WHY THINKING IS BAD FOR YOU
You come at their Egyptian King, you best not miss. That’s a maxim that might be wiring back and forth through Gerónimo Rulli’s stunned noggin after he got up in Mohamed Salah’s grille last night, accusing the weak link in Liverpool’s attack of clanking him upside his head, even though it was his own teammate’s fault. Having given it the big one, it was probably then incumbent on the Villarreal keeper to make a couple of similarly sized saves to help his team to the Paris final of the Coupe de Grande in three weeks’ time. But he didn’t, letting efforts by Fabinho and Luis Díaz go straight through the holes in his cartoon-hunk-of-cheese-influenced body, then with Sadio Mané in close attendance, deciding to nip off for the paper. Let’s hope he didn’t pick up a copy of L’Equipe, he’ll not like those player ratings one bit.
That was supposed to be the uneventful tie, too. Should tonight’s reprise between Real Madrid and Manchester City take a similar leap forward in terms of drama and entertainment, it’s going to end 11-10 after extra time, and that’s before we get to penalties. The Fiver ventures to suggest that City are the superior side, but they should have been four up after 20 minutes of the first leg, and now look. So who knows? Real will surely feel less nervous at the Bernabéu. The home crowd will have their back; they got away with one last week; and the domestic title is already safely tucked away in their back pocket – a prize that saw Carlo Ancelotti become the first manager to complete the sextuplet of league titles in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England plus not making a show of himself at Everton , the latter perhaps the most astonishing achievement of all.
Ancelotti is also hoping to become the first manager to win the Big Cup four times, surpassing the achievements of Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane. His opposite number tonight would simply like to join the triumvirate on three wins, a total he’d surely already have breezed past were it not for his tendency to overthink things. “We have to be better but at the same time we could play much worse and win and nobody can deny my assessment is right,” Pep Guardiola riddles me. “There are moments when you train really badly before the game and then put in an exceptional performance, or you train really well and the guys do badly. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The selection will be to try to win the game. ” Those last 10 words hang heavy. Oh dear. It’s possible to understand his point exactly, and yet also worry the poor chap is unnecessarily tying himself up in knots once again. Like we say, The Fiver is fairly convinced City are the better team. But we’ll need the teamsheets to land before we can be absolutely sure.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray for minute-by-minute updates of Real Madrid
11-10 2-2 Manchester City (5-6 agg) at 8pm BST, while Barry Glendenning will be covering Arsenal 2-1 Spurs in the WSL at 7.15pm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I said to my family after the last time I got promoted… that I’m going to enjoy the moment a bit more” – yo-yo manager Scott Parker is going to let his hair down over the next few days after taking Bournemouth back into the big time, baby.
Tune your ears into the latest Football Weekly podcast, folks.
A New Formation: how Black British footballers shaped the modern game. Tickets are now available for the live event, featuring Jonathan Liew, Andrew Cole and Hope Powell.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up. The latest edition has been sent whistling into inboxes but you can get a taste here.
“You can’t go wrong with some old school hip-hop. Until I read yesterday’s Fiver, I hadn’t thought of LL Cool J for 25 years. I even managed to find the old original vinyl of Mama Said Knock You Out in the basement. For this, I salute you! ” – Magnus Nell (and no others).
“For those of a scatological bent, a few years ago in Conference South, Bognor Regis Town played Poole Town. When the highlights were produced, the two three-letter names were BOG v POO. Perhaps I should send this to Viz instead. We (Bognor) may be transferred to the Southern League this year, so it could happen again. One for you to watch the fixtures for ”- Simon Pegg.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o ‘the day is… Simon Pegg.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Celta Vigo forward Santi Mina has been sentenced to four years in prison for sexual abuse.
A group of West Ham fans were attacked in Frankfurt and one was taken to hospital with slight injuries on Wednesday before Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Eintracht.
Nottingham Forest defender Steve Cook thanked paramedics for saving his father’s life before the Championship match against his former club Bournemouth. “Unfortunately my dad suffered a cardiac arrest just before the game and they managed to bring him back to life,” Cook tweeted. “I’ll always be grateful for their actions.”
Turns out Roman Abramovich wants his Chelsea money back after all. Todd Boehly’s consortium have first dibs but that change in terms may yet open the door for Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s cash bid. Despite Ratcliffe’s bid being “rejected out of hand” his people “will keep reminding people we are still here”.
Rangers’ desire to see off RB Leipzig has been intensified by the sudden death of their much-loved kit man, Jimmy Bell. “We will do everything to reach the final,” said manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. “It will be emotional but we will be ready when the whistle goes.”
Manchester United need two new strikers if Erik ten Hag is to last longer than 10 months, says Ralf Rangnick. “If you look at Liverpool and Manchester City, they have five or six top-class strikers in their squad,” said Ralfie Two Jobs.
And Mr Roy has confirmed he will leave Watford at the end of the season and return to retirement. “I’ve enjoyed my time doing the job. It’s a very demanding world, ”he said after picking up a CBE from Buckingham Palace.
STILL WANT MORE?
All hail Luis Diaz, Liverpool’s Sonic the Hedgehog figure, trills Sid Lowe.
This week’s Knowledge looks at lower-league teams rattling around big stadiums and vice versa, the most prolific promotion winners and more.
Júlia Belas Trindade on the ‘brutal’ effect of French football’s hijab ban on female players.
Ben McAleer ranks the Premier League signings of the season so you don’t have to.
And if it’s your thing can you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!