Friday, November 24, 2006


Yet Not The Decider

By Steve Mcmahon.
There will be those trying to hype this weekend’s big fixture as the proverbial ‘six-pointer’. That would be too simplistic.

Personally, I don’t think it is. It’s no doubt a huge encounter but I don’t think it will decide anything in the long run. For the record, I’m backing Man U to take the points and of course, I’m talking about the match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Chelsea!

The Red Devils have been winning games comfortably, and even when they’ve been chasing the game, as they were in Sheffield last weekend, one always got the sense that they would prevail, so it was no surprise they did thanks to Rooney’s brace.

Chelsea, on the other hand, have just been getting the results – often matching Man U. Yet, they have not been convincing at times and it won’t be a shock to see them lose on Sunday.

It wasn’t a shock to see them beaten midweek by Werder Bremen either. There was no reason for them to help out Barcelona, and they have qualified for the next stages anyway, so the defeat won’t affect them. Man U, however, need a result in their final Champions League game to ensure progression after themselves being defeated in Europe this week also.

To say that their loss to Celtic will have a bearing on Sunday’s tie is however difficult to judge. I’m inclined to think not. They’ll have a stronger resolve not to lose two games running and Luis Saha, in particular, will be keen to make amends after his penalty miss. You will not be picked by Sir Alex to replace Ruud van Nistelrooy unless you are made of some stern stuff, and Saha will want to make good his awful error.

So judging by their EPL form and with the home advantage I think Man U go into this as firm favourites. But I still back Chelsea for the league, despite a potential six-point gap come Sunday night.

The main reason for this is the strength and depth of their squad. Alex Ferguson’s troops are winning the war right now but as inevitable casualties develop through the season, the reservists are not of the same calibre of Jose Mourinho’s forces. This, I think, will be the telling factor in the long run.

Elsewhere this weekend, there are several intriguing matches. Bolton and Arsenal vie for table position, with the victor potentially taking third spot depending on how Pompey do on the long, long trip to Newcastle. Equally there’s a tussle at the bottom as West Ham, under new ownership, won’t want to drop in to the relegation zone as they face Sheffield United.

I’m tipping Bolton to dent Arsenal’s title hopes further with a 2-1 home win while Portsmouth will further deepen Glenn Roeder’s troubles with an away win at St James’. The Hammers should clean-up the Blades quite comfortably, 2-0 to the Londoners.

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