The French way

Lille are on their way to Villa Park.

Thursday night sees Villa take the next step in our march towards European, if not world, domination. It’s our first European quarter final in 26 years, which is an embarrassing enough statistic, and it’s the sort of occasion we should be looking to have as a matter of routine rather than a special event.

Lille are the sort of club you never really notice then when you do, you see they’re more successful than you realised. They won the French league three years ago and they’re regularly in Europe. Their manager is one of about seven Portugese internationals who Wolves haven’t ever signed. They’ve got a good forward we’ll have to injure watch carefully and I daresay they’ll have a lot of very noisy supporters here. Up Town will be full of them making a lot of fuss and being annoying in that unique French exchange student way. They might have one of those big European marches down to the ground, and at that time of night it’ll probably be quicker than getting the bus.

We’ve got the usual number of injuries, absences and assorted missing in actions although at least Douglas Luiz is available before his holiday. The rest of the team will show where Unai’s priorities now lie. The match has been sold out for ages although I don’t doubt that a load of tickets will mysteriously go on sale sometime on Thursday afternoon and the attendance will be a state secret for a week. If anyone has any idea why, I’d love to know.

First legs at home are always a problem because you don’t know what a good result might be but we’ve definitely got the players for it. We’ve also got the supporters as well – that last quarter-final against Atletico Madrid is still remembered for the atmosphere as well as for Stan Collymore giving the greatest “if only” of his career. Another big performance on and off the pitch will be one more of those steps.