Once again we go into the final day of the Premier League season with Arsenal and Tottenham fighting it out for the final Champions League spot. On that occasion it was third-place; with automatic qualification necessary with the spectre of Chelsea’s Champions League final with Bayern Munich a week later looming over the team who finished in fourth.
In the end that proved to be Spurs and when Didier Drogba smashed home the winning penalty for The Blues in Munich they nullified the fourth league spot for Champions League qualifying; Arsenal and Chelsea would go at Tottenham’s expense.
This season no such spectre exists as an all-German final occurs next Saturday but instead both North London rivals must fight it out for the final qualifying spot. Such occasions always leave the stereotypical superstitious football fan looking for positive omens; so here is one for Arsenal.
When Chelsea went into penalties with Bayern last year there was one man who was as nervous as anyone despite having no affiliation to either club; Hungarian goalkeeper Marton Fulop.
“I watched the Champions League final praying Bayern Munich would win because I wanted Tottenham to qualify. Obviously, I was upset it didn't happen.”
Because the self-proclaimed Spurs fan was also a former player for the club; and it was his performance that played a large part in them failing to make the Champions League.
When Ben Foster pulled up lame in the warm-up last year Fulop was called into action; his first game in eight months and it was an unmitigated disaster as a series of mistakes saw Arsenal run out 3-2 winners at The Hawthorns.
Today Arsenal again find themselves up against a goalkeeper out of nick. Veteran Newcastle United stopper Steve Harper will play today as Tim Krul is injured and Rob Eliot suspended after picking up a red card at QPR last week.
Harper has not started a game since the 1-0 win against FC Club Bruges in the Europa League Group Stage back in October 2012. Fulop admitted that a lack of first-team action had him struggling from the get-go against Arsenal this time last year and Arsenal will hope Harper suffers in the same way; while Spurs will hope he can brush off the cobwebs with ease.
The differences between Fulop and Harper are however evident. Harper has had a week to prepare for this game not the 20 minutes Fulop likely had last year.
It is also Harper’s last ever game for Newcastle United as the 38-year-old will leave at the end of the season after two decades at St James Park.
He will hope his last contribution is not to aid Arsenal in their Champions League quest.
Wondering what Marton Fulop is up to these days…read it here.
image: © mr-football