Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Champions League Preview: 27th November 2007

Manchester United vs Sporting Lisbon - Champions League Group Stage

"Finally our fringe players will be getting some valuable play time..." - Sheena

Quite unlike the horrible situation we found ourselves in this time last year, we have already qualified for the Champions League knockout stages with a comfortable 2 games left to go.

This season, Fergie gives me the impression that he is gunning for the Champions League rather than for the Premiership title. Having wrested the title back from the control of Chelsea last season, the manager, players, and fans are probably satisfied and are turning their attention to the Holy Grail of continental football.

The Champions League is well-known as the one trophy that Sir Alex badly wants to win again. Despite all our domestic success, it is true that Manchester United have never really performed up to expectations in the Champions League, with our lowest point coming in 2005 when we crashed out without even making it to the knockout stages.

Therefore, this time, the fact that we have qualified with so much to spare means that we not only can heave a huge sigh of relief and sit on our laurels for a bit, but we can focus on the Premier League and not worry about the Champions League till February (though, of course, it didn't exactly seem that way when we lost to Bolton last weekend - utterly disappointing).

The important thing is that for tonight's match against Sporting Lisbon, Sir Alex has the luxury of resting some key players and has already promised fringe players such as John O' Shea and Darren Fletcher a starting berth.

Which is a good thing because, as we draw near to December and its congested fixture list when injuries, suspensions, and tiredness will take its toll on our regular players, we will need our fringe players to step out and shine and they will not be able to do it unless they are match fit and been given some playing time in all sorts of matches - whether big or small.

Given that Man Utd will be fielding a second-string team tonight and have already qualified, I expect them to take it easy tonight. However, Sporting Lisbon still have an outside chance of qualifying, so I foresee them putting up a fierce battle at Old Trafford tonight. This could go either way, but I'm going to go with a draw for this match.

Man to watch (Manchester United): Seriously, I have no idea, given that the strating lineup will probably be reshuffled.

Man to watch (Sporting Lisbon): Frankly, they have not had any players that made me sit up and take notice since Ricardo Quaresma left them.

Jaywalk's Encyclopaedia of Bookies' Odds says: Man Utd is giving 3/4 ball and 1.825 decimal odds to beat it. Like I said earlier, stay away, because I just feel "draw" all over this match.

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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