After the needless international distractions that always seem to balls up the start of every season (and will again next month), we finally get the long awaited return of club football. It's a trip to Everton on the cards and despite their 4th place heroics last season, it has to be said they look like a bit of a softer touch so far this season. One place above us and having only scored one goal so far this season, you'd have to say this is a genuine chance to get our first point, or indeed points, on the road this season.
First of all you've got our generally shocking away record to deal with. Since that glorious promotion back in 2003 we've now got stats when on the road of Won 4, Drawn 9, Lost 24. And of course even though we've lost practically every player who was here when we first started in the Premiership, not to mention changed manager, the curse and fear of leaving Fratton Park still seems to strike our players down. Look at Man City; 1-0 up and then they realised that they were winning. Away! Cue the "rabbit in the headlights" expression, desperate defending on the edge of the six yard box until we managed to give them the 2-1 lead and then time to push up and try and play football again. Fantastic.
But just for oncee, it's not our own failings that could cause us problems at Goodison. It's more to do with the fact that Everton are possibly the jammiest team in the history of the Premiership. Case in point is our last four encounters with them; last minute goals? Check. Dubious refereeing decisions? Check. Niggly 1-0 wins against the run of play? Check. Fans sitting in complete silence until the 98th minute and then jumping around like they've won the league? Check. Deflections? Check and mate. You really couldn't forgive anyone who decided that this weekend's trip is guaranteed to be so emotionally scarring that they decide to stay at home in a box, only crawling out to check the result on teletext at the end which, if we were playing a normal team, I reckon would be:
Everton 1 (Osman, 43) Portsmouth 1 (Silva, 62)
But since it's Everton, it'll probably be:
Everton 2 (Osman, 43; O'Brien OG, 95) Portsmouth 1 (Silva, 62)
But enough of "why I don't like Everton" (and to think! I haven't even mentioned the likes of Beattie or Kilbane yet). Turning to team selection for this match and Alain has readily admitted that he's got all kinds of trouble due to the internationals. The likes of LuaLua, O'Brien Priske, Karadas and Vukic have all been away and it's been reported that a couple of them picked up knocks, so we'll have to assess how they're doing upon return. Of those who didn't go away for their country there's still no easy ride; Dario Silva has had an mixed pre-season so may only make the bench whilst Gregory Vignal got himself injured playing for the reserves and is a massive doubt. Expect Taylor to step in at left back and hopefully not make a repeat of his injury time gaff last season.
In my opinion this is a good time to play Everton. They're yet to hit top gear but even so will see us as being an easy game, or a definite three points, which is hopefully where their complacency comes in and we can nick a point or three. Whether or not we will, knowing what bastards they are, remains to be seen. And of course, a massive part depends on which of the new signings are fit and how quickly they gel together. It should be an interesting game whatever happens anyway (probably cursed it to a 0-0 draw now). I'm hoping for a 1-1 or 2-1 if Lady Luck is really smiling on us.