Saturday, March 15, 2008

Weekend Outlook (15 Mar 2008)

Derby County vs Manchester United

"...But when we couldn't break duck like this Portsmouth match, there is no way to win at all...."

- JayWalk, 15 Mar 2008

Last week's outlook has got to be my biggest FOOT-IN-MOUTH entry this season. Not that I have never shot myself in the foot time and time again, but I think I shot my own foot with a bazooka this time.

One word.


Perhaps like ManUtd, we were over confident and we were made to clearly pay for it dearly.

Bundled out of the FA Cup, dashed of hope for the repeat treble and suffered the loss of 2 goalkeepers within a single day. It was a bad day at the office.

I hope we learned our lesson that day.

Yes the referee that day was sub-par but let's face it. Regardless of how bad (I don't mean corrupt) a referee may be, as long as you score 1 goal more than the opposition, it is still a win. But when we couldn't break duck like this Portsmouth match, there is no way to win at all.

Then again, it may be a blessing in disguise as we would have fewer games to play in the already congested fixture. Allow me to remind all that the FA Cup, which would yield only a UEFA Cup space, isn't really worth too much of a hoot to begin with. Yes, a semi-final berth would score the club 500,000 Pounds Sterling in prize money but by ManUtd's yardstick, that is about 1 week's wages for the payroll. I rather we go for the bigger fishes namely ECL and EPL.

Oh well, at least we lost to Harry Redknapp whom I have always gushed about how great a manager he is. Incidentally, it was pointed out to me that Redknapp was the only manager to complete a hat-trick of FA Cup wins over ManUtd with 3 different clubs. First was the infamous 1983 FA Cup 3rd-Round 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bournemouth, then it was West Ham and now, Portsmouth. Ouch again.

Anyway, looking at it in a more positive light, I was glad it wasn't a Premiership game or it would have veered our title bid out of orbit. Arsenal, on the same topic, has left the door opened (when they drew with Wigan last week) for us as we are only a mere 2 points behind AND a game-in-hand. If we win today and win our game-in-hand against Bolton in mid-week, we'd be back at the top of the table. However, the game against Liverpool at Old Trafford looms immediately after that. Can we beat them on tired legs?

It'd all depends on how Fergie plays his players in the next two matches. I foresee resting of key players and rotating of squad.

OK, let's move over to the ECL, we were drawn yesterday to face AS Roma in the quarter-finals. Tough. For those who are hoping for a repeat of last year's 7-1 mauling, I can assure you that it is not going to happen. I was secretly hoping to draw again Liverpool, Fernebahce or Schalke04 to ensure an easier passage to the Semi-Finals but alas no luck.

As for the semi-finals, judging by each club's past records in the European arena, I'd say we will meet Barcelona in the semi-finals and it will be the Arsenal-Chelsea clash in the other half.

That led me to wonder that while we are fighting Arsenal for the Premiership title, wouldn't it be interesting if we can fight them again for the European Champions League too?

I wait with baited breath.

JayWalk The Talk: Foster will be handed his senior debut today as well as a guaranteed mid-week start away to Bolton. Van dar sar is down with a groin injury and will missing for 2 games. Everybody is sweating bullets if the Dutch goalie can recover in time for the Liverpool game. Deputy goalie Kuszczak is suspended for 3 games for a straight red card awarded at the Portsmouth game and that would mean that even if Van der Sar does return for the Liverpool game, No.3 goalie Foster will still get a place on the bench.

The news from the sickbay is that Gary Neville is almost ready to take to the pitch but I think the Bolton game would be the better time for the skipper to return to the Starting XI. Giggs on the other hand, having not started in 4 games as a result of squad rotation, should feature today to give the other key players a rest. Another senior player, Scholes, should be assured of a starting place in at least one of the two games this week.

Silvestre now remained as the only long term injury concerned.

On the Derby front, Jewell will be without the services of Barnes, Leacock, Davis, Mills and Mears.

JayWalk The Walk:
Mid-week's 1-6 defeat at the hands of Chelsea ended Derby's hope of getting 40 points this season, even if they were to win all remaining matches. A further defeat today means that Derby's chances of Premiership survival will be dead beyond dead.

Anyway, Derby is doomed even before this. It's a worrying sign when all Jewell does these days is to maintain the physically fitness of the players and nothing else. I think Jewell is just waiting for the season to end before he could overhaul the entire team. I foresee a massive spring cleaning of the squad as many of the duds must be given the boot if Derby wants to improve itself.

ManUtd will be giving a 2.25 ball handicap today with a 1.975 decimal odds to beat it. All indicators point towards a bloodfest today after Chelsea's 6-1 thrashing. With a morale-depleted team as well as tired legs due to the extra game in mid-week against a fully rested ManUtd dying to bounce back from a fluke defeat, things cannot look any more one-sided.

The odds for ManUtd to score 5 or more goals right now is 4.00. Wow.

Still punters are worried as we can tell from the wager pot being distributed in the ratio of 76% in favour of ManUtd beating the 2.25-ball handicap and 24% in favour of Derby winning this Asian Handicap punt (Fulham-ManUtd game was 16% : 84%).

I guess this is attributed to the fact that we do not have our No.1 and No.2 goalkeepers today. However, if the defence is tight enough, I don't think if there will be any chance of Foster getting tested. Also, everyone has a eye on the coming Liverpool game in 8-days' time with a Bolton game inserted in between which, as I have mentioned earlier, means that Fergie is expected to be resting key players and rotating the squad in the next two games and while ManUtd is still aiming to grab all the points, we are less sure if we can clear 3 goals if we don't play our strongest team.

Verdict: I think we will keep a clean sheet even with a No.3 goalie making his debut. I based this on the fact that their top scorer Miller, up to now has a goal tally of 3 in 29 games. (Ronaldo has 21). Scoring just isn't Derby's "thing" and seeing how easily Chelsea took them apart in the last game, I think we can do just as easily especially when they are running on tired legs and tired minds.

Go for ManUtd and give the 2.25-ball handicap.

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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