Thoughts on Portsmouth and Owen Hargreaves

United and indeed Owen Hargreaves have been hit by some bad news this week.  The holding midfielder has been withdrawn from Manchester United’s squad for the knock-out stages of the Champions League and it looks pretty bad for Owen it has to be said.

Before Christmas Sir Alex Ferguson announced Hargreaves was included in his Champions League squad, then we heard it was expected he would be back in action in January.  Obviously, he didn’t make an appearance in January and now he has been withdrawn from the squad for Europe it looks as if he is in real danger of missing out on this season entirely.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for Hargreaves – he came through a behind-closed-doors match unscathed last month.  It has been suggested Ferguson is worried about ‘confidence issues’ (whatever that actually means), but hopefully we’ll see Hargreaves back before the end of the campaign as I would argue that he could be/is among the best in the world in that position when fit.

Now onto the pressing issue of Portsmouth’s visit to Old Trafford this Saturday.  After Chelsea dropped points against Hull City in midweek (didn’t see that one coming) United have a chance to regain the top spot, for 24 hours at least, as Chelsea play on Sunday.  In all honesty, I can’t see Pompey causing United any kind of problem in all honesty and the smart money says home win this weekend.

Despite some reasonably good performances of late Portsmouth just can’t seem to pick up anything and suffered defeat against Fulham in midweek, even though for me Pompey were the better side that day.  They did beat Liverpool earlier in the season, but I can’t see them getting anything out of United at Old Trafford.  Off-field financial problems have really overshadowed footballing issues at Fratton Park this season and their league form has really suffered, perhaps not as a direct result but it can’t help things.

In terms of Pompey’s playing staff the man who is most likely to frustrate United and be key for Portsmouth is goalkeeper David James.  Despite the fact he has represented both Manchester City and Liverpool I’ve got quite a lot of time for James and he belongs to that rare group of keepers who can occasionally have one of those games where nothing gets past him.  Granted, he is also susceptible to the most ridiculous of mistakes but it doesn’t happen that often and he has secured Pompey points basically on his own on more than one occasion.

On Sunday Arsenal travel to Chelsea in a game I’m sure all United fans will be keeping an eye on.  After United’s victory over Arsenal last weekend the Gunners need to beat Chelsea to keep their title dream alive and hopefully they can do United a favour and take all three points.  Admittedly I’m not too hopeful, Chelsea’s home record reads W11, D1, L0 but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer who blogs about horse racing Ireland, Premier League football and the Grand National 2010.

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