Saturday, December 24, 2005

Weekend Outlook (26 Dec 2005)

Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion

"If there is a time to dig in and bite the bullet, this is the time."
- JayWalk, 24 Dec 2005

This fixture shall mark the halfway point of the season with a flurry of 4 games in 8 days. This is the crucial point in the season that filters out the great teams from the pretenders. If you see unlikely teams like Wigan, Spurs and West Ham leading the charged in the first half, this would be the time they begin their descend down the league standings. This is about the time where fitness more than skills come into play. This is about the time where the backroom's management of the players' fatique level is critical. I remembered one season where Sunderland was so short of players towards the end of the season that they had field a kid into the Starting XI just to make up the numbers. The poor kid must have pissed his pants.

Anyway, coming back to the games ahead, it seemed like fans have already forgotten about the Benfica and Everton disasters and have started to look ahead. Some even claimed that ManUtd's season has just begun. Based on that, would we be too late to start the season after letting Chelsea have a 9-point headstart?

ManUtd seemed to be in a precarious position with every game hereon being the last game for us as far as title chasing in concerned. It seems that one more cock-up will do us in as Chelsea don't seemed to show any signs of letting up soon. Even their Christmas/New Year's fixtures look like a breeze with oppositions of the likes of Fulham, ManCity, West Ham and Birmingham. Therefore a perfect score of 12-points from these 4 games looked very likely, given their depth of squad.

ManUtd will have a harder time, although the first 2 games against West Brom and Birmingham will be easy. The 3rd game will be away at Bolton will be tricky and the big clasher will be against Arsenal at Highbury. Even if ManUtd survived all 4 games, the following 3 games will be even tougher as fatigue would start to rear its ugly head by then. The Carling Cup semi-finals away at Blackburn will be the week after the holiday fixtures, followed by the Manchester derby away at City. Liverpool follows the week after.

If there is a time to dig in and bite the bullet, this is the time.

Jaywalk The Talk: ManUtd has a relatively healthy squad with Solksjaer due to make an appearance anytime now. Don't be surprise if Fergie names the evergreen Norwegian to the subs' bench against West Brom. More good news in the attack department as Saha and van Nistelrooy are back in scoring form together with Rooney. Even Park broke his duck during midweek. Things are looking good with 7 goals in the last 3 games. This compared to a woeful West Brom netting only 2 in just as many games.

Fortune and Heinze are the only long term injuries but not much loss to Fergie given that he would still lose Fortune to the Africa Nations Cup tournament, had the midfielder been fit anyway.

West Brom also have a clean sheet of health in the squad list and so we have to worry about the silky moves of Kanu. Other than that, nothing too difficult getting the goals past Chris Kirkland.

JayWalk The Walk: ManUtd to give 1-3/4 ball handicap??! Mai sng liao lah... nah beh.... 1-3/4 how to play?? Win 2-0 also win half stake only. Si beh waste time. The strategy for ManUtd to survive up to February is pacing the stamina properly. There are 2 ways that ManUtd can approach this game. Grab a 2-goal cushion early and start replacing the strikers with defenders to lock down until final whistle in order to conserve strength. Alternatively, they can use this game to whack in as many goals in order to boost their goal difference, which may be crucial at the end of the season. The good thing about having a big lead over your rivals is that you crush them mentally as they are completely demoralised, don't have to worry about them making a comeback and level the game to steal a point. However, with a big loss come reckless and dangerous play. Yellow and even Red cards may be flashed, if emotions get out of control. The price to pay is perhaps uneccessary injuries inflicted on our players. Just at a time when we need every single pair of legs to stay fresh and injury-free.

I may have said to forget about punting ManUtd until after the Arsenal game, problem is that itchy hands/backside may lead me astray. However, given that the odds for this game sucks, I shall stay the original course of strategy...

...until the next game at the very least.

Disclaimer: The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.


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