Eyjafjallajokull. Yes this is what comes out when I drink too much coffee and then absentmindedly drum my fingers on the keyboard without looking. But it’s also the name of the Icelandic volcano that has been spewing ash into the air causing flight bans in Europe and disrupting travel all over the world. Thousands of people have been stranded. Airlines are in crisis, forced feed and house grounded travellers while flights are backlogged. Families wait for wayward loved ones to come home. Businesses adjust to gaps left by employees in absentia. Actually, the two gentlemen who own the restaurant where I work are stranded in Amsterdam. (Yes, there are worse places to be stranded, but my other bosses have been working double hours to keep the place on track. They need sleep.) It’s crazy how one little Eyjafjallajokull can affect so many. But today all I can think of is the toll it has taken on my beloved Liverpool FC. I’m selfish like that.
On top of being without Fernando Torres (who longed to face his old club in their home ground), the Reds also have had to travel most of the journey to Madrid by coach and train to face a much fresher Atletico side. You can imagine it: you from bus to train, train to bus. The stress of keeping your schedule. The cramped spaces. Ryan Babel trying to force his headphones around your ears for the 200th time in 24 hours with another obscure Dutch hip-hop track that you’ve just got to hear.
And even if Liverpool can cope with the journey and the break in their routine, Madrid remain the most formidable opponent they’ve faced since ducking out of the Champions League. Even if we had been able to pop down there by plane with a more standard on-the-road-in-Europe routine, I’d have my reservations about this match. Thankfully, this is the first of two legs, so what I’m really hoping for here is a draw with at least one away goal. Of course I tend to give myself over to unsubstantiated optimism at times like these, but after beating West Ham 3-0 without Torres, I feel like we can score at least one on the road, no matter how coach-lagged we may be, and keep their chances relatively low. Then we’ll win it at Anfield.
So here goes: two-two. We score early. Dirk Kuyt knocks home a rebound off Stevie’s blocked shot. Forlan equalizes before half time. Then Reyes scores one in the middle of the second half. Yossi tricks his way into the box to slot home the final goal just before stoppage time starts. All this sparks a chain of events leading to the next owners shelling out the cash for Kun Aguero in the summer, who will score Madrid’s only goal in the 3-1 at Anfield. Torres has the fittest season of his career next season and the two strikers combine for 76 league goals, winning every…
Okay. I’m getting carried away.
Let’s just start with Dirk Kuyt’s opening goal and go from there.