Saturday, March 10, 2007

Weekend Outlook (10 Mar 2007)

Middlesbrough vs Manchester United

"...surely the Boro fans would remember bitterly his (C.Ronaldo) cheating dive ..."
- JayWalk, 10 Mar 2007

We have had a string of bad performances of late and have been lucky enough to escape with a win each time. This is akin to playing Russian Roulette with the same gun repeatedly and the probability of that fatal bullet getting loaded into the chamber, gets increasingly bigger and bigger with each turn of the cylinder.

Mourihno was right at lamenting the luck that we have been enjoying so far. Many would have cast him away as being a sore loser but I beg to differ. I can see exactly what he was talking about and I cannot help but agree with him.

Our fortunes really skyrocketed at the turn of the year with a string of impressive results and the return of many players both back from injuries and also from loan spells at other clubs. That's not forgetting the signing of Henrik Larsson as well to boost our fire power department.

Looking at the last game against Lille, it seems like the Law of Averages is fast catching up upon us as we start to see Lady Luck starting to wane. Congrats however, is still in order for ManUtd as they took yet another step closer towards the ECL Final. The quarter-finals draw against AS Roma was yet another lucky break for us.

With every luck break we get hereon now, I get a little more worried. We keep pushing our luck time and again and we know that this is going to blow up in our face eventually but yet we keep pushing and pushing at the same spot.

Again, back to the game against Lille, we played a defensive game and as I have said earlier that as long as we keep a clean sheet, we would qualify to the next round. Clean sheet we got and a bonus goal to boot. However, I would applaud our worthy opponents for going down valiantly with an astounding 18 shots attempted versus our 9. Perhaps the lack of finishing finesse were their downfall as of these 18 shots, only 4 were on goal compared to our 3 shots-on-goal in 9 attempts.

Still, it was unfamiliar territory for us to have the numbers in the opposite direction. Again, a favourable result in the light of a dismal performance is sheer luck. How many of these Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cards do we have left? Surely, we are going to run out at some point in time. Yes? No?

JayWalk The Talk: Looking forward, we have a tricky encounter against Middlesbrough. Granted that many would have scoffed at the mid-table outfit, one must not take them lightly as Boro has somehow earned the accolade of being one of ManUtd's bogey teams. To top that, Boro has never lost at home in an FA Cup game in more than 9 years. The last was a defeat at the hands of Arsenal back in January 1998. However, as gloomy as that may sound, we can take comfort in the fact that we did beat them recently on their own home soil this season in the EPL but only with a full squad at our disposal.

Like the recent stock market, our Health Index took a nose-dive overnight. As at now, we lost Fletcher, Silvestre, Saha and Solksjaer while Scholes is also out with a 3-match suspension.

Looks like Larsson may be called in for one last time before his return to Helsingborg and perhaps it is time for Alan Smith to repay all the investments that we have put into this lad, these past few years. It is also heard that Dong FangZhuo has been called up today but I think the bench is as far as he would go. If things goes well and we are comfortably ahead, I think Fergie may just let the Chinese debutant have a run around on the pitch. Good luck Dong!

All eyes will be on the Rooney-Ronaldo-Carrick-Giggs formation in the midfield and we will have Heinze covering for Silvestre at the back, on the left. Let's hope everyone finish the game without injuries.

On the home side, no worries on the injury front as both Arca and Cattermole have been declared fit for selection today. Watch out for the Viduka-Yakubu partnership as this combination has proved to be very successful in the FA Cup tournament earning them 9 out of Boro's 12 cup goals.

Player to watch out is Ronaldo as surely the Boro fans would remember bitterly his cheating dive (thus earning a penalty) in our 2-1 win over them back in Dec 2006. Expect lotsa heckling from the home fans.

JayWalk The Walk: Odds today is ManUtd to give 3/4 ball handicap and a decimal odds of 2.025 to beat it. Looks like the bookies are not expect ManUtd to win this game.

On one hand, we have a Boro team floating aimlessly in midtable, lacking ambition to even want to try for a Euro spot. On the other hand, we have a Boro team that seem to perform very well in Cup competitions and who knows a victory at Wembley earns them the ticket to Europe.

As for ManUtd, it is a jack-in-the-box situation with many turns on the handle already. Would today be the game the clown pops out of the box?

It has been a very hectic couple of weeks and ManUtd barely made it through albeit with good results. I think ManUtd will be going all out for this game knowing that they have a full week's rest ahead. Still, I think ManUtd would be good enough to secure a draw, then lead Boro back to Old Trafford for the kill in the replay.

I would go for a Boro punt today but to bet against my own team? Moral dilemma there. No?

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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