The last round of Euro qualifiers, as well as a pair of matches in South America, take place tomorrow, leaving us in a mess of anxiety about the international break finally being over, the hope that everyone returns in full health, and Manchester United's visit on Saturday. As johnnysingapore pointed out the other day, we'll do it all again in November, but getting through each round of internationals feels like a victory.
* Charlie Adam's Scotland side kept their chance at qualification alive on Saturday with a narrow 1-0 win in Liechtenstein, leaving their meeting with Spain tomorrow and the Czech Republic's visit to Lithuania as the playoff deciders in Group I. Adam played 76 minutes and is expected to start again tomorrow; I'd guess Scotland hopes will rely as much on Lithuania as they do their own match, as any sort of result in Alicante would be surprising. Rumor has it that Victor Valdes will leapfrog Pepe Reina and get the start in goal for Spain, with a number of other changes expected for the hosts as well.
England's the only squad with Liverpool players involved that have finished their campaign, meaning we can expect to see plenty of familiar faces tomorrow. Just hopefully in small doses.
Euro 2012 Qualifiers
Macedonia v. Slovakia 6:45PM BST/1:45PM EST
Sweden v. Netherlands 7:15 BST/2:15PM EST
Bulgaria v. Wales 7:05PM BST/2:05PM EST
Spain v. Scotland 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST
World Cup 2014 Qualifier
Paraguay v. Uruguay 11:45PM BST/6:45PM BST
Mexico v. Brazil 2:30AM BST/9:30PM EST
Those last two are the most worrisome---Luis Suarez, Sebastian Coates, and Lucas won't return to Liverpool until Wednesday evening at the earliest, and in the case of Suarez it's sure to come on the heels of a decently-sized shift on Tuesday night. There's less concern about Coates, who isn't first-choice right now for club or country, but Lucas didn't feature against Costa Rica and will likely see minutes in Mexico. Tired legs and a long travel day just three days before facing United isn't exactly how we'd have drawn it up.
Anyway, ESPN3 has most of the matches, and you can check out the normal streaming sites if you're interested in following the action tomorrow.
* Pepe Reina might not see the pitch tomorrow, but he's been in the news over the past few days as excerpts of his autobiography slowly found their way out. The book's out now, and the official site has run a free chapter that talks about his reaction to the win in Istanbul and transition to life in Liverpool, and it all wraps up on a very optimistic note.
What's less pleasant (but not entirely surprising) is the revelation of how close Reina was to leaving at the end of last summer:
"I went from elation one minute to depression the next as the realisation dawned that Liverpool were going nowhere fast. When I signed my contract in April 2010 I hoped that better times were just around the corner, a feeling that was fuelled by the promises of improvement from people at the club. It didn't take me long to feel that their promises were hollow. I felt betrayed. Our owners were at war with each other, the club's debts were spiralling out of control and a change in manager had failed to dispel the feeling that we were on the road to nowhere.
"Arsenal had made their determination to sign me clear by offering £20 million, a phenomenal amount for a goalkeeper. Part of me felt that I was well within my rights to consider my future even if I did so with a heavy heart. When Liverpool received the bid, they rejected it. This was not because I had been told that I was too good a keeper to leave. The reason I was given was quite different - and it left me feeling down. I was told that my continued presence was crucial to the sale of the club. I was simply a bargaining chip in the sales process."
Given the way things stood, you could have hardly blamed him, or anyone else for that matter, for seriously considering an exit. There were still some significant casualties from the period of time; Fernando Torres' reasons were largely born out of the same situation, and I'd guess a handful of others were more than open to a move. Thankfully things changed relatively quickly, with FSG taking over and, at least according to nearly all of you, successfully changing the way the club did business.
* As we get closer to Saturday there's going to be plenty of talk about the team and who's available, with some of you already sparking the conversation over the past few days. One of the focal points is the potential return of Steven Gerrard, and the offal asked Jordan Henderson about where he sees himself fitting when the captain's back to full fitness:
"I am not really worried about that (Gerrard's return), I think it's part and parcel of football. Obviously Stevie is a massive player and is going to play in most games, but I just need to concentrate on what I need to do and make sure I work hard every day in training. Given the opportunity, I need to take it and make sure I stay in the team. Obviously the derby is a massive game and everybody wants to play in it, so I was a little bit disappointed not to start, but the team did brilliantly and got a great result and I was fortunate to come on as well. There were still a lot of positives to come out of the game and hopefully I can start the next one."
I'm probably not alone in preferring that Henderson not feature on Saturday---it seemed like the right move last Saturday to give Dirk Kuyt the nod, and I feel similarly about United's visit. The slate of internationals might change personnel a bit (and Henderson's playing tonight for England's U21s in Norway), but the best eleven right now doesn't involve him. We've also had a remarkably difficult time playing the guessing game with Kenny Dalglish's team selection, though, so it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that Henderson could be involved come Saturday.
All that's left now is a nerve-wracking day tomorrow, as we'll likely watch everyone but Pepe Reina play a full 90 regardless of where their qualification hopes lie. Hope for the best, and in the meantime, if you're not celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving or Columbus Day, you can just distract yourself by embracing all that nature has to offer: