Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Midweek Preview: 11th January 2006

Blackburn Rovers vs Manchester United (Carling Cup Semi-Final)

"Bloody Man U. When I buy them, they lose. When I don't buy them, they win." - Andy, Chelsea fan and addicted football punter

A Chelsea fan who bets regularly on Manchester United is coming up with his own version of why Manchester United loses. You can't find a better way to illustrate Man Utd's frustrating inconsistency.

Just 3 days after a potentially disastrous draw against non-league Burton Albion in the FA Cup, Man Utd are up against Blackburn Rovers, the team who shocked them at Old Trafford with a 2 - 1 Premiership win back in September, for the Carling Cup semi-final. And remember, in order for Man Utd to avoid total humiliation for this season, these are two trophies the team absolutely has to win.

I would love to say that Man Utd would be able to walk over Blackburn without much difficulty, but Blackburn has won 4 out of their last 5 home games, whereas Man Utd have won 3 and drawn 2 of their last 5 away games. Going by these statistics, and factoring in their horrible playing in the last match and their Premiership loss to Rovers, this will not be a stroll in the park. Fergie will have to field a strong squad.

Man Utd are without Park Ji-Sung, who has a knee problem, but Alan Smith has recovered from his chest infection. The gaffer might want to play him to get him back to full match fitness, which means Darren Fletcher might have to give up the central midfield place that he has done so well in for the last few Premiership matches, or Cristiano Ronaldo gets dumped back to the bench (as Fergie seems to like to do nowadays) and Fletcher gets shifted out to the right.

Blackburn, on the other hand, have Craig Bellamy in good scoring form and the ever-reliable Paul Dickov. Complicating things a little for Manchester United is the presence of the aggressive Robbie Savage and Tugay. Without a combative midfield enforcer in Roy Keane, Savage and Tugay are competent enough to boss the middle of the park, since most of Man Utd's midfielders do not have that aggressive edge and the physical strength and presence. The likelihood of Fletcher, rather than Ronaldo, making way for Smith is greater, as Fergie will be hoping that Smithy's hard tackling and hard work ethic will neutralise the twin threats - or at least be up to it.

This battle will be won or lost in the middle of the park tomorrow night. Expect lots of flying tackles, tempers flaring, a rain of yellow cards and maybe even a red. But if that happens, I'm putting my bet - and my hopes - on Savage being the one getting the red.

Stuff which I don't really understand but which Jaywalk taught me: Bookies are giving Rovers a 1/2 ball advantage, but they seem to think Man Utd can beat the handicap by giving lower decimal odds - whatever that means (all info from Jaywalk). I would say, stay far away from this game, but that's mainly because I'm not a bettor and this is my first instinct. But to be serious, Man Utd have been far too unpredictable lately. However, winning Rovers by a single goal, considering the kind of firepower the team has, is not an impossible task. In fact, on paper, it looks more than very achievable.

All I know is, the aforementioned Chelsea fan is staying away from the match. Which, according to him, means Man Utd will win.

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.


At 2:20 PM, January 11, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

I say ManUtd will win this coz...

1) The disastrous result at Burton Albion is because Fergie rested his first team, not because they played badly. In order to save up for this game, a small sacrifice is needed although a win last Saturday would have been better. Expect full fire power today as Fergie no longer see this Cup tournament as a kachiam puteh Cup.

2) Andy not betting.

At 2:31 PM, January 11, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

3) Given that this is a 2-legged semi-final and that Blackburn is capable of beating ManUtd at Old Trafford, ManUtd can no longer aim for a draw at Ewood Park thinking that they can finish off their opponent when they lure Blackburn back to their den.

The killing will have to be done swiftly and effectively. I would expect ManUtd to aim to score at least 2 away goals tonight.

At 4:01 PM, January 11, 2006, Blogger Merenwen said...

With regards to (1), they did play badly lah. Even by Reserve team standards. Well at least we know there won't be a repeat tonight.

At 5:38 PM, January 11, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

But then hor, you must understand that it was the Reserve team that played badly and is in no way a direct reflection of the First XI.

Got difference one. Dounch worry. Tonight we will hantam them jialat jialat. Like maybe 4-0 or 17-0. ahhahaah... that way, return-leg they only send in their reserve team since lost cause liao. *day dreams*


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