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The Fiver

Five goals, 37 shots, 16 corners and 472 little Fiver moans

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It’s Big Cup, baby.
camera.png It’s Big Cup, baby. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Rob Smyth


PARIS IS LEARNING

The Fiver feels unclean. Admittedly this is not an unprecedented state of affairs, literally or figuratively, but we’ve got to write about something so that’ll do. You see, we feel guilty about our relationship with Big Cup. On the one hand, we loathe everything it represents, and are 110% disgusted by the Even More Greed Is Even Better proposals to make elite football even less jeapordous. But then we watch a game like Bayern 2-3 PSG, making funny little moaning noises throughout, and it makes us feel so darn euphoric. Deriving such visceral pleasure from something we essentially detest is the closest the Fiver has come to having one of those lovebuddies we keep reading about it in Granny Fiver’s lifestyle magazines.

There’s another layer of guilt to our pleasure. Because although the first leg of the quarter-final between Bayern and PSG produced five goals, 37 shots, 16 corners and 472 little Fiver moans, deep down we know some of the gegenpressing and Big Chance Conversion left a fair bit to be desired, and that makes us feel sad.

In the pursuit of emotional clarity, and because The Man has ordered us to do so, we plan to sit down for tonight’s second leg and leer at our big screen with a slightly gormless expression. The match, a repeat of last year’s final in case you’ve been at a digital retreat on the Kerguelen Islands for the last nine months, is impossible to call, even though PSG have three away goals. PSG’s home form this season has been ropey, and in the previous round they flirted with blowing a 4-1 lead against Barcelona. They will also know that with a bit more luck last week – and a lot more Lewandowski – Bayern could be 48-3 ahead on aggregate.

But there will be no Lewandowski tonight either. Both teams have fairly grotesque injury lists, which adds to the thrilling feeling of unpredictability that makes us feel so guilty. PSG’s biggest loss is their captain, Marquinhos, but they do have the trump card of world football: Kylian Mmmbappé, who roasted Bayern on the counter-attack in the first leg and should have ample opportunities to do the same tonight. If he scores a hat-trick, PSG might just sneak through.

Tonight’s other game should be a formality: Chelsea have a 2-0 lead over Porto from the away leg, although both matches are being played in Seville. But Thomas Tuchel will be slightly wary, having lost a similar lead against Manchester United two years ago when he was PSG manager. If it happens again he’ll be filthy. We know how he feels.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

In case you didn’t notice above, there’s Big Cup action on tonight, both starting at 8pm BST. Rob Smyth will be MBMing PSG 2-4 Bayern (5-6 agg), while Barry Glendenning is on Chelsea 3-1 Porto (5-1 agg).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I always get fed, I can assure you of that” – Noah Solskjær might as well have said ‘my captors are treating me well’, even if his statement to Norwegian media was meant to dampen the little war of words between his father, Ole, and José Mourinho, after Manchester United’s weekend win over Spurs.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær poses with his sons Noah (left) and Elijah.
camera.png Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær poses with his sons Noah (left) and Elijah. Photograph: Ntb Scanpix/Reuters

FIVER LETTERS

““You just had to do it, didn’t you? Barely as I’ve just about got over the 16 years of bitterness at Pedro Mendes’s shot from the halfway line at Old Trafford being disallowed and Spurs being denied a certain last-minute winner, you went and published a picture of Roy Carroll (yesterday’s Quote Of The Day) at about the same position inside the goal from which he made his heroic ‘save’. With presumably the same smug grin on his face. Thanks a lot, Fiver” – Tim Clarke.

“Re: Justin Kavanagh and Antoine Griezmann’s exceptionally accurate child creation (yesterday’s letters). I’ve done the maths so no-one else has to – these are the major events approximately nine months prior to the birth of each child: 11 July 2020 - “thigh injury” against Real Valladolid which ends his season. 15 July 2018 - wins the World Cup Final. 28 July 2015 - scores for first time in the season against Real Oviedo. I guess 2020 was hard for everyone” – Luke Justus.

“I hate agreeing with Mourinho. I mean, I really, really hate it. But he ain’t wrong. Bread IS bread. And, most of the time, cheese usually is cheese. But he’s still gonna get fired in a few weeks, isn’t he?” – Mike Wilner.

“Re: recent stories on refereeing. Many moons ago I was playing in goals in an amateur league match deep down in the west of Ireland. The referee that day was huge, the kind of fella who was probably sinking 10 pints a day during the week and gallons of porter at the weekend. Needless to say he couldn’t keep up with play. Our opponents took a corner and managed to get a shot away towards my near post. The referee who had taken up a position near the post out of sheer laziness, managed to deflect their shot from going wide with his beer gut back into play from which they scored. To add insult to injury he gave me a yellow card for pointing out his fat belly had provided the assist” – Eoin Balfe.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Luke Justus.

 

 
 

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Forest Green are pondering appointing the Football League’s first woman manager, having booted Mark Cooper through the door marked Do One.

Manchester City are poised to swoop for Fluminense’s teenage sensation Kayky, who has been billed as the ‘new Neymar’. No pressure then. Talking of which, Jadon Sancho will not face City for Dortmund tomorrow due to ongoing thigh-gah. Which might have given Pep Guardiola some confidence.

A 49-year-old man has been charged with racially abusing West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers online.

The decision to bar clinically extremely vulnerable supporters from the League/Fizzy Cup final is “direct discrimination”, according to a group of disabled Tottenham fans.

It was Big Sam’s turn to be in a right funk over VAR, as it meant a 4-0 win over Southampton ended up being only 3-0. Asked whether the technology was making football a laughing stock, he chuntered: “I’m afraid so.”

In other unsurprising Premier League news, Brighton created a load of chances and didn’t score from any of them. As per.

Lucy Bronze is a doubt for England’s friendly against Canada this evening with groin knack.

And Florentino Pérez has been re-elected Real Madrid president for a sixth term in an election contested by … *checks notes* … no one else.

STILL WANT MORE?

Tuesday marks 10 years to the day since the Women’s Super League as created, so Suzy Wrack listed the five biggest moments so far.

Moments!
camera.png Moments! Composite: -

Meanwhile, Suzy also sat down for a chin-way with Kelly Simmons, the head of the professional women’s game, to see what’s next for female football in the UK.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

STOP IT!

    

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The Telegraph

Wednesday April 14 2021

Matt Law's Chelsea briefing

 
Matt Law
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Do spooky similarities with 2012 mean anything for Chelsea's current Champions League campaign?

By Matt Law,
Football News Correspondent

It will not be lost on Chelsea supporters that the last time they beat Portuguese opposition in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, they went on to rule Europe.

In fact, there is a growing theme among fans on social media that the stars are aligning and pointing to another Champions League success, nine years since the thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel will not be counting on superstition as he attempts to plot a path to the final, but some of the similarities between this and Chelsea’s 2012 campaign are stark.

Those who follow Twitter accounts such as @CFCDUBois, @TheScore01 and @SonOfChelsea will have seen the numerous messages and retweets of good omens for Chelsea’s Champions League hopes.

Some, such as the fact Chelsea’s rivals Tottenham Hotspur conceded five goals in an FA Cup game in 2012 and did so again this season, border on the ridiculous.

But there is undeniably a likeness between where Chelsea find themselves now and where they were at the same stage of the competition all those years ago.

Here, purely for a bit of fun (yes, that still is allowed in football), this column goes through some of the better similarities and rates the strength of each omen out of five.

A MANAGERIAL CHANGE

This season, it was Frank Lampard who got sacked and in 2012 it was another young coach Andre Villas-Boas who was replaced before the end of the season.

Chelsea had already qualified from the group stages of the Champions League and drawn Atletico Madrid when Lampard was replaced by Thomas Tuchel, but interim manager Roberto Di Matteo faced an altogether tougher task when he succeeded Villas-Boas. Chelsea were 3-1 down to Napoli in the Champions League and were staring elimination in the face, before Di Matteo’s team beat the Italians 4-1 after extra-time in the second leg at Stamford Bridge. The rest, as they say, is history.

Omen rating: 2 out of 5. Chelsea change their managers so frequently that it would be more eye-catching if they had not sacked Villas-Boas or Lampard as they progressed through the Champions League in 2012 and this season.

AN FA CUP RUN

Chelsea completed a double by winning the Champions League nine years ago, having already lifted the FA Cup a couple of weeks earlier. And next in the fixture list this weekend is an FA Cup semi-final date against Manchester City at Wembley. Progress to the final to face either Leicester City or Southampton, a game in which Chelsea would be favourites, will only further convince superstitious supporters that another European and domestic double is on the cards.

No doubt the Twitter accounts linking every possible likeness to this season and the Champions League-winning campaign will have already noted that Chelsea beat Leicester City on their FA Cup run in 2012 — so if Tuchel’s team can somehow get past Manchester City, then some might be praying for the midlands team in the final.

Omen rating: 3 out of 5. The FA Cup and Champions League 2012 successes more than made up for what had been a disappointing Premier League season and, once again, some of Chelsea’s best performances this season have some in the domestic and European cup competitions.

THE GERMAN CONNECTION

Last season Thomas Tuchel was one step from winning the Champions League with Paris-Saint Germain, as the French club were beaten by Bayern Munich in the final. The last time a German manager, Jurgen Klopp, lost a Champions League final, he went on to win it in the following season with Liverpool, who were beaten by Real Madrid in 2017/18 before overcoming Tottenham Hotspur in 2018/19.

Unlike Klopp, Tuchel has changed clubs since losing in the final, but Chelsea will be hoping that he shares the same drive Klopp displayed to respond in the best possible way to such a big disappointment.

Omen rating: 4 out of 5. The fact it was a German who last won the Champions League after losing a final is not particularly significant. But one of the attractions of appointing Tuchel for Chelsea was his pedigree in the competition last season and that experience appears to be serving him well.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Just as Tottenham supporters used to look out for a year that ended in one, Chelsea fans will not have needed a degree in mathematics to realise that the numbers of 2012 can also be rearranged to make 2021. But if that is not enough to convince you that this must be the club's year to become two-time European Champions, then consider this: Didier Drogba top-scored for the in the competition nine years ago with six goals - the same amount of goals Olivier Giroud has so far netted up to the semi-finals.

Drogba was 34 by the time Chelsea won in Munich and how old is Giroud? You guessed it, 34. The number 29 could also be of interest to superstitious supporters, as it is the day of the month that both Roberto Di Matteo (May 29) and Thomas Tuchel (August 29) were born.

Omen rating: 2 out of 5. The numbers do appear to add up for Chelsea this season, although Giroud will only need to score one more Champions League goal to beat Drogba’s 2012 tally. The amateur mathematicians should not be getting too excited just yet.

Got a question on Chelsea? Get in touch on Twitter @Matt_Law_DT or by emailing [email protected]

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The Fiver

Replacing Poch with tactics to make George Graham look like Ossie Ardiles

 

Mauricio Pochettino: one trophy in the bag, Big Cup in his sights
camera.png Mauricio Pochettino: one trophy in the bag, Big Cup in his sights. Photograph: Dave Winter/REX/Shutterstock

Scott Murray


POCH ON

When Daniel Levy took over at Tottenham Hotspur in 2001, it felt like the club were in a state of suspended animation. One of the grandest institutions in the country, all they’d won in the previous nine years was a solitary League Cup. Things had to change. And just look at them now! Two glory-strewn decades down the line, not only have they won another League Cup, they’ve also come third in a two-horse race in the Premier League, behind a 5,000-1 shot and Arsenal, and forgotten to turn up for a Big Cup final, though they did qualify for it. Well done, Daniel, it’s been one hell of a blast.

But in the interests of balance, it’s only fair to point out that nobody is perfect. Some critics have been questioning Levy’s 2019 decision to defenestrate Mauricio Pochettino and replace him with a man whose tactics make George Graham look like Ossie Ardiles and whose results make Ossie Ardiles look like Bill Nick. And while Spurs faff about, Pochettino has sauntered off, hand in pocket, whistling, to PSG where he’s already won one trophy and is looking good to land Big Cup having last night dispatched holders Bayern Munich in another of those matches the hipster cognoscenti won’t have enjoyed because tactics went out the window and it was fun.

Down the line, Manchester City may have something to say about this. So may Chelsea. So, in theory, may ersatz 2019 Liverpool tribute act Liverpool, who will at least give another of those famous comebacks a go tonight, bless them. But with PSG three matches away from the Boys Own fairytale of becoming the first sovereign state to win Europe’s top club championship, things are looking very promising indeed for the former Spurs boss right now. Especially as favourites City will almost certainly find yet another wild and wonderful way to blow it in Europe, if not tonight in Dortmund then in the semi in Paris, we can feel it in our bones. Hey, who knows, maybe they’ll freeze in the League Cup final too, in which case chalk one more success up for Big Dan.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Scott Murray for Liverpool 2-0 Real Madrid (3-3 agg), and Barry Glendenning for Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Manchester City (2-5 agg).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

You’ll see a change now – see the banners around the club [stadium] are not red any more. We’ve looked into this. Some of the players mentioned that in the split-second decision you have to look over your shoulder to see if your teammate is there or not then the red shirt is on a red background with red seats” – Ole Gunnar Solskjær brings back memories of those grey shirts at the Dell, almost exactly 25 years on.

The Manchester United squad in action at Old Trafford
camera.png The Manchester United squad in action at Old Trafford. Photograph: Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

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It’s Football Weekly!

FIVER LETTERS

“Fiver is guilty of just eating the shooting stats in Brighton vs Everton match. Expected goals reveals just very boring game 1.16 vs 0.31 so it should have been 1-0 ish which it was … ish” – Tim Lynch.

“Did Paul Lindauer feel like a bully? [Monday’s Fiver letters] I did in a similar situation. There was a kid’s game about to start in the park and no ref; hi, I’m qualified, I’ll do it. Well thank you. While some of the kids were checking out the dandelions, one bigger kid was bustling his way through everyone, and not in accordance with the laws. After awarding a few free-kicks against him, I decided he needed some guidance; I wagged my finger at him as I told him that he couldn’t just push others out of his way. His response was to burst into tears and run over to his mother (not so tough, now, eh?) Oh dear, what a brute, dark looks from other parents. Sigh. So much for being a nice guy. (Didn’t bother about leaving the field without permission ...) – Allan Clark.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Allan Clark.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela has been handed a 10-match Uefa ban for ‘racist behaviour’ at Rangers.

Mikel Arteta says he refuses to imagine a first Arsenal season without Europe since 1995-96 next year. “I don’t want to put it in my mind or transmit it to any of the players or anybody at the club,” he cheered.

Neymar’s contract extension talks seem set to go smoothly. “I don’t think this is even a topic any more; I obviously feel very comfortable, at home at PSG,” he purred.

STILL WANT MORE?

Has a player played more games in a league season than their team? The Knowledge has the answer

Big interview: Sid Lowe talks to Fede Valverde: ‘You take a corner and there’s an animal next to you’

Federico Valverde in action against Liverpool
camera.png Federico Valverde in action against Liverpool. Photograph: Helios de la Rubia/Real Madrid/Getty Images

Marcus Christenson on the Swedish fans trying to create an atmosphere … despite only eight being allowed in a ground.

‘Hostile takeover’ and smashed glass: John Duerden reports on the turmoil in Pakistan’s football

Brighton’s Aileen Whelan gets her chat on with Louise Taylor: ‘I’ll concentrate on child psychology after retiring’

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

‘THANKS EVERYONE!’

Edited by Vesper
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The Fiver

Wholesome scenes that explored depths of shade and lightness of tone

 

Gunnersaurus in disguise.
camera.png Are you Gunnersaurus in disguise? Photograph: Twitter

Daniel Harris


NO PAINT, NO GAIN

Human beings are unpredictable animals – sometimes we do one thing, other times we do another – and the Fiver is no different. So, though the nation’s favourite tea-timely email is renowned for its sophisticated satire, coruscating wit, and punching up not down, on occasion it has no choice but to take the cheap, easy option and turn its focus on Tottenham Hotspur.

Just this morning, the club’s official Twitter account celebrated the signing of a sponsorship deal with Dulux, “the nation’s number one paint brand” installed as “our first ever Official Paint Supplier”. But with the Fiver chortling at the various absent hyphens and present capital letters, the new partner decided it wanted in on the fun. Audere est facere, and all that.

When one Social Media Disgrace user asked Dulux whether the dog could play centre-back, the brave administrator wondered “he might do a better job.” Another user then quipped that it “might be time to paint the trophy cabinet”, to which Mr Admin simply posted an image of an unused cabinet, apparently for sale, in wholesome scenes that explored depths of shade and lightness of tone. Someone got upset and the offending missives were quickly deleted – probably for the best, given Eric Dier’s delicate sensitivity – leaving the rest of us to wonder what was coming next. Perhaps a plan for some new colours: envy green, perennially blue and pathologically yellow, to be made available in either Stéphane Dal-matt or Christian Gloss.

At the time of writing, José Mourinho has yet to comment – the Fiver understands that he is busy seeking a new corner into which he will paint himself. Perhaps this is an omen­ for next weekend’s Carabao Cup final – as Chas and Dave taught, it’s lucky for Spurs when the year ends in Pant-one.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Get ready for a hot evening of Euro Vase: Barry Glendenning is manning our MBM of Manchester United 4-0 Granada (6-0 agg) from 8pm BST, while Paul Doyle is on hand for Slavia Prague 2-2 Arsenal (3-3 agg) at the same time.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“That is the best own goal I’ve ever seen. The Glens have equalised … what a finish over his own goalkeeper” – following on from a remarkable 40-yard header from Glentoran striker Rory Donnelly earlier this week, the Glens benefit from a freak own goal from Coleraine’s Josh Carson, who somehow managed to tackle a 30-yard lob into his own net.

Oh Josh!
camera.png Oh Josh! Photograph: Glentoran FC

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It’s Football Weekly Extraaaaaaaa!

FIVER LETTERS

“Years ago playing in Mackay in Queensland our match had to be postponed because the Ref was done for driving under the influence on the way to the Sunday afternoon match” – Richard Samwell.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … it’s a rollover!

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

The penultimate round of Premier League matches will be pushed back to 18-19 May to enable up to 10,000 fans to attend them after the next scheduled relaxation of Covid measures.

The PFA and global players’ union Fifpro have called for temporary concussion substitutes to be trialled to better protect players with head injuries.

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman asked Boris Johnson to intervene over the Saudis’ thwarted bid for Newcastle last summer, it has emerged.

Lionel Messi has helped to obtain 50,000 Covid vaccines from China for a plan to inoculate all of South America’s football players before this summer’s Copa América tournament.

And Jürgen Klopp bemoaned Liverpool’s Big Cup exit as “the story of our season” while Pep Guardiola was a lot more chipper after Man City’s win at Dortmund. “We are building history,” he trilled.

STILL WANT MORE?

Quiet, unassuming Phil Brown is back, baby, at Southend – and on one of the toughest of survival missions. Ben Fisher has more.

Here we go again.
camera.png Here we go again. Photograph: Joe Toth/BPI/Shutterstock

Louise Taylor on how Pep’s positivity doused Dortmund’s fireworks.

Barney Ronay sings the praises of Real Madrid and their impenetrable white wall at Anfield.

Here’s Jonathan Wilson on Manchester City v PSG and the darker side of sport’s fairytales.

Suzanne Wrack analyses the latest women’s internationals and crunches them into our Euro 2022 power rankings.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

JFT96

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The Fiver

Uefa’s golden goose is showing signs of severe constipation

 

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba: settling scores while the going is good.
camera.png Manchester United’s Paul Pogba: settling scores while the going is good. Photograph: Dave Thompson/AP

Scott Murray


EURO, A WORD THAT SOUNDS LIKE A YAWN

It was another great evening in Europe for English clubs who aren’t Liverpool. Arsenal took a stand by taking the knee, then saw off dubious shower Slavia Prague with amusing ease. Manchester United breezed past Granada, finally achieving closure for the 1987 FA Cup defeat at home to Coventry City, who that day sported shirts bearing the name of the bingo wing of the popular leisure conglomerate, and went on to win the final wearing the same. Sir Alex Ferguson was always a Top Rank man after that, Gala at a push if there was no other show in town when his dauber really started twitching. Some losses stay with you.

The results raise the possibility of another year in which both major European finals are contested by clubs from Blighty. It’s a situation that pleases nobody, boring and/or irritating everyone else on the continent and forcing English fans into a Hobson’s choice, as opposed to getting four-square behind whoever the Premier League representative is facing. So exactly why the bigwigs are continuing with their plans for an expanded “Swiss-style” Big Cup format (talks start again today!) isn’t exactly clear. Yes, yes, money – but the competition has been grindingly repetitive for some time now, with the golden goose showing signs of severe constipation. Cramming packets of Imodium down its neck isn’t going to help.

Even so, there are still benefits to doing well in Europe. A good run allows players to settle scores while the going is good, and United midfielder Paul Pogba has taken the opportunity while riding this high to fire a shot across José Mourinho’s bow, accusing his former manager of “going against players” and making them feel like “they don’t exist any more”. While this isn’t exactly breaking news, it’s worth noting because you can get long odds on Mourinho letting this lie, and we’ll need a reference point when he decides to escalate this already volatile situation.

Who knows, he might even decide to do that tonight, should the red mist descend after Spurs come off second-best in tonight’s big seventh-place play-off with Everton. Tune in, kids, another seven-minute soliloquy could be coming right up.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Fancy some Friday night Premier League action? Course you do. Join Scott Murray for minute-by-minute coverage of Everton 1-0 Tottenham (8pm BST).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do too much of a team talk. My lip goes … as soon as I see Carl Dickinson [the vice-captain] I start to cry. Lee is very much here with us. His locker is still his locker, his armband will be his armband. We’ll carry him with us” – Yeovil Town manager Darren Sarll on how the club are coping in the aftermath of the tragic death of club captain Lee Collins.

A fan leaves his scarf among tributes to Lee Collins, who died at the age of 32 in March.
camera.png A fan leaves his scarf among tributes to Lee Collins, who died at the age of 32 in March. Photograph: Simon Galloway/PA

FIVER LETTERS

“Spurs may have signed a sponsorship deal with a big paint company (yesterday’s Fiver) but perhaps they missed an opportunity. If the Lilywhites had instead chosen to associate themselves with the whitest-ever paint, they could have actually become cool again” – Peter Oh.

“A Spurs deal with Crown Paints (yesterday’s Fiver) would have been getting ahead of themselves? “One with Johnstone’s Paint would at least have had the ring of a trophy about it” – Richard Lowe.

“Former World Cup whistler Howard Webb recently got married to another referee, Bibiana Steinhaus. I will let your other readers insert their own VAR jokes as appropriate, while wishing the happy couple all the very best. I just wonder which one of them booked the church” – Alastair McGillivray.

“As a resident of Norn Iron and a follower of local football, I was delighted to witness two examples of our quality matches featured on your email recently. I noticed the lack of a crowd and was about to tut about Covid’s terrible impact, until I realised the video could have been from any league match in the last 30 years” – Shane Lockhead.

“A Big Vase Ajax v Dinamo Zagreb final (Fiver on, er, 8 April)? You’ve made a right Arsenal of that prediction” – Andrew Taylor.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Peter Oh.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Roma defender Chris Smalling and his family have been targeted by armed robbers at his home, according to reports in Italy.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore will take a further period of leave after developing complications from Covid-19, including pneumonia and blood clots on his lungs. Get well soon, Darren.

England Under-21s manager Aidy Boothroyd will saunter through the door marked Do One at St George’s Park when his contract with the FA expires this summer, after failing to guide the side beyond the group stage of this year’s Euros.

Paul Cook is settling in as Ipswich manager, so how does he rate his new team? “We don’t put crosses into the box, we don’t create chances, we don’t defend well,” Cook fumed. “We don’t retain possession of the ball, we’re not very fit and we’re not very athletic.” Apart from that, though …

Paul Cook: not impressed.
camera.png Paul Cook: not impressed. Photograph: Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images

Ralph Hasenhüttl is backing his Southampton team to do a Crystal Palace and kick Leicester – (one of) the team(s) that beat them 9-0 recently – out of the FA Cup semi-finals. “When we are hungry and when we know what we have to hunt for, then we are strong,” roared the Austrian.

Is there something in the Wembley water? Here’s Tommy T, coming out swinging at Manchester City: “From next year on, from day one of next season we will hunt them, we will try to close the gap between us,” he bellowed, arms outstretched.

Carlo Ancelotti has hinted signing a forward and a midfielder will not be near the top of his agenda in the summer. The Italian believes Jean-Philippe Gbamin will come good after battling a series of injuries and is still keeping a theatrically-browed eye on Moise Kean, on loan at Big Cup-chasing PSG.

And Burnley keeper Nick Pope can warm up for a busy Sunday at Old Trafford in style, after winning a set of goalposts from his old club, York City. Pope won the nets, which stood at York’s former ground, Bootham Crescent, in a charity auction.

STILL WANT MORE?

Norwich up? Sheffield United down? Get your rubber stamps ready for the weekend, because here are 10 things to look out for.

Composite.
camera.png Watch out, Scotty! Composite: Getty, EPA, Shutterstock

Arsenal Women defender Lotte Wubben-Moy gets her chat on with Suzanne Wrack: about her time at University of North Carolina and life in the “competitive cauldron”.

USA! USA!! USA!!! The new MLS season kicks off this weekend: Our panel of writers deliver their predictions for the MVP, the champions and a new team in Texas.

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CELEBRATING IN STYLE

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15 minutes ago, killer1257 said:

Kane is so much better than Haaland and Lukaku

atm, yes

I would LOVE to have him for the next 4 , 5 years

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1 minute ago, Vesper said:

atm, yes

I would LOVE to have him for the next 4 , 5 years

big problem

Contract until Jun 30, 2024 😿

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The best result for us.

And Kane’s ankle is always a ticking bomb. Will he make it to the cup final?

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Way things are going at Spuds, I have a bad feeling Kane will end up pushing for a move to another PL club. And I think there’s only 1 club he could go to that Levy would reluctantly agree to which is United.

Kane to United and Haaland to City would be a BIG yikes.

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The Telegraph

Friday April 16 2021

Football Nerd

Fulham should stick with Scott Parker as this data shows

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By Daniel Zeqiri

Fulham are running out of games to avoid relegation but regardless of their fate this season the stock of head coach Scott Parker has undoubtedly risen.

Their recruitment in the summer transfer window was shrewd, making Fulham a far more competitive Premier League outfit than many expected.

Remember, there were gloomy predictions of Fulham not matching Derby County's lowest-ever Premier League points tally of 11 after they were stuffed by Arsenal on the opening day.

Pep Guardiola once said a coach's job was to get their team into the final third as frequently as possible, from where the intuition of individual players takes over. By this measurement, Parker has done some fine work considering the level of talent at his disposal.

Much has been made of Brighton's profligacy, but Fulham have actually suffered the biggest underperformance relative to expected goals in the league. The difference between their 35.9 expected goals, just behind Everton, and their 24 goals scored is the biggest in the division. Their xG tally is higher than Burnley, Southampton, Wolves and Crystal Palace.

In this week's Football Nerd, I ask whether that is down to misfortune or if we should expect relegation-threatened sides to miss more chances than those at the top.

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