Saturday, September 23, 2006

Weekend Outlook (23 Sep 2006)

Reading vs Manchester United

"...Just because we lost unexpectedly last week against Arsenal doesn't mean that we would automatically bounce back with a comfortable victory...."
- JayWalk, 23 Sep 2006

We had the chance to eliminate one of the title challengers early in the season but we didn't take it. It was a terrible game as we were not only outplayed but outplayed by a injury-strickened skeletal outfit of Arsenal.

Absolutely shameful.

Full credits go to a worthy opponent for Wenger managed a well deserved 3-points under such constrains.

As a result of the loss, we have a surprise new league leader, Portsmouth, who have yet to concede a goal under the teaching of defensive coach, ex-Gunner Tony Adams. Like I said, for the past few seasons, Harry Redknapp guy is one helluva manager. However, I have reasons to believe that Portsmouth's perch at the top is just the usual early-season pretenders having their day in the limelight. We have had the same situation with Charlton over the past few seasons and see where they end at the end of 38 games? These teams usually start sliding towards the middle of the table nearing to Christmas when they run out of stamina. This is when the big boys show their mettle and surge ahead leaving the mid-tablers behind. Good news is that pretenders almost never get relegated and as such, we can safely say that Portsmouth will be around for another season in the EPL.

Speaking of pretenders, we have our opponents today, Reading, who are currently sitting in 6th place. However, do not be fooled by the good showing for their opening 5 games have been against relatively weak teams. Well, the wheels of karma are here befalling on them for they will be meeting ManUtd, West Ham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Portsmouth and Liverpool in that order. The next 6 games will be the real test for Steve Coppell's team. I expect them to disappear into the bottom half after these 6 maulings.

Still as easy an opponent, I make Reading out to be, do not be fooled into false confidence that a ManUtd victory today is a given. Just because we lost unexpectedly last week against Arsenal doesn't mean that we would automatically bounce back with a comfortable victory. First of all, there is the momentum which is obviously missing and second of all, we have an away game to Benfica in midweek.

Benfica, the team that buried us alive in the ECL last season. Expect Fergie not to let the humiliating memory go away that easily. Given the Fergie has won multiples of everything except the ECL, I won't be surprised if the second ECL title be Fergie's final holy grail. Knowing Fergie for all these years, I am sure he would not be taking the upcoming Benfica match likely. As a result, performance away at Reading today may be slightly affected.

JayWalk The Talk: Fergie may be doing 2 things today. Resting of key players ahead and getting the newly recovereds up to match-fitness quickly. I would expect Rooney and Scholes to start for both are really out of sorts as a result of the 3-match suspension. Good news is that Heinze, Vidic and Smith are back. Smith should be the 3rd striker, resting Solksjaer ahead of midweek. I think today's attack line-up would be a Rooney-Saha partnership, of which the latter is still very rusty in front of goal. Vidic and Heinze are too early to be hitting the pitch but as a result of Silvestre limping off last week, Heinze may have no choice but to be thrown into the fray right away. However, I think Evra would be the better candidate to start as Silvestre's replacement with Heinze on the bench.

Giggs and Park are still out and I am worried as Carrick is starting to make me think that we just spent 18.6 million Sterling on a dud. I think Fergie would continue to use O'Shea and Scholes in the middle but I am uncomfortable with O'Shea playing so far up front for after all, he is fundamentally a defender and a good defender at that. I think Fergie is trying to convert him to a defensive midfielder just like he did with Phil Neville in the past.

I hope C.Ronaldo will shine today and perhaps he would be the messiah to bring the 3 points back to Old Trafford.

JayWalk The Walk: Today would be the return of the prodigal son, Steve Coppell who was the Red Devils' superstar in the 70s and 80s. I would expect a good fight from Reading despite the fact that there are debutants in the EPL. One thing we learned from all these seasons is that once we get over confident, we will be quickly, harshly and swiftly brought crashing down to earth. For the sake of the 3 points, I appeal to all the superstars to leave their egos off the pitch and work hard for the victory regardless if the team is relatively strong or week.

ManUtd, as usual, has to give up a 1-ball handicap despite being the away team and a 2.05 decimal odds to overcome it. I have a feeling the coming Benfica match is going to affect the result here today. Reading may just be lucky to sneak a draw here.

Verdict? Stay away. Arsenal, Aston Villa and Liverpool look like better bets today.

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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