Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weekend Outlook (16 Dec 2007)

Liverpool vs Manchester United

"...don't be surprised to see cards flying everywhere on Sunday...."
- JayWalk, 15 Dec 2007

Congratulations to ManUtd for an excellent Champions League campaign thus far. In fact, this is the best start we have had in years. At 16 points from 6 games, we are the highest scoring team (points-wise) in all 8 groups. That should put us favourably in the draw for the Second Round and given the perennial powerhouses e.g. Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan all topped their respective groups, we are in for a relatively easy Second Round encounter possibly against Celtic, Lyon or maybe Schalke 04. Gut feel says the we would probably not meet the tougher runner-ups like Olympiacos, Fenebache or AS Roma (again!) and our minimum target (financially) of reaching the Quarter-Finals looks to be firmly on track.

Looking ahead at our fixture calendar, we are in for a smooth ride all the way through to February 2008 as soon as we clear this Sunday's cracker against Liverpool. Mark your calendar on the 10 Feb 2008 date, for we will be taking revenge back at ManCity in the return leg of the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford.

We enter the Christmas/New Year fixtures next week and it seems like the fixtures this season were drawn pretty much in our favour with relatively weaker teams lined up in the Christmas/New Year crunch. Perhaps we should be able to regain leadership position of the table in 4 games' time? Alas, let's not count the chickens before they are hatched for we need to clear this Anfield game first.

Still, as rosy as an easy fixture posed, there is a downside to it, for towards the end of the season is where all the tough matches are going to take place. By then, it would be a time where each game would play like as if it were a cup final. Every domestic league game may end up with a value of 6 points vigorously fought out by men who are near exhaustion as they approach the end of the season and very much higher up in the various competitions.

Stamina? Injuries? Suspensions? All these will be even more highly magnified near the end and this is where the clubs are separated into Great and Not-So-Great categories.

JayWalk The Talk: Scholes, Neville, Park, Foster, Silvestre and O'Shea are all out. Although there is good news that Gary Neville is close to full recovery, I am writing him off to be anything useful for the rest of these season and the rest of his career. As cruel as I may sound, I feel that there is no more freshness in this pair of defender legs and perhaps it is time to release him to a lower club. Don't get me wrong. He is still going to be good and many other clubs would still greatly benefit from his services. Just probably not good enough to operate at ManUtd's level any more.

So the Back Four should consist of Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra and Brown. On any other day, I would not play Brown until his contract standoff is settled but given the shortage of defenders, it's a risk to undertake and hopefully our stronger midfield would be able to cover up this aspect of shortfall.

Speaking of midfield, we should have the advantage here as Ronaldo, Hargreaves, Anderson and Giggs should provide ample ammunition for the dynamic stocky duo of Rooney and Tevez to bring in the goals. I think the aging Hyypia and Carragher will have trouble containing these speed demons.

On the Liverpool front, most notable absentee would be Alonso accompanied by Agger, Pennant and Finnan. However, I think the absence of the latter three will not affect Benitez too much as they probably would not be selected to start anyway.

JayWalk The Walk:
Liverpool's recent form (most notably the recent 4-0 thumping of Marseille) has gotten the bookies to favour a Liverpool win. At Even ball, Liverpool is at 1.825 to clear it.

Still before anyone starts throwing wager in Liverpool's direction, here is a couple of things to consider before committing the bet.
  • If Liverpool is really that strong, then why, even with home ground advantage, do bookies offer only Even Ball handicap? Why not give 0.25 or even 0.50 to ManUtd? I went further to dig past archives and the last 5 games at Anfield against ManUtd were all played at Even Ball.

  • Liverpool may have the home ground advantage but ManUtd certainly have the psychological edge over Liverpool. In the last 5 EPL head-to-heads at Anfield, we beat them 4 times and drawn once. This dating all the way back to 1 Dec 2002. If we take in the Old Trafford games as well, then our last 10 EPL head-to-heads, I am happy to report that we are 8-1-1.
In all, I think this will be a very tight game with very low scores. The consolation is that Houllier is no longer around as the King of Negative Play would have installed 10 defenders in front of the goalie.

The ManUtd-Liverpool game has always been a very highly charged event and don't be surprised to see cards flying everywhere on Sunday. I am only worried that the referee may lose control of the game and mar what would have been an exciting match of the highest calibre. Referees who lose control have a tendency to favour the home side and that is going to be bad for us.

On the overall, ManUtd is definitely the stronger team and one thing that I can see that is counting against Liverpool is the aging of their key players. If Liverpool were to lose the match tomorrow, I wouldn't be surprised if it was due to a fumble courtesy of Hyypia, Carragher or Riise.

Still, my verdict for this game is to stay away as it is too close to make a call. I think it will finish as a draw, much to the delight of all the teams further down the league table. Still, I am hoping of perhaps the surprise of an unexpected Ferdinand or Vidic winner again?

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 5:45 PM, December 15, 2007, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

one more fact to note, rafa have not won against fergie since he came to england..

At 7:32 AM, December 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what talkin' you? lfc beat scums in 2006 f.a.cup qtr and went on to lift the cup.

At 1:03 AM, December 17, 2007, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

im referring to the league.. not cup ties..


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