Saturday, May 05, 2007

Weekend Outlook (05 May 2007)

Manchester City vs Manchester United

"...We gave up the game as early as the 30th minute when we went down 0-2 (to AC Milan...."
- JayWalk, 05 May 2007

In my earlier entries, I have been bringing up analogies about the bullet in the Russian Roulette revolver as well as the turning of the key of the Jack-In-The-Box.

Time after time, we escaped despite a poor showing. Well, luck finally ran out on us. The revolver finally fired and the clown finally popped.

The problem with these lucky escapes is that the stakes get bigger and bigger with each turn.

The bad news is that we got eliminated from the ECL. The good news is that rather the ECL than the EPL title.

As I have said before, EPL is my priority as it would ensure a spot in next season's ECL. Even if there is any mishap along the way, there is the safety net of 2nd, 3rd and 4th place to still get you into the financially lucrative tournament. The ECL on the other hand is a tight-rope. A single misstep and you are out of it. If focusing too much on the ECL and sacrificing the performance in the EPL, you may end up without either and the financial consequences would be disastrous.

Does anyone know where Leeds United are going to be next season?

Money is important in the football world. It attracts talented players and from there, begets better performance. Look at Leeds during their financial ruin at the hands of David O'Leary. They over committed their resources in chasing the ECL and ended with a huge handful of debt. As a result, they have to sell players to raise the money as well as to reduce the wage expense. Problem is that only the better players would attract the buyer and command a decent price, as well as to significantly reduce wages. So players like Oliver Dacourt, Mike Viduka, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith were among those that were let go. What remained are the "useless" players that no other club wants and for a very good reason.

Next thing, we know Leeds started spiraling down towards the abyss. Relegation to League Championship (the old Nationwide Division 1 or the even older Division 2), activated a slew of relegation clauses in even more players' contracts resulting in an even bigger exodus of players.

Well, good luck to Dennis Wise who has been hired to clean up the mess and start rebuilding the team from League Division 1 (old Nationwide Division 2; older Division 3). Will we ever see them back in the Premier League? In my opinion. No. Not this decade at the very least.

Speaking of money. Yes, it is important but I have shared this with some friends that it is not the be all and end all of footballing success.

In a way, I was glad Chelsea got booted out of the ECL as well, despite me not happy to see fellow arch rivals, Liverpool, gloating over the misery of both Chelsea and us.

I believe it would be an even better lesson for all if we take the EPL as well as the FA Cup. Other than for obvious selfish reasons, I hope that it would send a message across the footballing world that money while important, isn't everything.

In England in particular, relying everything on money to buy results (not bribery of course!) would be bad for their football in the long run. After a while, there will be no English players left on the field as most would start taking the convenient route of buying foreign talent to solve the immediate short term problem. It would also be very damaging to those clubs that do not have access to this kind of money.

In fact, it is already happening but to a smaller extend. We haven't had a decent keeper since Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and David Seaman. All the good keepers in England right now aren't English. David James? Hah! You wish!

Defence and midfield? We are ok but has there a decent strike force since Shearer and Sheringham? We can only look to the recently recovered Michael Owen, Andy Johnson and/or Wayne Rooney and see if they can save England?

JayWalk The Talk: Injury list has been a major concern for us for the past few weeks. Good news is that we are starting to get some of them back from the sick bay. Ferdinand and Vidic were both available during the midweek game but I think Ferdinand should be starting ahead of Vidic. Evra, who was suspended for the return leg against AC Milan would be sure to start his 50th ManUtd game, having a fresher pair of legs. Talking about 50th ManUtd game, it would also be Heinze 50th if selected. The elusive 350th start for Gary Neville will continue to elude. I think this milestone would only be reach next season, given that the Captain is nowhere near full recovery. Silvestre and Park stays on the casualty list while Saha is back and fighting for a place in the teamsheet together with Smith (250th Premiership start if selected). Solksjaer's 150th ManUtd game looks unlikely, given that we have 5 strikers available for only 2 slots.

On the City side, Beasley, Johnson and Richards are out but the most notable absentee would have to be Joey Barton, who was suspended for the rest of the season after a bust-up with fellow team mate, Dabo during the week. Ironic, Barton is City's top scorer and probably the only player in the entire team to give a damn about playing football. The only person left with a belly of fire and he is banned from playing.

Talk about pressing the self-destruct Barton!! (Ok ok... I've been dying for days to print this. :P )

JayWalk The Walk: ManCity has not scored since New Year's Day and now top scorer Barton is banned. All the more unlike to score today. If they can't score, we can't lose. Problem is, if we can't score, we can't win either. I will be rooting for Ronaldo to score his 50th ManUtd goal as well as for Scholes to be the outright top scorer of EPL goals for ManUtd.

A goal apiece? 2-0?

Chelsea are facing a well-rested Arsenal at Emirates Stadium and I fancy the home side to win or at the very least draw this game. Having said that, a win today over ManCity would seal the title for us today should the game at Emirates Stadium play according to my script. What better timing now, than having to deal with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next week?

Bookies are letting ManUtd give away a 1-ball handicap with a 1.925 decimal odds to clear it. With this handicap, I am sure that the bookies would agree with me when I say that physical exhaustion from the AC Milan game is not a factor. We gave up the game as early as the 30th minute when we went down 0-2. There wasn't any fire left after that. Such is the difference between this team compared to the ManUtd of 1999. Frankly, we didn't fight very hard after that and as such, there is hardly any exertion to speak of.

Still, there is the Curse of the final 4 which we escaped (again!) last week. Would the jinx kick in today? Lest we forget, this is a Manchester derby and anything can happen. City has always been the weaker brother of the 2 Manchester teams but records has shown that we lost to them 3 times in the last 5 meetings on their soil.

However, it has to be noted that including this coming game, this current City teams is probably the weakest of the 6 games.

I say go for ManUtd and celebrate the Premiership title today.

Conspiracy Theory?: But then again, for the sake of TV ratings, the invisible hand behind the EPL may script it otherwise i.e. ManUtd to buang today and make the last 2 games like as if they were a cup finals. What do you think?

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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