1986 when we’d won 4-1 there. Then we won 8-1 at home in front of a crowd of 7,678. There might not be so many goals this time but the crowd will probably be a bit bigger and it’ll be harder to get served.

Right then, what have we got to look forward to, and what’s changed since we last played Hibs? They’ve got rid of that malevolent little goblin who managed them and he’ll probably say that’s our fault as well. They’ve got the same squad as they had last week, much good it did them. Fathoming out what sort of team we’ll put out is beyond the wit of mere mortals so it’s probably not worth bothering. Normal managers would Play The Kids but this is Unai Emery. He doesn’t do normal.

They’ll be bringing a lot of supporters without tickets, apparently. Not as many as they say they will, and we’ve stopped them from sitting where they shouldn’t be. The ones who do turn up will be doing all sorts of Scottish things such as wandering round town looking for a fountain to jump into and finding something unhealthy to eat. The Greggs at New Street has taken on extra staff for the occasion.

Predicting a score is a bit difficult as well. Both teams might not take it too seriously, they might want revenge or Unai might fancy a few more goals. An easy stroll into the next stage and no injuries would be the ideal end result but this is the Villa and we don’t do easy or ideal result.

Two matches, two previews, no mention of Trainspotting.