Saturday, April 07, 2007

Weekend Outlook (07 Apr 2007)

Portsmouth vs Manchester United

"...AS Roma should have nailed the coffin on us when they had the chance last midweek but they didn't. Big mistake...."
- JayWalk, 07 Apr 2007

AS Roma should have nailed the coffin on us when they had the chance last midweek but they didn't. Big mistake. In fact, nerves were started to frayed in the final 20 minutes as if a 2-1 scoreline was enough to see them through to the semi-finals.

Well, they certainly picked the wrong team to experiment and we are certainly going to pay them back with interest.

I foresaw us not getting much, from the 1st leg, on account of our dismal away record against the Italians. The good news is that AS Roma's away record against the English isn't that fantastic either. They should have gone the way of Liverpool or Osasuna and pump in as many goals as they had the chance against a weakened team, thereby killing any thoughts of a comeback in the reverse leg. Teams like PSV Einhoven and Bayer Leverkusen, at the receiving end of the drubbing, would have all but given up hope in the second round and start to focus on domestic fixtures, rather than further committing any more resources to a seemingly futile cause. Hence, allowing their victors a cozy cruise in the 2nd leg, through to the next round.

While we were beaten, it was not to death. For what would resurrects from the ashes, like a flaming phoenix, shall be stronger and better. A critical mistake on the part of the Romans, perhaps.

Looking at the stats, it appeared to be a slaughter and us at the unfamiliar territory, also known as the receiving end. It must be noted that Scholes was red-carded as early as the 36th minute and we played more than half of the entire game holding AS Roma at bay and escaped with a lucky away goal.

I have to admit that it came to me as a suprise to see Scholes given the marching orders. Surely, as a veteran, he should know better than to get baited into getting red carded? Or perhaps the referee favoured the home side?

I am not saying that the referee was corrupt but it is known that the home side do have some kind of influence on the officials. Even when the referee has no direct contact with the home fans but there is something electric in the atmosphere, generated from 75,000 fans that has the ability to sway a referee's sentiment.

So looking forward, the 2nd leg looks good for us, despite a big injury list. With our ample squad depth and returning to 11 players in the new match, we can beat them as evident how we were able to hold them with just 10 men. We have the home ground advantage this time and we also have the away goal advantage.

If AS Roma is hoping to qualify via frustrating us with a draw by playing all defensive, they will have another thing going for them as we know that the more defensive a team plays against ManUtd, the easier to take apart by the Red Devils.

It will be poetic justice if we qualify to the next round with a triumphant reversal, for it shall be the impertinent Totti's just desserts to be made to learn the name of Sir Alex Ferguson properly.

I shall leave the rest to Gary for his midweek preview but I predict a 2-0 victory over the Italians.

JayWalk The Talk: We lost Vidic as a result of a dislocated shoulder, but we welcome the return of Saha and Fletcher, who would probably be featured today to gain more match fitness ahead of ECL return leg. Evra is doubtful while Scholes, who will be missing midweek's ECL return leg, will be back in midfield partnering Carrick. With the exception of Scholes, Fergie looks pretty set in retaining the same line-up from the previous AS Roma game today, as a technical rehearsal against AS Roma, this coming Tuesday. Elsewhere in the sick bay, we will have Park, Neville and Silvestre keeping the physios busy.

As for the bench, expect to see Smith and Solksjaer there as standby fire power.

On the Pompey side, Redknapp is having a headache but the positive kind. He will be having a hard time picking a partner for Kanu (either that or just letting him operate up front as the lone ranger). At hand, he has Benjani, Lua Lua and Todorov to choose for that one vacancy. Health-wise, it is all smiles for the home side as Mendes is the sick bay's sole resident presently.

JayWalk The Walk: The stats are stacked against the home side today as Portsmouth has only 1 win in their last 11 match. Just when we were singing praises about Portsmouth at the start of the season and how Tony Adams has done well as their defensive coach, everything right now seems to be falling apart.

Attack-wise also don't look too rosy either, as they managed only 4 goals in their last 10 EPL games.

So on paper, I don't see how ManUtd will lose this game but given that Fratton Park is not an easy place for ManUtd in particular, it is about right that bookies give ManUtd a decimal odds of 1.85 to beat the 0.75 ball handicap.

My punt is on ManUtd today as I feel that if Chelsea are hoping to close the gap between them, they will have to do it some other week. ManUtd is going to win this one to give me the capital to bet Tuesday's game.

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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