Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weekend Outlook (28 Apr 2007)

Everton vs Manchester United

"...the next goal shall make him (Scholes) the outright highest scoring player in ManUtd's EPL history...."
- JayWalk, 28 Apr 2007

Just when we thought we all hong kan-ed with that 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough, Chelsea throw the lifeline back to us with a draw on their own. LadyLuck was definitely wearing the ManUtd jersey.

We were lucky back then and for once we became passive and allowed our fate to be decided by the outcome of something beyond our control.

This is not good.

Anyway, our midweek game was also a lucky win as Rooney sneaked the winning goal in injury time, much to the surprise of everyone, including his own team mates. Like the first goal against Roma by Carrick in the 7-1 win, it was a 50-50 chance and somehow, perhaps due to the correct alignment of the planets, thus creating the exact required gravitational pull to bring the ball home past a crest-fallen Dida. (Last count, Dida is being sold on Ebay and the bidding price right now is $79.00)

Now before anyone starts celebrating and singing songs about heading to Athens, there are 2 facts staring stark in our faces. We leaked 2 away goals and the next game is in San Siro. If history were to repeat itself, then I really hate to see us at the second leg like when AS Roma and our youth team, squandering the chance to go for the kill when they should. Look where they are now.

Like a wounded lion, the fightback is going to be more intense. We know coz we were the wounded lion in the previous round of the ECL.

Reviewing the game. Kaka was definitely a big threat and Brown was definitely unable to keep up with the striker's pace. If we want to keep a clean sheet, we need a better defender than Brown. Heinze was absolutely stellar in performance but using him to mark Kaka would mean to play him out of position, a solution that may end up yielding disastrous result.

At the other end, we are creating the same problems with AC Milan as Ronaldo and Rooney are definitely much faster and more agile. The problem with AC Milan's defense is age. Below are the numbers:
  • Dida -34 yrs old
  • Kalac - 35 yrs old
  • Simic - 31 yrs old
  • Nesta - 31 yrs old
  • Maldini - 38 yrs old
  • CafĂș - 37 yrs old
  • Favalli - 35 yrs old
Nesta was Ronaldo's marker in the last game and was barely able to keep up. The weakness is especially more obvious towards the end of the 90 minutes when fatigue started to set in and AC Milan seemed to be the more seriously affected of the 2 sides.

Here's how I see we can win this next round and head to the Finals in Athens.
  • We need to keep a clean sheet and/or score 2 goals. Quite difficult to do the prior considering we also lost Evra to suspension for picking yet another yellow card.
  • Lock down Kaka.
  • Contain the attack for the first half of the game, then step up the pace in the second half, given that the AC Milan defense will not be able to keep up as freshness of legs will start to wane by then.
  • If need be, drag the game to extra time and go for the kill but at all cost, avoid penalty shootout. The relative old age of AC Milan players can also be a weapon. Penalty shootouts are more of a psychological game than actual technical capability. Experience will be a vital tool to gain that psychological edge over the goalkeeper facing you. Besides, history has shown that Englishmen are not particularly good with penalty shootouts.
JayWalk The Talk: The injuries list of both sides are massive and so we can all take comfort that for once, this is not going to count against us too badly. Everton is facing a shortage of strikers which is perfect for us, given that we are short of defenders.

On the ManUtd side, we will be missing the services of Ferdinand, Neville, Vidic, Silvestre, Park and Saha. On the Everton side, we will be missing Valente, Vaughan, Boyle, Cahill and Anichebe while Johnson and Beattie are doubtful. No. 1 goalkeeper Tim Howard will not feature today as he is ineligible, being an on-loan player from ManUtd.

I think Fergie will not be making big changes from the squad that played AC Milan earlier. Not that he has much option to begin with but he may restore the Rooney-Smith partnership up front while Evra is certain to start since he doesn't have a game in San Siro.

Player to watch today is Arteta from the home side and Rooney from the ManUtd side. Expect Rooney to have a tough day given that he was booed at every touch of the ball during his last visit. Moyes has been playing psychological games with Rooney all week and I hope that would make him stronger and shove all the jibes back into his previous boss' face.

In this game, I am hoping to see Scholes hit the back of the net as the next goal shall make him the outright highest scoring player in ManUtd's EPL history. His current tally of 95 league goals is on par with Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Also, a early happy birthday to John O'Shea (30 Apr 1981). Perhaps a goal or two as a birthday present?

JayWalk The Walk: Things don't look good at the bookmaker's board as ManUtd are to give a 0.75-ball handicap but a daunting 2.00 to clear. Bookies odds are pointing to a draw which can be detrimental to ManUtd title chances.

We saw what happened to the game against Portsmouth prior to the Roma game. Everybody was so distracted that Portsmouth took advantage and snatched the 3 points. Speaking of Portsmouth, they most certainly look like they will be doing the same against Liverpool as the Reds are a goal behind coming into the second leg of the ECL semi-finals. Worth a punt on Pompey today.

Coming back, there is also the Curse of The Final 4 as history has shown that come the last 4 matches of the season, we would self-destruct and shoot ourselves in the foot. Sometimes we survived, sometimes we don't. The only way to get around this problem is to seal the title before coming into the last 4 games and in my recollection, I remember this happening only once before. EPL is not an easy place, mind you.

So what would it be in this Neville brothers reunion? ManUtd has won 11 out of 12 visits to Goodison Park and we are expecting a tougher opposition, given that Everton are chasing a UEFA Cup spot next season. Do ignore the talk about Everton players playing harder in remembrance of the late Alan Ball. That's utter bullshit. I doubt if any of the players even remotely know in-depth, who Alan Ball was.

Anyway, I think it will be a very narrow win with an eye on a draw. So at 0.75-ball handicap, it may not be worth the risk for the narrow win yield only a half-kitty.

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.


At 7:47 PM, April 28, 2007, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

Tim Howard is no longer on-loan to Everton.. he was sold to Everton already.. c

At 3:53 AM, April 29, 2007, Blogger Merenwen said...

Wow, were you looking into a crystal ball when writing this post? Rooney DID shove Moyes' jibes back in his face. O' Shea DID score. On the other hand, Paul Scholes didn't. =( It WAS a pretty narrow win. In fact, for the first hour, I seriously doubted if Man Utd could even win. Thank God they did.

And Chelsea drew!!! Big big thanks to Bolton!!!

At 9:24 AM, April 29, 2007, Blogger JayWalk said...

cool: Tim Howard was signed on 14 Feb 2007 which is outside the transfer window i.e. the transaction may have been completed, it will not take effect until the season ends.

As such, he is technically still an on-loan player from ManUtd.

merenwen: One more win and we can start tying the red, white and black ribbon around the trophy. I am hoping to wrap the title up by next week when we take on ManCity. Hopefully in the same weekend, Arsenal can do us the favour by beating Chelsea at home, in their chase to overtake Liverpool in the league standings.

Again, we will have to advantage of playing on Saturday, while the Arsenal-Chelsea clash is on Sunday.

At 10:29 AM, April 29, 2007, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

Quadruple my ass! Mwa ha ha ha...

Sorry, cannot contain myself. :P

At 10:51 AM, April 29, 2007, Blogger JayWalk said...

Chelsea winning everything will be bad for football not only in England but also for the rest of the world as it would send a message that money alone solves everything.

Granted that money is very important in running a football club (look at where Leeds is now), it is not the alpha and omega of footballing success.

At 12:14 PM, April 29, 2007, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

i agree with jay on this point.. now the Premier League out of their grasp.. wonder what situation will be if they lose to liverpool in the semi final of ECL and man united in FA Cup final??


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