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United preview

City of Manchester Stadium, Saturday 5th May 2007.
Both teams head into the 136th league derby on the back of a week to forget about, with ourselves having Barton-gate, and the ensuing fall-out which continues to dominate headlines leading up to the match.

Meanwhile, United's treble dream is up in smoke as they were outplayed, outthought and outclassed by Milan in this weeks second leg.

A win will all but secure the title for United, whilst a win for ourselves would dent their title ambitions - although it would still leave Chelsea with a lot of work to do.

Following another blank day against Aston Villa, we now have an uphill task to avoid securing the unwanted record of least home goals in a season, as we need to score to pull level with Woolwich Arsenal and Sunderland.

The press have been trying to make an issue this week of the kick-off time not being put back to Sunday, with accusations of sour grapes thrown at City and suggestions of a lack of integrity and help from the Premier League. If anything, surely the extra days rest for the Chelsea game is of more use to United in terms of affecting the outcome of the title?

As for the game, we are suddenly looking well short in midfield with the likely absence of Michael Johnson, the decision to suspend Joey Barton and the injuries suffered by Ousmane 'Elephant Man' Dabo. In attack, we will again stumble along and see which pairing (or lone striker) Pearce pulls out of the hat. I read one report this week that stated Paul Dickov was the player who hauled Joey Barton off Dabo, and if true means he has least contributed something to the side this season.

In goal and defence will once again be the key for us in this game as United's threat will undoubtedly come from Rooney and Ronaldo - who have something to prove after flopping in midweek. Their defensive struggles saw Vidic recalled for the Milan game (with less than succesful results) and it is possible Rio Ferdinand may come back for this one along with Louis Saha.

I don't think there is a great deal of confidence (or realistically any) flowing through the Blue half of the city at the moment in this game, and looking at positives in thinking how we will get a result it is the usual things such as raising the game, anything can happen in a derby etc that is likely to see us get something from it.

Whilst baseing my prediction slightly on United's performance against Milan - and we are as far away from Milan as is possible, I do feel we can get something from the game, and (shock horror) manage to find the net.

It won't be enough to stop United ultimately winning the title, but I have a feeling that we will come away with a 1-1 draw from the game.
Optimistic? I'm sure there's worse amongst you...