Saturday, March 25, 2006

Weekend Preview: 26th March 2006

Manchester United vs Birmingham

"Every season there will be one team that doesn't deserve to go down, but it does. This season, it's Birmingham." - Sheena, 25th March 2006

What a gloomy prediction for Brum even before the match begins. But no matter how much I like Steve Bruce, the fact is, gloom for Birmingham means joy for Man Utd tomorrow night, 11 pm Singapore time.

After a doesn't-sound-good-but-was-more-than-convincing 2 - 1 win against another old boy's - Bryan Robson - team in midweek, we are up against another old boy. The difference between them is that each time West Brom are up in the Premiership, we almost expect them to go straight back down again. Whereas Birmingham, though never European material, were at least always steady non-relegation material. Whatever happened to it?

As for Man Utd, Sir Alex probably took a gamble dropping our proven goal-poacher Ruud van Nistelrooy, with a return of 148 goals in about 200+ games - a phenomenal record - and replacing him with Louis Saha. Sure, Saha was in hot form during the Carling Cup fixtures against lower-division teams, but has he ever really been tested at Premiership level before getting injured? Happily, the gamble has paid off, and Saha now has 10 goals in 9 starts.

I suspect Sir Alex will continue fielding Saha and Rooney until Saha has a dip in form. Though that is the sensible decision, especially given Man Utd's profligacy in front of goal in the last few matches, I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted van Nistelrooy back in the team. Hopefully sitting out a few matches will make him sharper and fresher, so that when he gets back, he'll be really hungry for goals. And that can only be good for the team.

A win for Brum tonight would put them on par with West Brom, but both teams would still be stuck in the bottom three. However, that seems a highly unlikely scenario. Man Utd have won their last 5 domestic matches, while Brum have lost 4 and won only 1 - against Sunderland. And to be brutally honest, it isn't hard to win against Sunderland. But it is hard to win against a resurgent Man Utd, with a red-hot Louis Saha and Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in free-flowing form.

Having just been thrashed 0 - 7 by Liverpool in the FA Cup, morale in the Birmingham team will be at an all-time low, and no matter how much their manager and fans try to fire them up and get them to respond to it, you can tell from the way they play that they're a team already resigned to their fate. Manchester United, on the other hand, will be eager to pounce on that slip-up by Chelsea against Fulham and cut their lead to 9 points. Even if Chelsea wins the championship again this season, at least the second automatic qualifying Champions League spot is secured.

From the way I see it, Man Utd have more to play for, and they are on a roll. This game is a foregone conclusion. The only question is, how many goals can Man Utd win by. 2? 3? 4? Take your pick.

Player to watch (Man Utd):
Louis Saha, duh. 'Nuff said.

Player to watch (Birmingham): They have some good players in their ranks - Maik Taylor, Matthew Upson, Chris Sutton are just some of them. But the player to watch is Nicky Butt, on loan from Newcastle, if he plays. Butt has always been admired by the Old Trafford faithful for his tireless, combative style, and it will be good to see him on the Old Trafford pitch again.

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 8:50 AM, March 26, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Liverpool has found some form. Need to keep up by taking full advantage of the three games in hand.


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