LIVERPOOL: THE NEW ARSENAL?
That’s Liverpool out of Big Cup, then. On Tuesday night at the Metropolitano they enjoyed 99.9% possession against Atlético Madrid, yet were restricted to a grand total of zero shots on goal. So we know exactly how the return leg in three weeks’ time will play out. A ruthless display of dark arts, sharp counter-attacking and weapons-grade jaded cynicism that, when mixed together, will make the impotent fury generated by José Mourinho and Chelsea in 2014 feel like an insouciant shrug of the shoulders. A mild huff. It’s over. This is Atleti. A Diego Simeone team. They’re not good-time charlies like Li’l Leo and his pals. Hey, it was nice while it lasted.
Also poised to depart Big Cup at the stage formerly known as the Round of Arsenal, but now known as the Round of PSG, are PSG. Their latest loss in the competition they are never going to win came at Borussia Dortmund, though to be fair it wasn’t quite like the egregious capitulations of yore. They were simply undone by Dortmund’s answer to Odion Ighalo, Erling Braut Haaland, who shinned one in from close range before ripping the goalframe from its moorings with another effort. Those goals made it 10 in seven Big Cup matches for the 19-year-old sensation, who will be giving sleepless nights to coaches from Paris to Madrid to Munich to Naples to Barcelona to Manchester to Milan. But mainly Manchester.
Mind you, it’s all immaterial, given that Mourinho is going to win the whole thing anyway. It’s inevitable. It is written. Despite defending with all the grace and elegance of The Wurzels, Spurs have not only forgotten how to lose, they also suddenly can’t stop winning. What their manager has done since rocking up in N17 isn’t obvious to the naked human eye, but something’s happened, hasn’t it. So despite going into Wednesday’s first leg against Leipzig without their best two strikers (in order, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane) confidence abounds. “They are probably thinking, ‘Wow, now is the time to kill them’,” says José, with a calm confidence that will give everyone else in football a feeling of great unease up and down the spine. “I understand why they think that way, but we are going to give everything and I don’t think it’s going to be easy for Leipzig to play against us.” Yeah, he’s up to something, isn’t he. A Mourinho v Simeone final, then? You’d pay to see it.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray from 8pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Tottenham 1-2 Leipzig in Big Cup – hey, it’s all part of the plan – while Simon Burnton will be on hand for Atalanta 1-1 Valencia and Rob Smyth will be all over the rescheduled Manchester City 8-0 West Ham at 7.30pm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The events took place after the match, in the stadium car park. There was an altercation, an escalation and things got worse. The case was a bit saucy” – Emmanuel Saling of the Mosellan football district in eastern France reflects on the decision to ban a Soetrich player for five years after biting an opponent in the unmentionables.
“Anyone who thinks that Barcelona have an unfair advantage by signing Martin Braithwaite (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs) clearly never saw the rare occasions he decided to grace Middlesbrough with his presence. What next? One of our worse ever managers getting the England job and becoming a national hero? Oh” – Vic Rushton.
“Re: AFC Wimbledon. Joe Birch (Monday’s Fiver letters) must’ve missed Big Website contributor Andy Brassell doing all he can to raise awareness. He’s literally signed for the club” – Pete Josse.
“Joe’s letter reminded me of how conflicting I find AFC’s rise up the leagues. On one level, it’s an uplifting tale of fans working together, refusing to give up and fighting for the survival of the club they love. But I, like many older fans I expect, still cannot forget the Wimbledon of the 80s, with its style of football, violent players, annoying b@ntz (before b@antz was even a thing) and that massive plucky-little-underdog chip they always had on their shoulder. And, most importantly, the fact they made me cry in May 1988” – Tim Woods.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Chelsea say a “large group” of Manchester United fans made homophobic chants at Stamford Bridge on Monday. A number of fans were prevented from entering the ground before the match and others were ejected.
Manchester City chief suit Ferran Soriano has denied claims that the English champions broke the rules over FFP. “Based on our experience and our perception this seems to be less about justice and more about politics,” he tooted.
Spain’s top-flight female players have signed their first collective agreement on pay and conditions, breaking an impasse with authorities.
Jürgen Klopp has a mild funk on.
Neymar has a funk on.
Arsène Wenger is proposing changes to the offside rule, via his role as Fifa’s head of global development. “Instead, you will be not be offside if any part of the body that can score a goal is in line with the last defender, even if other parts of the attacker’s body are in front,” he cheered. “That will sort it out,” he added, wrongly.
Cagliari forward Leonardo Pavoletti will be sidelined for a further six months after knacking his knacked knee even more on a night out with teammates. “We came out of the restaurant, we start joking around and pushing each other,” he parped. “I felt my knee give way and found myself on the ground without really knowing why … It was just bad luck.”
Exeter City are looking to bounce back after losing their Sherpa Van Trophy semi-final at Portsmouth 3-2, despite leading 2-1 in added time. “We came so close to Wembley,” gasped manager Matt Taylor. “But that sense of pride in the changing room, we have to turn it into a fuel to motivate us on to some success this season.”
And Alan Hutton, 68, has called it quits after turning down a contract offer from Middlesbrough. “Is it worth it? When I weighed it all up, it wasn’t,” he sighed.
STILL WANT MORE?
Craig Ramage’s mindset reflects football’s inaction on racism, writes Marina Hyde.
Which clubs have played home games at a rival’s ground? The Knowledge has the answer.
Sid Lowe gets his Cholo on.
Phil Neville’s juggling act is something we’d pay good … well, we’d accept a freebie to see, but actually he’s just managing two teams, as Suzanne Wrack explains.
Yesterday’s man v force of the future? Jonathan Wilson discusses Mourinho v Nagelsmann.
Atalanta v Valencia, meanwhile, will be where order meets chaos, according to Neil Morris.
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