Sunday, December 02, 2007

Weekend Outlook (03 Dec 2007)

Manchester United vs Fulham

"...It is unlikely that ManUtd will drop points today. Otherwise, the Premier League title chase may be effectively over and it's not even Christmas!..."
- JayWalk, 02 Dec 2007

Perhaps it was the biggest scalp of the season when we went down 0-1 at the Reebok Stadium. We were totally outplayed as our midfield got shut down by the Trotters. Earlier, I said to watch out for Anelka and as expected, he shipped that one ball into the net and took home the 3 points.

Stats-wise, we had 15 shots attempted but only 3 on-goal and it is indicative of a lack of fire power up front. Granted that we started with Tevez and Saha, the Argentinian was jet lagged having touch down in England for barely 24 hours. Saha is still very far away from match fitness and not to mention confidence in front of goal.

This is a serious problem within the team. Our youngsters forwards are not up to speed yet, Solksjaer is in his twilight years and we have been relying on 3 main strikers to rotate the 2 spots. I won't be surprised if Fergie were to start shopping for another striker when the January transfer window opens. Perhaps another bid for Sergei Berbatov?

Looking forward, I was glad that we beat Sporting Lisbon and cemented our position at the top of our Group. That means the luxury of sending our B-team to Rome for the final game and resting our key players for the subsequent Anfield game on Sunday.

The same cannot be said of Liverpool as they travel to Marseille for a do-or-die game. Having lost surprisingly to Marseille at home earlier, Liverpool suddenly found themselves on the edge of ECL elimination. It has to be a win-and-nothing-else as there is also a possibility of losing the consolation UEFA Cup spot, should Besiktas beat FC Porto on the final day.

In a nutshell, Liverpool will be fielding their first team and going all out to capture the win. Given the Liverpool has always had an excellent track record in European campaigns, I have no doubt that they will qualify to the next round.

Question is. At what price?

Exhaustion from an all-out game, exhaustion from traveling, risk of injuries, etc., are all factors counting heavily against Liverpool but in our favour. I foresee bookies giving Liverpool a positive handicap when we meet. +0.25 or even +0.50 perhaps?

If you think that's all there is to the problem, think again. The following midweek after playing ManUtd, Liverpool has a Carling Cup quarter final date with Chelsea. In the earlier rounds, you would expect these clubs to send in their second stringers but this is the quarter finals that we are talking about and perhaps Liverpool's only trophy prospect this season. It is unlikely that Liverpool will give it up to significantly-weakened Chelsea so easily

JayWalk The Talk: The injury list is getting shorter by the day at Old Trafford, great news ahead of the Christmas and New Year fixture crunch. Van der Sar, Rooney, Giggs and Hargreaves are expected to be in the starting line-up while Scholes, Foster, Silvestre and Park continue to remain sidelined. Bad news with Gary Neville as it seems that his injury has suffered a relapse. Rumour has it that his career is over as a result and what a pity considering that fact that he is one game short of 350 starts for ManUtd.

If you think that is bad, wait till you hear the injury list over at Fulham. Messrs. Pearce, Christanval, Keller, Cook, McBride, Bullard, Elliot and Volz will all be unavailable.

JayWalk The Walk:
As a result of the injury crisis at Fulham, bookies are making ManUtd give a 2-ball handicap at 1.85 decimal odds to clear it. Expect ManUtd to win here as Fulham has never won at Old Trafford in Premiership history and the last time ManUtd lost back-to-back was April 2005.

ManUtd are already 6 points adrift from Arsenal (who still has a game in hand) at time of this article. It is unlikely that ManUtd will drop points today. Otherwise, the Premier League title chase may be effectively over and it's not even Christmas!

Still, 2-ball handicap is a bladdy big hurdle to jump. I am still undecided as I hate to play against such a big handicap. Watch for it in my Beer Fund Raising (01 - 03 Dec 2007) entry as I will make my decision closer to kick-off.

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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