After an international weekend that was greatly overshadowed, it still feels strange to think that we have a game coming up tonight.
Most of us often use the international break to forget about football, mainly due to Sunderland irritating us to the point of hating it, but the events in Paris 10 days ago meant it was the furthest thing from our minds anyway.
If there’s one thing that England v France last Tuesday night reminded us of though it’s that sport, and football in particular, is the most important least important thing in the world.
Because of that importance, around 1,000 people will make an almost 600-mile round trip, on a Monday night, to see their team play.
Most people traveling will have to take time off work to and won’t get back home until the early hours of tomorrow.
All this for a team who are in the relegation zone, who haven’t won away all season and, if we’re being honest, probably won’t change that tonight.
We do this because it’s important to us though, and it’s who we are.
I have to admit, I won’t be one of the hardy souls travelling down and I’ll have to settle for Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville and their giant etch-a-sketch.
There are some reasons to be (fairly) positive though. Sam Allardyce will have learned more about his players over the past two weeks, considering that most of them haven’t gone away on international duty.
He’ll be able to bolster the side with Fabio Borini and Lee Cattermole as they look likely to return to full fitness and Duncan Watmore will be returning back to training more confident than ever after his dazzling performance for England’s Under-21s.
After the confusing team selection of the Southampton game, Allardyce has hopefully realised which players are right for the system he wants to play.
One good example would be Ola Toivonen, who didn’t seem to fit in at all last time out and I would leave him out of this game.
Who to bring in though? I’d be surprised to see Jermain Defoe handed a return away to such a solid Crystal Palace side, but he’d offer Steven Fletcher the necessary support he missed so badly against the Saints.
Defoe will dig in and work hard, if instructed to as well, as we saw towards the end of last season.
If Allardyce goes down a more conservative route, then i’d hope to see a recall for Seb Larsson, after his bizarre omission from the matchday squad last time. The Swede’s work-rate would have been invaluable against Southampton and we could require that very work-rate tonight to combat Palace’s quick passing and lightning counter-attacking.
As dull as the Southampton game was, it was close to being effective and getting us a decent result.
If Sam can make those tweaks to the side and use the correct players for the correct system, we might just be able to get something here.
If we go for Borini and Watmore out wide, we have a couple of hungry players who will work hard defensively and are capable of causing problems going forward.
A midfield of M’Vila, Cattermole and Larsson would give us a solid platform to build from as well.
There are plenty of reasons to be negative at the moment, but there’s still hope. After all, it’s too important to give up just yet.