Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weekend Outlook (13 Apr 2008)

Manchester United vs Arsenal

"...There is no way, short of a miracle, that any team anywhere in the world can overturn a 2-goal deficit at Old Trafford...."

- JayWalk, 12 Apr 2008

It was a brave gamble to rest key players during the return-leg of the ECL quarter-final and boy, did it paid off handsomely. Not only are we comfortably through to the semi-finals, we also have a relatively fresh squad ahead of tomorrow's clash against Arsenal.

Remember what I said about our possession stats against strong opponents? Well Roma being the visitors are at 51% to our 49%. Granted that the 2% of 90 minutes is actually only a mere 108 seconds, it just look bad on paper. Psychological perhaps?

So anyway, Roma gifted the game to us when they miss the penalty by launching the ball into orbit.

Still, realistically as Roma would already realised was that they had thrown in the towel. There is no way, short of a miracle, that any team anywhere in the world can overturn a 2-goal deficit at Old Trafford. I wish them luck for their weekend game against Udinese (away) as they chase current leader Inter Milan for the Scudetto.

Up ahead, we have the advantage of playing away at Nou Camp first in the ECL semi-final and I think by then we should have a full squad to choose from, right at a time when Barcelona is flying through some turbulence domestically, trailing leader Real Madrid by 7 points and just barely above Villarreal who are level on points with an inferior goal difference.

The way I see it, Barcelona may go the way of calling it a day on their ECL campaign and focus on catching Real Madrid. The only difference from AS Roma is that their Catalan Pride may not allow them to give up one for the other and as such, may risk finishing the season with nothing. Probably what Fergie would have done anyway.

JayWalk The Talk: If you thought I was surprised to see Ferdinand take to the field during midweek, I was even more shocked to see Silvestre and Neville on the pitch as well. However, it is ironic that despite getting 2 defenders back from the sickbay, we are still worried about our back line with just the absence of Vidic. Is Vidic so almighty that ManUtd cannot do without him, then even with the return of two very established defenders, it is still not good enough? Comments please.

Elsewhere, we have Nani, Fletcher and Saha still injured.

The Arsenal sickbay also looked pretty full with list going like Flamini, Diaby, Sagna, Eduardo and Rosicky.

Doesn't look like it's going to be a good day for the Gunners this weekend.

JayWalk The Walk:
Arsenal is currently going through a crisis of faith as they tumbled down the league ladder with a dismal win in their last 7 fixtures.

Mid-week defeat was just a further slap in the face. Their weakness is now obvious. The team is too young and they lack mental toughness. Gone are the days where every club feared the names of Henry, Adam, Pires and Viera. Instead when you look at the team sheet, we only see a bunch of kids' names.

Sure, they are a talented bunch of youngsters but when they hit a rough patch, they have nothing else in their arsenal (no pun intended) to carry on fighting. Van Persie and Adebayor both played poorly during mid-week and was instant fodder for Liverpool to go in for the kill. Mind you, in terms of technical skills, Arsenal, in my opinion, is a notch above Liverpool but the mental toughness of Liverpool, especially during European games is one of the best in Europe.

This is a game where Arsenal MUST WIN in order to stay in the title race. This is a do-or-die game, failing which, the season will be over for them. So the pressure is on them more than ManUtd who has a 3-point cushion over challenger Chelsea at the current moment.

There are two ways to look at this pressure. It could spur them to greater heights on account of their hunger or it could just implode the entire team as a result of their mental strength's inability to overcome it.

Well, it is not all peaches and cream for ManUtd even with a 3-point cushion. It would be better if we can win Arsenal (and assuming Chelsea to keep up since winning over Wigan this week is almost a given), and that we can take this buffer to the Chelsea game on 26 Apr 2008, right after our return from Barcelona. We are going to need that insurance buffer. Mark that date on your calendar for I think that would be the championship decider.

Coming back, ManUtd will be giving a 0.50-ball handicap with a 1.86 decimal odds to beat it. Sounds like the bookies are all going for a ManUtd win although the tipsters are all gunning for a draw. However, Match Poll from SkySports (see above right) suggests that only 4% of the respondents predict a draw as in this particular game,. However, a draw does not do either side any favour and so, expect both teams to go all out to fight for that 3 points.

Still, taking a reference from their last 10 head-to-heads in the EPL, we have a slight advantage at 3-5-2 and one can't help but noticed that 5 of the 10 games ended in a draw.

Verdict? I am still undecided although I am inclined to go for ManUtd on account of the well rested players during mid-week. Watch for my Beer Fund Raising post later in the day here for my decision on this game.

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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