Double Dutch

The return with Ajax. Villa Park awaits.

And so we move to the final instalment of an important week. It hasn’t gone brilliantly so far but now’s the chance to put it at least partly right.

Last Thursday’s draw in Amsterdam wasn’t a bad result. Although it was disappointing not to get the tie sorted out there, we didn’t play that well but we didn’t lose and with the away goals rule scrapped, not scoring wasn’t as much of a problem as it once was. According to reports Ajax were as good as they can be and we’ve certainly got room for improvement.

They’ve played here before so we know what to expect. Broad Street and the Arcadian will be delighted to see loads of foreigners again and they’ll probably march down the A34 shouting, letting off flares and all sorts of assorted irritants. On the pitch they’ve still got Jordan Henderson and a load of youngsters we’ll be linked with for the next three years. We’ve got players coming back, some more will need the run-out and John McGinn’s off on holiday after this one so he’s sure to be playing. Or maybe not, because as we all know, the boss doesn’t do the expected.

This is the ultimate balancing act. If he gets it right, if we go through and then get a result on Sunday, the managerial genius of Unai Emery goes up another notch. Thinking about the alternative’s a sobering idea – the spectre of Moscow 2009 still looms large in the Villa Park psyche. So best not to be reminded of it. Instead, look forward to another memorable Villa Park occasion, sold out and under the lights, a time where magic happens and memories are made. Win this one and we can start planning another account-emptying, card-stretching, relationship-straining expedition. Being successful don’t come cheap.