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2 minutes ago, Strike said:

Don't think any of the Leeds guys would be half as good with us. It is the beauty of the collective -absurdly entertaining

I think Phillips would hes like a quarter back, he sits deep defenders then distributes u can do that in any team. Alot of the other no maybe not but its their workrate and pure desire to attack that makes them the team they are.

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8 minutes ago, BluesMadLad said:

I watched the amazon prime documentary on Leeds utd, really good watch u should check it out 

the 2nd time I ran a full marathon (the first I sorta took it easy as I was intimidated) I made the HUGE mistake of trying to keep up with Linnea (she is a kinda near world class biathlete, and by far the better athlete between us, although I destroy her in squash)

and puked my arse off like 2/3rds of the way through from sheer exhaustion

mostly was dry heaves, it was horrid!

but I got aided by race course physios, given some electrolytes,, chilled for 10 minutes, and finished

so I can relate to the Leeds lads

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1 minute ago, Vesper said:

the 2nd time I ran a full marathon (the first I sorta took it easy as I was intimidated) I made the HUGE mistake of trying to keep up with Linnea (she is a kinda near world class biathlete, and by far the better athlete between us, although I destroy her in squash)

and puked my arse off like 2/3rds of the way through from shear exhaustion

mostly was dry heaves, it was horrid!

but I got aided by race course physios, given some electrolytes,, chilled for 10 minutes, and finished

so I can relate to the Leeds lads

Sounds horrific lol, but I cant relate haha am just a roofer most I do is lug stone slate on roofs and lay it lol, hard work but doesn't make me sick haha, but yeah there training is brutal and I guarantee leeds are the fittest team in the Premier league by a country mile.

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1 minute ago, BluesMadLad said:

Sounds horrific lol, but I cant relate haha am just a roofer most I do is lug stone slate on roofs and lay it lol, hard work but doesn't make me sick haha, but yeah there training is brutal and I guarantee leeds are the fittest team in the Premier league by a country mile.

Bamford ran end to end for the full 90,did not slow down

and my father, when he was a teen took a summer job in Sweden doing industrial hot tar roofing

said it was the worst job he ever had

he was a yoke-man, carrying giant buckets of deadly hot tar up from the ground via a lift and then walking it over to the spreaders

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1 minute ago, Vesper said:

Bamford ran end to end for the full 90,did not slow down

and my father, when he was a teen took a summer job in Sweden doing industrial hot tar roofing

said it was the worst job he ever had

he was a yoke-man, carrying giant buckets of deadly hot tar up from the ground via a lift and then walking it over to the spreaders

Am more traditional roofer in the UK lol no hot tar buckets, alot of what we do it old barns that still has Yorkshire stone slate onit which weight an absolute ton haha

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34 minutes ago, Vesper said:

Samuel Smith brewery

Yorkshire slate squares at Old Tadcaster

ss_yorksh_square_fermenting.jpg     SS-stingo-10.jpg

I am working on a sam smiths pub atm haha we have the contract to do all there building work 

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17 minutes ago, BluesMadLad said:

I am working on a sam smiths pub atm haha we have the contract to do all there building work 

I love their beers

especially (and for an Imp it is not an alcohol bomb so you can drink two and not be off yer tits)

smiths_bottle_thin-10.jpg

 

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Guardiola and Bielsa, the love story

https://theathletic.com/2101845/2020/10/03/guardiola-and-bielsa-the-love-story/

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Every now and again, a video cassette would drop through the letterbox. The deliveries took time, covering thousands of miles between Europe and South America, but Marcelo Bielsa was prepared to wait. He loved the days when the post arrived, bringing footage and news of Ajax.

Ajax were his case study, the team he liked to pore over, using grainy images and written match files, but the real attraction was Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman’s fingerprints were all over Ajax and, driven by his coaching, the Amsterdam club had Europe under their spell. Van Gaal’s football hooked Bielsa in. Of all the European managers, Van Gaal was the one to follow. Bielsa sat through 200 of Ajax’s matches, watching and learning. He knew the result by the time the videos reached him, so slow were the dispatches, but the tactics were there to be picked apart.

“After game 150, I asked a collaborator — well, I asked my wife — to tell me in which minutes Van Gaal made his substitutions,” Bielsa told the Aspire Academy’s global summit in 2016. Without reading the reports, he challenged himself to guess how, or with whom, Van Gaal would change his team when he turned to the bench. “I never believed I knew what Van Gaal knew because I don’t know how he feels,” Bielsa said, “but this was the only piece of his mind I could get hold of.” In that small way, Bielsa was able to think like him.

Bielsa’s coaching has long had a European streak about it and today, at Leeds United, there are shades of Van Gaal in him still: the pressing, the rotation of players’ positions, the insistence on maintaining numerical superiority at the back. Bielsa was the coach who saw no room for Juan Roman Riquelme in the Argentina squad. Van Gaal was the boss who let Wim Jonk, Bryan Roy and Dennis Bergkamp slip away from Ajax, in the interests of promoting collective thinking and tactical balance. They were on the same wavelength and Bielsa made a point of eulogising Van Gaal after the 69-year-old’s retirement last year. “My only desire is to say ‘thank you’ in public for what I learned from him,” Bielsa said.

Pep Guardiola had a love affair with 1990s Ajax too. His relationship with Van Gaal was different to Bielsa’s; more personal, in as much as he played for Van Gaal at Barcelona and earned the captaincy under him, yet slightly less engaged. Guardiola credited his evolution as a coach to Johan Cruyff and when it came to the stage of deciding if he was made for coaching at all, it was Bielsa he sought out for guidance and advice on a retreat in Argentina (although Van Gaal’s name came up in that conversation). But Ajax, to Guardiola, were no less of a phenomenon. “Van Gaal’s Ajax gave lessons to those who knew the game perfectly,” he wrote in the 2011 book Mi Gente, Mi Futbol.

Bielsa and Guardiola aspired to treat football in the same way; to master it, change it and own it. The men who will stand a few yards apart on the touchline at Elland Road this afternoon have been chasing the impossibility of perfection for longer than they can remember, kindred spirits who are as tied to the pursuit of brilliance as Van Gaal was in Amsterdam and as Bielsa and Guardiola were when they first shared a pitch in 2011.

The rain poured that night as Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao fought each other to a standstill in a 2-2 draw. “Your players are beasts,” Guardiola whispered into Bielsa ear at full-time. Bielsa chuckled. “And so are yours.”


On the way back to Buenos Aires, after a marathon 11-hour conversation on Bielsa’s ranch in Rosario, Guardiola called Matias Manna and declared, “I’ve just been with the man who knows more about football than anybody.”

Guardiola had first been intrigued by Bielsa in 1998, when he was still playing at Barcelona and the Argentinian was in the midst of one of his famously short managerial spells, this time at Barcelona club Espanyol.

In much the same way that Guardiola saw Juanma Lillo’s Real Oviedo side and thought, “Something is happening here”, he regarded Bielsa’s team as special. Guardiola asked his team-mate Mauricio Pellegrino, who had played for Bielsa at Velez Sarsfield, what he was like and something of an obsession was born.

Guardiola was told by Gabriel Batistuta during their time together at Roma, “if you want to coach, you have to talk with Bielsa”, but the Catalan was already paying close attention. During the 2002 World Cup finals (below), when Bielsa’s Argentina were knocked out at the group stage, Guardiola wrote a passage that is proof that he held his coaching beliefs long before he ever actually became a coach.

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“I still like Argentina, although they did not get out of the group, because I think they played very well; although we know that we live in a world in which if you win you are good and if you lose it does not matter what you have tried. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had the ball, if the team was well organised or if you go with a 3-4-3, like Bielsa did. If you lose, they say you failed. I see it in another way.”

In that sense, they have always been on the same page and, with Guardiola weighing up his first moves into coaching, he visited Argentina in 2006. He had always had an affinity for the country’s footballing heritage, sometimes getting his old Barcelona team-mates to teach him songs from the terraces of El Monumental (River Plate’s stadium) and La Bombonera (the home of Boca Juniors) so he could whistle them around the training ground.

On his fact-finding mission, he sat down with Cesar Luis Menotti, the 1978 World Cup winner, Ricardo La Volpe, a renowned tactician, and also Manna, an amateur coach who had written a book on Bielsa and had been blogging about Guardiola and his footballing outlook for several years.

Guardiola quizzed Manna about Bielsa — El Loco — although by that stage he too had only observed him from afar, and ran through the subjects he wanted to find out from the man himself from their meeting the next day. Things like how to build a team of backroom staff, the importance of analysts to study the opposition, how to handle the media and, perhaps most of all, the relationship between video analysis and how it can be used to complement a playing style.

Manna gave Guardiola a copy of his book, Guardiola used it as a reference point during the famous sit-down with Bielsa, and a few months later Manna was called to Bielsa’s office. “You’re Guardiola’s friend,” he said to the young coach, and made him one of his cherished analysts. They had both made a big impression during that exhausting chat.

The meeting itself has gone down in a particular corner of footballing history, a pow-wow between two of the most intense men ever to set foot in a dugout. Of course, back then Guardiola hadn’t set foot in one, but he turned up at Bielsa’s ranch well prepared to pick the brains of somebody who did things the way he intended to.

David Trueba, a novelist and director, accompanied his old friend Guardiola on the four-hour car journey from Buenos Aires and in fact spent an hour talking with Bielsa about cinema, until Trueba turned to Guardiola and said, ‘You haven’t come all this way to talk about films, have you?’”

Trueba, who ended up getting used as a mannequin in certain demonstrations, described what came next in an article in El Pais, once Guardiola had established himself as one of the world’s top coaches.

“There were heated discussions, they consulted the computer, reviewed techniques, practised positioning. There were complicated questions; Bielsa asked, ‘Why do you, someone who knows all the rubbish that surrounds the world of football, the high degree of dishonesty of certain people, still want to go back there and get into coaching? Do you like blood that much?’ Pep didn’t think twice. ‘I need that blood’.”

In August, for the first time, Guardiola provided a slightly different version of events. For years, the quote “I need that blood” had been attributed to him. “But the story was not like that,” Guardiola said in an interview with DAZN. “When we were talking about the media, I was the one who said to him, ‘If we complain so much about a world that sometimes doesn’t let us live, how come you don’t manage a youth team or a more amateur team and forget the professional world?’ He was the one who answered me, ‘I need that blood’.”

Bielsa also took the chance to enhance his own knowledge and was especially keen to know more about Van Gaal and Ajax, the 1995 Champions League winners who served as a reference point for both men. Bielsa classed Ajax as his favourite overseas team due to their tactical discipline and understanding. Guardiola had spent more time talking to the Dutchman about football than perhaps any other coach, even Cruyff.

“I think I managed to bore him by the eleventh hour,” Bielsa said years later, in his inimitable way, “but I thought he was like that from the beginning and he didn’t try to leave. That was the only time in our lives that we saw each other. Speaking so many hours about quite a few topics shows we had a pleasant time, but I don’t have any knowledge that Guardiola doesn’t have.”

Indeed, he has always refuted the idea that he taught Guardiola anything, but the younger man came away completely enthused and motivated to begin his coaching career, his ideas on the game and how it should be played completely reinforced, with additional tips  — like avoiding one-on-one media interviews and the importance of video analysis preparation — scribbled in a notebook.

“I respect and admire Bielsa a lot,” he has said. “He opened the doors of his home to me when I hadn’t even begun to coach. I’ve been influenced by other coaches, like Cruyff, who I was with for eight years, but I would have liked to have played for Bielsa, or been part of his staff.”

They had both been at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where Bielsa coached Chile, with Manna on his staff. Interested in Alexis Sanchez, Guardiola solicited Bielsa’s advice by telephone and he was assured the forward was “buena gente” — a good person — and Barcelona duly signed him.

But they didn’t see each other again for more than five years, by which time Guardiola had built the best team on the planet, perhaps in history, one that had won everything there was to win, and Bielsa was proving yet again with Athletic Bilbao that trophies are not always the best measure of success.


It is no night for football. The heavens have opened, the temperature is dropping towards single figures and a sea of ponchos fills the stands of the San Mames Stadium. Guardiola will lose his voice before the end of the evening and the ball will hold up in puddles of water as the pitch becomes more sodden and treacherous. But somehow, the spectacle is La Liga at its best.

Guardiola and Bielsa had seen the flames in each other’s eyes, the whirring of cogs in complex minds as they sat together in Argentina five years earlier, but they had never before thrown themselves against each other as coaches. Bielsa will discover what it is like when Barcelona’s tiki-taka toys with you; when you “surround them but the ball gets out anyway,” as Bielsa laments with a smile afterwards. Guardiola will feel the weight and ferocity of Athletic Bilbao’s press, the sprints, the energy, the batteries which refuse to go flat. The game leaves Barcelona’s manager hoarse and a little stunned. “I’ve never played against a team so intense,” he says.

To a point, Guardiola saw an epic game coming. He had spoken beforehand about Bielsa’s team “not letting you breathe. They attack the box with seven players. Then they lose the ball and defend with 11.”

He understood the theory and the process. But in the flesh and in the Spanish rain, the football is something else. La Liga has its milestones and memories but aficionados say the 2-2 draw between Bilbao and Barcelona on November 6, 2011 would sit comfortably in any tribute to the division. Rodri Errasti, a Spanish journalist, was covering Bilbao for Eurosport at the time. “It’s one of the best matches I ever watched,” he says.

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Claudio Vivas, Bielsa’s assistant at Bilbao, recalls how the day before the match — a day on which Spanish players liked to rest — Bielsa put his squad through a hard training session, a last chance to fire them up.

“The most significant thing about that game was that we had more of the ball than them, a team that normally has 70 or 75 per cent of possession,” Vivas tells The Athletic.

“There’s more to winning games than possession, it depends on many things, but in that game in particular Guardiola’s team wanted to control it. We didn’t let them. It wasn’t worth much in the end because we drew but afterwards it was something that everybody praised.”

Guardiola goes 4-3-3, with Cesc Fabregas in the middle of a front three. Bilbao are closer to 4-1-4-1, with Fernando Llorente up front and Ander Iturraspe in a holding role. Llorente is not famed for covering the pitch but Guardiola watches with surprise as the forward makes 40-yard runs back and forward, covering defensively whenever Barcelona retrieve possession.

Bielsa realises quickly that even on a pitch so churned and appalling, much of Barcelona’s passing will be flawless. Javier Mascherano, his fellow Argentinian, is everywhere from the off. “He goes out to the flanks and is a winger,” Bielsa says. “Then he marks Llorente as a central defender. And then moves up the field as a holding or attacking midfielder. Honestly, I’m proud to call Mascherano a compatriot.”

The risk to Bilbao is the death by a thousand cuts that Barcelona, under Guardiola, perform in their sleep. The risk to Barcelona is Bilbao’s high press and their willingness to commit so many bodies forward.

Bilbao score first when their positioning forces a risky pass from Victor Valdes to the right wing. Mascherano slips and Ander Herrera curls in a shot from the edge of the box. Ironically, it is the only good goal of the night. Fabregas nods in a free header after Bilbao’s defence go missing. Nine minutes from the end, Gerard Pique turns a corner into his own net. Barcelona have not lost all season but defeat is on the cards.

And then, in the 91st minute, Ander Iturraspe and his goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz go for the same ball inside their own box. They collide and deflect it to Lionel Messi, who rolls a shot into an empty net.

Bilbao look shattered. Everyone looks shattered. A drenched Guardiola makes a beeline for Bielsa, to shake his hand and commend him on dragging Barcelona so far out of their comfort zone. “The result is hard to take,” Bielsa says, “but it was a lovely game.”

Someone asks him why it took until the last five minutes for him to make substitutions. “Because I wanted to take off someone who wasn’t playing well,” he says.


All these years later, Bielsa is still in awe of the team Bilbao faced. Ask anyone who tangled with Guardiola in that era, he says, and they will tell the same story. “The memories I have are that Barcelona managed to neutralise our efforts to impose ourselves,” Bielsa said during his weekly press conference on Thursday. “Everybody would give you this answer — the opinion that they are the best team in the history of football. His teams play like no other team.”

Guardiola’s time at Barcelona was coming to an end. He would leave at the end of that 2011-12 season, concluding the first stage of the career Bielsa encouraged him to begin. But Bilbao had announced themselves and Bielsa’s reputation permeated the game. It is not that Europe knew nothing about him or what he was renowned for but, in plain sight, the composition of his team and his tactics were wonderful. In a matter of months, this side would knock Manchester United out of the Europa League. In May, Bielsa and Guardiola contested the Copa del Rey final, their last skirmish with each other until, eight years later, Leeds meet Manchester City today.

Bilbao’s campaign, though, poured fuel on the fire of the Bielsa burnout theory, the perception that the way he cracks the whip with his players causes them to hit a wall. Across La Liga, the Europa League and the Copa del Rey, Bilbao had 63 games to contend with. Incredibly, winger Markel Susaeta played in the lot. “But by the end of the season, the players were so, so tired,” Errasti says. Fatigued or not, Bilbao had two big dates to aim at: the Europa League final on May 9 and the Copa del Rey final two weeks later.

Defeat in one blew their chances in the other. Barcelona were heavy favourites to win the Copa del Rey but Bilbao fancied their chances against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League showpiece. There was little between the clubs in the domestic table. They had each beaten the other at home in the league. Bilbao flew to the final in Bucharest with confidence oozing but got soundly beaten 3-0, conceding to Radamel Falcao twice in the first half.

“To play so bad, the impact was big,” Errasti says. “If they had beaten Atletico, they would have thought that they might beat Barcelona. But to lose to Atletico like that, there was no chance against Barca. No one really believed. The team looked exhausted and you knew that only Barcelona could win that match.”

Barcelona and Bilbao met in Madrid at the old Vicente Calderon and there were no parallels with their November rumble at San Mames. The pitch at Atletico’s former home was dry and fast and Barcelona scored three times in the opening 25 minutes.

Bilbao looked passive, second to everything, and there was a telling moment in the 20th minute when Messi rifled Barcelona’s second goal into the roof of the net. A jaded Jon Aurtenetxe switched off and gave up on Messi’s run, devoid of intensity. At 3-0 down, Bilbao started to play but were already beaten. Bielsa said Bilbao struggled to beat Barcelona’s press. Guardiola, for Bielsa’s sake, tried not to dwell on the scoreline or the result. “I don’t think we are very conscious here of everything this coach is doing for football,” he said. “We were facing the best manager on the planet.”

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Vivas is not convinced that Athletic were mentally or physically shot. “No, no, no,” he says. “It was quality above physical aspects. The reality was that Messi was inspired, and Pedro and (Andres) Iniesta. It was Guardiola’s best Barca that season. Their opening period destroyed us.

“We tried but to be honest, we were never close to a result. There was tremendous disappointment because the whole Basque country was looking forward to it and we couldn’t live up to those expectations.”

Guardiola was finished at the Nou Camp. His time was up and he was speaking as Barcelona manager for the final time. “The loss is huge, because he made this sport shine,” Bielsa added. “The title of maestro is justified by his work. The work I have done in football doesn’t justify this title. If we were to establish maestro and student, I wouldn’t be the maestro.”

Bielsa was possibly leaving too. He and Bilbao were about to discuss his future, the way forward for the 2012-13 season, and Bielsa couldn’t say with any certainty he would stick around. He told his players as much in a private dressing-room conversation, the audio of which was leaked to the media a few months later (and after Bielsa agreed to stay on as manager).

The recording was made by one of Bilbao’s players but nobody has ever taken responsibility for it, or explained how it was that it reached the press. “Actually, in the eyes of the public, it was not bad for him,” Errasti says. “What he said (in that conversation), people were thinking.” In it, Bielsa accuses his squad of being “premature millionaires”. He saw some of them laughing after the Copa del Rey final and their brevity angered him. You don’t suffer like ordinary people in Bilbao, he told them. You cannot let them down like this.

“He was disappointed because the whole Basque country were behind us,” Vivas says. “So many fans came to the game, even without tickets.

“He didn’t complain but it was a speech based on reality. Maybe it could upset some people but for others it could be useful. A player thought the speech could hurt him (Bielsa) but the fans liked Marcelo even more because of it. He was praised by the Basque people. The player betrayed him. He recorded it and published it. We don’t know who it was but whoever it was it didn’t go very well for him because the fans loved what Marcelo said in that private chat.”

In spite of his ire, Bielsa could not deny that the squad’s application in the build-up had been exemplary. “You trained like animals for 10 days,” Bielsa told his players. “You obeyed, submitted and applied yourselves to everything I asked of you.” Bielsa had done likewise, compiling a vast analysis document detailing every aspect of Barcelona’s system. Afterwards, he gave it to Guardiola as a gift and a sign of respect for him. “You know more about my team than I do,” Guardiola joked. “But it was useless information,” Bielsa admitted during his famous Spygate briefing at Leeds last year, “because we conceded three goals.”

Vivas was closely involved in the preparation of that document, working for hours to help pull it together. “Before the final (Bielsa) told me to watch every Barcelona game from that season, to cut up every game and split them into different videos — goalscoring opportunities, chances they conceded, how they played out from the back, the different tactical systems Guardiola used in the 64 games, including friendlies,” he says.

“The only thing he asked for was to give solutions to the players so they had the knowledge to come up with the answers on the pitch. What happens when you play against a team like Barca is that with everything we planned, some of the things went well and others didn’t. They overcame us with their attacking ability. They were very efficient.

“I’m sure Pep loved the scout report. It was a very complete work. Marcelo polished it and made it better. The result wasn’t what we wanted but that’s how we prepared for it. After the game he sent it to Barca’s dressing room as a gift.”

The relationship between Guardiola and Bielsa was rare. They were respectful to the point of being reverential and each man preferred the other to be held in higher regard. Their encounters in the heat of battle did not alter their opinion of one another, except for the better. Bielsa could delight in Guardiola’s successes. Guardiola played them down when Bielsa’s name came up in the conversation. “I don’t dare call him,” Bielsa once said. “I feel inhibited by what he is.”

Even this week, as a long-awaited reunion came around, the phone line stayed quiet.


In England, personal meetings between Guardiola and Bielsa have been relatively few. They are understood to have met for dinner in Leeds and Manchester and their paths crossed in the transfer market when the Yorkshire club first signed Jack Harrison on loan from Manchester City in 2018 but they have their own jobs, their own lives and their own daily stresses.

“I don’t see him every week but the pleasure when I spend time with him, it’s always so inspirational for me,” Guardiola said on Friday. “He is probably the person I admire most in world football. My theory is that, for a manager, it’s not about how many titles you win. I have won many titles but my knowledge of things is far away from his.” The Athletic has been told that City’s last training session before their visit to Elland Road was a double session — the first time Guardiola has done that in four years as City’s manager.

The two men made beasts of Barcelona and Bilbao. At Elland Road this evening, they will find the same old spirit at work: City’s 4-2-3-1 meeting Leeds’ 4-1-4-1, Kevin De Bruyne colliding with Kalvin Phillips and Guardiola jousting with an ageless Bielsa. That wet night at San Mames almost eight years ago will feel like yesterday, like a light that never goes out.

In Thursday’s pre-match press conference, Bielsa was drawn into speaking about the new and beleaguered handball rule; how to change it, how to fix it, how to make it work for everyone. One sentence in his answer jumped out, unrelated to him or Guardiola but inadvertently describing their respective journeys through management.

“In the search for perfection, you know where it starts,” Bielsa said. “But you never know where it ends.”

 

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9 hours ago, Vesper said:

wayyyyy too early

but if not us who wi it

then the team I would so love to beat the dippers would be the toffees and king carlo

If there is ever a year that's got perfect conditions for an underdog victory it's this year.

Would be pretty mental though, Carlo's league record (for the teams he's managed) have been pretty poor and then the first time he takes a club with seemingly no hope of winning it he goes and does it, would be absolutely mental.

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2 Czech players in the same team starting a Premier League game. Well, that was a long time ago... WHU have had some soft spot for our men haha

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33 minutes ago, Milan said:

2 Czech players in the same team starting a Premier League game. Well, that was a long time ago... WHU have had some soft spot for our men haha

Is this the first time since Cech and Baros?

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