Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weekend Outlook (12 Mar 2006)

Manchester United vs Newcastle United

"... Baby-face Assasin's season and career is more or less over already."
- JayWalk, 12 Mar 2006

ManUtd were very lucky last week as they held on to the 3-points by the skins of their teeth. It was one of those footballing quirks that one team lost despite scoring more goals. Go figure.

I tipped my hat to Wigan for putting up a fine display against ManUtd eventhough they have nothing to play for, as far as the rest of this season is concerned. My respect to them for playing their hearts out and not succumbed to the temptation of an early vacation.

To the slighly more observant readers, you would have noticed that I have been harping on Liverpool's case for quite some time now, even though there isn't another Liverpool-ManUtd fixture as far as this season goes. Why keep talking about them?

For starters, I just want to continue with the follow-up of my theory about how ManUtd has not only broken Liverpool's winning streak but also started the Scousers' downward spiral.

And also the obviously fact that Liverpool is the only other contender for the Runner-Up spot which grants the auto-qualification to the ECL proper. Given that playing an additional ECL qualifier may mean extra money in term of gate receipts (more so when ManUtd's capacity has recently gone up to 76,000), there is still the risk of failing at the first hurdle. A mere potential of GBP 3 million is not worth the risk of not getting into the ECL.

Liverpool will be traveling to Highbury today. A sharp contrast between the sides during midweek. Liverpool failed in their defence of the ECL while Arsenal triumphantly ended the era of the Galaticos. The Reds has won only 5 away games in their last 13 and scored only 5 goals in their last 10 games. Arsenal on the other hand has scored 12 in their last 10 games, which means a single cock-up by the Liverpool goalie is enough for them to return empty-handed. I predict a Liverpool defeat for their strikers are firing blanks. Arsenal probably need just a single goal to claim all 3 points.

The point I am making here is that with Liverpool expected to drop points today again, it should leave them with with 55 points and only 8 games to go. Doing the math and you will find Liverpool, with a potential maximum possible of 82 points, means ManUtd is only 25 points away. That roughly translate to about 8 wins and 2 draws in ManUtd's final 10 games to secure 2nd spot. For every subsequent match that Liverpool drop points (assuming ManUtd held steady), the final destination will be sooner.

Truth to be told, I was rooting for Liverpool to beat Benfica during midweek in the hope that they will prolong their distraction away from the EPL. Well, the consolation with their exit, is that they still have the FA Cup to obsess with. With Chelsea still in the running for the Double, Liverpool chances of winning is close to zilch. Still, like a moth to an open flame, Liverpool should still be committing resources towards this cup tournament, at the expense of focusing on the EPL race.

For those punting the Arsenal-Liverpool match. Go for Goal-Under (less than 2.5 goals) for Liverpool has been Goal-Under in 9 of their last 10 games.

JayWalk The Talk: Ironically with the match against Newcastle, I am only talking about them so late into this article. No disrespect to a worthy opponent but the outcome of Liverpool game today against another team, is a bigger concern for us.

Now, talking about Newcastle who is currently the form team of the moment as they are unbeaten in their last 5 games (4 wins out of 5). Still, the Geordies find themselve languishing at the bottom half of the table which only shows that Newcastle is not really that big of a threat. ManUtd's form has been erratic but somehow still managed to scrape in the points when it is needed. Looking at both teams closely and you will find them somewhat similar. Both are strong in attack with the evergreen Shearer leading the Toon scorers while we have van Nistelrooy, Saha and Rooney on the ManUtd side. In midfield, both sides are also short-handed due to injuries with Kieron Dyer limping off on 23 Feb. Defence-wise, Newcastle has a bigger problem with Carr, Bramble and Taylor all on the injured list.

ManUtd's injury list looked to be clearing up for the joy is only short-lived. Solksjaer brief return to the pitch is marred by yet another injury. I think Baby-face Assasin's season and career is more or less over already. I doubt if ManUtd will renew his contract during the next round of negotiations. Fortune is less fortunate (no pun intended) with the African defence-midfielder playing only 2 reserve games before getting carried off the pitch again. End of season for the poor lad, if you ask me.

JayWalk The Walk: Head-to-head, ManUtd won all 4 recent encounters, each scoring 2 goals or more. With Owen still out of action, it should be Shearer partnering Ameobi up front. However, the irony is that the older striker seems to be the one able to complete the full 90 minutes of the game. Expect Lugue to come on as a substitute for Ameobi some time during the game. Doesn't spell a lot of confidence for the Toon attack, does it?

Bookie Odds is ManUtd giving up 1 ball, although I felt that a 3/4-ball handicap would have been fairer. Still decimal odds point to 1.90 for ManUtd to beat the odds and that tells me that it should be a victory for the home side and at least a 2-goal margin no less.

Worst case scenario should still be a win for ManUtd but by a single-goal margin. In that case, punting on ManUtd would still get your money back and so I think ManUtd is the way to go today.

Besides, ManUtd would want to extend their lead away from Liverpool today and further bury Liverpool's coffin by consolidating the game-in-hand on 29 Mar against West Ham at Old Trafford.

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 10:43 PM, March 12, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Commenting during halftime, with Man Utd already 2-0 up. :P

For me, 2nd place is important because it is World Cup year. The players need all the rest they can get and skipping the Champions League qualifiers may pay dividends in the 2nd half of next season.

At 9:54 AM, March 13, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

You have a valid point there. I didn't think that far ahead.

Btw, which team you rooting for the World Cup?

At 10:22 AM, March 13, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:37 PM, March 13, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Occupational hazard. :P

I actually don't feel much affinity for international football. Because the game has become very global; A lot of the big teams tend to play very similar styles, as opposed to say 20 years ago.

One tends to see more distinct styles in club football now than in international football, simply because the players practise and play together for a much longer time.

For the coming World Cup, I would like to see first-time winners. So maybe a Holland or Spain would be nice to see. I like to see how a nation goes crazy with celebrations when their team wins it for the first time, like France in 1998.

I rather enjoyed the last World Cup because a lot of the unfancied teams made it to the latter stages.

(Something went wrong with my previous comment.)

At 10:03 PM, March 13, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

I didn't like the previous World Cup in Korea.

The referee kelong until damn bladdy obvious. Korea making it to the semi-finals is due to crooked referees in the matches against Spain and Italy.

I prefered the earlier one in France.


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