Saturday, November 18, 2006

Weekend Outlook (18 Nov 2006)




Sheffield United vs Manchester United

"...With 3 points over Chelsea, a draw on 25 Nov 2006 will be a point earned for ManUtd and 2 points lost for Chelsea...."
- JayWalk, 18 Nov 2006


It is going to be a hectic schedule starting from now with ManUtd having midweek fixtures all the way until mid December. So all of a sudden, the elimination from the League Cup doesn't look so bad after all. With a cramped schedule like that, it's no wonder none of the big teams are paying too much attention to this cup that yields a paltry sum of money as tournament purse.

Personally, I favour the old Italian Serie A format of having 18 teams in the division, playing only 34 games in total.

Still, the resistance comes from the teams themselves who want to maximise gate receipts and TV monies, at the expense of slave-driving their players into damaging exhaustion.

The last match was a hard earned victory for ManUtd against bogey team, Blackburn Rovers and it was a sigh of relief to break that jinx. That, at a time when Chelsea are hot on our heels. Granted that the scoreline was a mere measly 1-0, I was however very satisfied with the Red Devils' performance as the attack came wave after wave. ManUtd's was all over Blackburn and had it not been the fine saves of Friedel and some unluckiness on the part of Rooney, we would have had a better harvest of goals. Still 1-0 or 7-0, it's the 3 points that matter the most.

We face Sheffield United today and despite them being a relatively weaker team, there are nevertheless a team not to be taken for granted. Looking at our fixture calendar, Sheffield United game is part of a "3-piece meal", with Glasgow Celtic in midweek and the big Clash Of The Titans against Chelsea at Old Trafford. This will be a roller coaster ride where the game against Sheffield United is merely the ascent to the highest point of the ride and then the free falling starts at Celtic Park against Celtic and through to Chelsea back home.

For weeks, I have been talking about fatigue and exhaustion. This time round, the element of the team's psychology will come in the play above everything else.

  • Sheffield United - Fergie has already said that he wanted a 3-point cushion coming into the Chelsea's game and working the math and it means that nothing short of a victory at Bramall Lane is expected. Given that ManUtd stumbled at FC Copenhagen during the last ECL game, a big victory here would not only boost the morale and confidence of ManUtd but hopefully it would strike a bit more fear into Celtic before the kickoff whistle is blown.

  • Glasgow Celtic - A draw here would mean qualification. Under normal circumstances, leading the group would yield an easier opponent in the next round as a result of seeding. However, this time round, things are a bit different with some of the traditionally stronger teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and AS Roma, struggling for the second spot at the moment. Finishing as group winners would most certainly draw one of these teams at the next round and so perhaps it may be a better idea to finish second?

    The trouble with aiming for second spot is that there is a risk of a cock-up and ending up on the outside. Then what?

    The way I see it, is that a club of ManUtd's stature will not need to resort to such tactics to advance. We have taken on and beaten every strong team before and we would do it again, regardless of which stage we are in.

    I see it as a better idea to win this Celtic game and finish as group winners. That way, we can even afford to ease up against Benfica on 6 Dec 2006, in order to concentrate on the Manchester derby against Manchester City.

  • Chelsea - While Chelsea have already qualified to the next round of the ECL, expect Mourihno to push for a win at midweek to seal victory at the group stage. What that means essentially is that Chelsea will have no advantage over us as far as exhaustion level is concerned.

    Part of the reason why Fergie wanted to go into this game with a 3-point lead is not because he expected us to lose, but instead to allow ManUtd to settle down better and focus more on the game rather than being distracted with obsessing with the final score. Call it buying insurance if you will. With the peace of mind, Fergie is hoping that ManUtd can play more freely and ironically as a result of that, ManUtd may have a greater chance of winning. With 3 points over Chelsea, a draw on 25 Nov 2006 will be a point earned for ManUtd and 2 points lost for Chelsea.

    With that Chelsea will be the team under greater psychological pressure and Fergie is hoping that this would cause Chelsea to self-destruct under its own stress.

    A stroke of mastery genius from Sir Alex Ferguson.
JayWalk The Talk: Gary Neville just passed a late fitness test and it would be a boost to ManUtd's defence. Park and Solksjaer are still out while Giggs is expected to return today as well.

C.Ronaldo is likely to end up on the bench (punishment?) as the young Portuguese was involved in the midweek Euro 2008 qualifier against Kazakhstan.

Man to watch is Wayne Rooney for the young lad has been so unlucky in front of goal in recent weeks that he is due for one very very soon.

Over at the Blades' end, we have Webber, Davis, Bromby, Tonge, Kabba, Akinbiyi and Armstrong out injured but I would keep an eye on Rob Hulse who is currently their top scorer as well as Shot-On-Goal leader. If the ManUtd defense can lock him down, we should be rewarded with the 6th clean sheet in 10 games.

JayWalk The Walk: Bookies odds is ManUtd to give up 1.25 balls and a decimal odds of 1.82 to beat it. In English, that means that the bookies have all conceded that it would be a ManUtd victory. The punt now revolves around if ManUtd would win this by 1 or 2 goals.

Soccernet is the only website to predict a Sheffield United victory and it looks like I am going to call their bluff on this one. Not only would I punt on ManUtd today, I am probably going after a Arsenal-ManUtd-Portsmouth triple parlay with an odds of 6.66.

Wish me luck!

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.

2 Comments:

At 3:55 AM, November 19, 2006, Blogger Merenwen said...

Well we won 2-1, that's a good enough result for me. Hard fought, but well won. It's great to see Rooney scoring freely!

 
At 9:50 AM, November 19, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

As usual, we have to leak a stupid goal only to have to struggle to fight back from a deficit.

Haiz....

Would have prefered it to be 2-0. More of a psychological edge over Celtic when we meet, given that the later will be coming into mid week on the back of a 3-0 mauling of Inverness.

 

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