Man Utd v Arsenal Prediction: Clash of the Titans
It doesn’t get any bigger than this, folks.
England’s two most legendary teams go head to head on Sunday
in a match hyped to be the biggest of the season. Arsenal
comes into this game on the verge of a league-record 30 games
undefeated from the start of the season. But the Gunners
couldn’t have picked a tougher opponent in their pursuit of
that record than Manchester United.
This could be an ugly one. The rivals’ last meeting in
September at Old Trafford, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, was
marred by indiscipline. Four Arsenal players were suspended
and the team was fined $400,000. People began calling them the
‘Gooners’ instead of the Gunners.
Since then, Arsenal has turned things around, playing with
class and self-control. But you have to wonder if Man United
will open old wounds. It's the only team that actually looks
forward to playing against Arsenal at Highbury.
Next week sees a rematch between these two teams in the FA Cup
semifinal. Nothing would be sweeter for the Red Devils than a
victory over Arsenal this weekend. United is in desperate need
of a confidence boost, and with 12 points separating it from
Arsenal in the Premiership, the FA Cup is the only piece of
silverware the Devils have a chance of taking home this year.
February is when the problems began for United, losing to
Middlesbrough and settling for draws with Fulham and lowly
Leeds. Then the club's Champions League hopes were dashed in
the final minute of a match against Porto. Finally, to rub
salt in their wounds, the Devils were drubbed 4-1 at home by
cross-town rival Manchester City.
But there are signs of a turnaround. Last weekend, Man United
thrashed Tottenham 3-0 for its first shutout in nine games.
Meanwhile, Arsenal was lucky to hold Chelsea to a 1-1 draw in
the first leg of its Champions League pairing this week. And
last weekend’s 2-1 defeat of Bolton was hardly an inspiring
performance by Arsenal’s high standards.
Man United’s defense has been suspect for much of this
season. The eight-month suspension of star defender Rio
Ferdinand has left gaping holes at the back. But defender Gary
Neville will make a welcome return to the rearguard, back in
action after serving a four-game suspension for head butting.
For Arsenal, the ghosts of last season’s late collapse may
come back to haunt the club. Having built a sizeable lead atop
the Premiership table, the Gunners blew it in their final few
games and allowed Manchester United to take the title. Since
Arsenal is unbeaten so far this year, it’s questionable how
the team might react to a loss against United at this late
stage in the season.
The last four league meetings between the rivals have seen two
draws and a win for each team.
This week’s picks:
Chelsea vs. Wolverhampton: 27-3-2004 10:00 ET
Chelsea don’t really have a chance to catch Arsenal, but
they won’t give up on this season without a fight. Their
defence is one of the best in Europe, not just in England.
Don’t expect Wolves to breach it either, since they score
less than half a goal per road game. With a horrible 0-4-11
record on the road, Wolves have allowed 31 goals in 15 away
games. Chelsea simply do not give up points at home to teams
of Wolves’ calibre. Play on Chelsea (-330)
Roma vs. Bologna: Mar. 28, 9:00 a.m. ET
You can’t ignore the best home record in Europe. Roma loves
to play at home and it shows, with 37 goals for and only six
(yes, six) against in 13 home games. Having just exited from
the UEFA Cup to Villarreal (despite winning 2-1), Roma will
focus on catching up to Milan in Serie A.
Bologna is a lousy 2-4-6 on the road, and its only hope for a
strategy will be to defend like crazy. It won’t work. Play
on Roma (-250)
Arsenal vs. Man Utd: Mar. 28, 11:05 a.m. ET
Man United is getting way too much respect with this line. The
Red Devils' defense has been awful this season and their best
goalkeeper, Tim Howard, is not even playing. You cannot expect
to beat Arsenal with that type of defense. United will have to
rely on its offense to get a result in this match, and the
team has only been scoring 1.5 goals per road game. Those
goals weren’t scored against teams of Arsenal’s quality,
either. An attacking style will only make Man United
vulnerable at the back, opening up plenty of chances for
Arsenal’s prolific strikers. Although United has won nine of
14 road games this season, none of those wins came against top
quality teams. Arsenal has won nine straight games, the
Gunners haven’t lost a single game this year, and the worst
they’ve done at home is drawn two of 14 games. You have to
like their chances against a clearly weaker Manchester United,
especially with this absurd line. Play on Arsenal (+120)