Saturday, March 31, 2007

Weekend Outlook (31 Mar 2007)

Manchester United vs Blackburn Rovers

"...More often than not, players come back injured. All the national squad managers have to do is to ship them back and all the problems are washed off their hands...."
- JayWalk, 31 Mar 2007

I can understand why club managers are always at odds with the FA over international duty. More often than not, players come back injured. All the national squad managers have to do is to ship them back after the game and all the problems are washed off their hands.

Before I go on further with this topic, let's review ManUtd last game, a fortnight ago. It was a game nobody wanted due to the already hectic fixture schedule but nevertheless a tactical necessity as ManUtd were pretty strapped in the manpower department and needed two steps to climb, instead of one, to reach the next level of the FA Cup tournament.

Looking at the stats, Boro had no chance against us as our shots-on-goal was a one-sided 11 to 3. However, Lady Luck was playing hard to get with us but finally relented at the 76th minute, with a merciful penalty conversion, courtesy of C.Ronaldo to put us through. As usual, C.Ronaldo was the man who fell in the box to earn the penalty. Dive? Not this time as it was clearly a mistake on the part of Jonathan Woodgate. Problem is that with C.Ronaldo's integrity in question all the time, he no longer enjoys the benefit of the doubt these days anymore.

Anyway, as we continue to be in the good books of Lady Luck, we were awarded an easy semi-final encounter against Watford at Villa Park. What I am about to say next may sound a little cocky but history has shown that ManUtd has never lost a FA Cup semi-final (under Sir Alex Ferguson) and as such, it doesn't really matter who we meet. We will win. Regardless. The only up side to this is that we would have an relatively easier fixture surrounding the 14-15 Apr 2007 date.

Prior to the semi-final game, ManUtd will be hosting the return leg of the ECL Quarter-Final against AS Roma. Certainly, a relatively weaker opponent to follow that weekend is most welcomed. Thereafter, we have 2 home games against Sheffield United and Middlesbrough.

On the Chelsea side, they would have returned from Valencia in midweek to take on a better rested Blackburn Rovers. Thereafter, 2 away games against relegation fight-or-die West Ham and a stubborn Newcastle.

From the looks of it, this looks like a good window of opportunity for Chelsea to drop points. Who knows? The title may just be decided there and then, thus rendering the Chelsea-ManUtd clash on 09 May 2007 inconsequential.

Well, coming back from the club-vs-nation debate. Club managers are split in this as the lesser teams with no players on international duty would have relish this period for a desperately needed rest. This weekend is sure to favour the lesser (thus fresher) clubs as the big boys would have most, in not all of the players out playing in the Euro2008 qualifiers earlier in the week.

JayWalk The Talk: The squad is already in tatters prior to entering the international fixture week and we were further decimated with more of injuries streaming in. With the players no longer with the national squad, each country's FA all act blur with regards to the injuries occurred during their charge. Out of sight. Out of mind.

Scholes is set to return after completing his 3-game suspension and would certainly lead the charge today towards the league title. Solksjaer is available while van der Sar is back in between the sticks and perhaps we will start to see a return of clean sheets? Bad news is that Neville, Saha, Silvestre and Fletcher are out. C.Ronaldo is also doubtful.

Fortunately, Blackburn aren't doing too fantastic either as Bentley, Todd, Savage, Ooijer and Reid are all out while Mokoena and Nelsen are both set to return after missing the last game.

A few milestones are waiting to be set in today's game. Rio Ferdinand should be starting his 450th career start that spanned from West Ham to Bournemouth to Leeds to ManUtd. O'Shea is looking to chalk up his 250th start for an English club while Neville has to wait 3 weeks before collecting his 350th start with ManUtd. In the mean time, Vidic will be given the call-up to the squad and thus picking up his 50th ManUtd game.

JayWalk The Walk: Again, ManUtd is giving a 1-1/4 ball handicap with a decimal odds of 2.000 to clear it. If we win this, it would be our 4th double over Blackburn Rovers in EPL history. Blackburn is 5-0-5 in recent EPL games and it seems that they fared rather poorly against stronger teams and have a knack of conceding goals. I think even with a depleted ManUtd squad, we should still see them knock at least a couple of goals past Friedel. Smith to finally get onto the score sheet?

Anyway, as long as ManUtd can lock down Benni McCarthy, I would think winning this handicap would be easy peasy.

4 more wins to go.

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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