A FINE MESS
Big Cup has come a long way from the innocent purity of its early years, when clubs implicitly backed by authoritarian regimes threw money at the best players from all around the world, sometimes from teams in pirate leagues with names like Millonarios, and made the competition its dominion. Yes, it’s PSG v Manchester City on Tuesday evening, and when we say Big Cup has come a long way, we are indeed making the counterargument in a heavy-handed style. Though to be fair, there are some differences: neither team has conquered Europe like Real Madrid did back in the day, for example, and Alfredo Di Stéfano was better than Lionel Messi, another position we’re taking in good faith.
It’s a big one all right. PSG have started the Ligue 1 season like a train, with eight wins out of eight, though they’ve needed last-minute goals to win two of the last three, and the aforementioned Leo hasn’t contributed much yet, his stats for his new club currently standing at zero goals, zero assists and one sour-faced bench-sulk. It’s early days, mind you, and The Fiver isn’t going too far out on a limb to suggest that he’ll be opening his account sooner rather than later … and this may be as good a time as any, seeing he’s got a habit of rattling them in against former boss and mentor Mr Pep. Six in four, in fact, notching a couple in Barça’s semi-final win over Bayern in 2015, then a hat-trick when they routed City 4-0 at the Camp Nou a year later. Oh Pep! Imagine what the Blond Arrow would have done to him.
Even so, both teams will go into this match with a little trepidation. PSG are coming off the back of a matchday-one draw in Bruges; Kylian Mbappé and Neymar have fallen out over a misplaced pass; and City made the entire team lose their minds in last season’s semi to such an extent that they should have ended the second leg with eight men. On the other hand, City shipped three against Leipzig, and were recently held at home by Southampton. Apparently they were good against Chelsea at the weekend, but The Fiver was watching the golf, and exactly the same pundits lauding their performance were bigging up Tommy T’s men for the title the other week, so you’ll forgive us if we keep our counsel for now. Though we are predicting goals. And maybe a couple of red cards. Plus a touchline meltdown or two. Don’t let us down, y’all.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“He comes second to no one in his importance in the history of Liverpool. To be the goalscoring catalyst of the Shankly team to actually achieve promotion and then go on to win those precious league titles and the FA Cup puts him in a bracket of LFC legends who are responsible for making us the club we are today. I am told the Kop christened him ‘Sir Roger’ … a goalscorer who never stopped working to help his teammates; he would have fit in well within our current team. So, it is Sir Roger we will remember over the coming days. You’ll Never Walk Alone” – Jürgen Klopp pays tribute to Roger Hunt, scorer of 285 goals in 492 Liverpool appearances and a World Cup winner with England, who has died aged 83. Here’s Andy Hunter on a striker who encapsulated Liverpool’s rise under Shankly and a look back on Hunt’s life, in pictures.
“Lynda Caines writes about monetising her missives (yesterday’s Fiver letters). The closest I’ve come is paying the blackmail demanded by someone who knows me. They threatened to inform my friends and family that, not only did I read The Fiver, but occasionally contributed as well. Mind you, that was the best tenner I’ve ever spent” – Simon Mazier.
“The ‘coffee thrown at Alan Mullery’ (yesterday’s Fiver) brings to mind the best rhyming use of the word ‘beverages’ in a football song. The late Alan Ball, when manager at Exeter City, had hot drinks thrown over him by irate Stoke fans. This led to the song (to the tune of Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen) …
Alan Ball, Alan Ball, he manages the Reds
Alan Ball, Alan Ball, attacked with beverages
Oxo and tea
Soup and coffee
Alan Ball, Alan Ball, Alan Ball” – Andrew Long.
“So, Maurizio Sarri celebrated Lazio’s win over Roma by holding aloft a massive eagle (yesterday’s Still Want More?). If Spurs ever beat a London team, will Nuno hold aloft a massive co [Snip – Fiver Taste Ed]” – Joe Lowry.
“Hello. Would you be interested in a story about a blockchain and crypto membership programme that’s changing many lives?” – Steve Robin.
Here’s David Squires on … self-flagellating footballers and more.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Not only is the UK fuel crisis preventing funky fans from burning their club’s shirts in the pursuit of performative social media disgrace #content, but the non-league fixture list is also being hindered because of it.
Miffed members of the Tottenham Supporters’ Trust want a meeting with the club to discuss their “short- and long-term strategic vision” and, presumably, whether any such vision – if it exists – will make them more or less Spursy.
Gareth Bale’s hamstring-twang has been diagnosed as a “significant tear” which means he won’t be available for Wales’s upcoming Human Rights World Cup qualifiers.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 78, is back in Sweden’s squad for HR 2022 qualifiers against Kosovo and Greece after recovering from knee-knack.
After rolling back on disciplinary action against €uropean $uper £eague clubs, Uefa has asked the Madrid court judge presiding over the case to recuse himself.
Patrick Vieira is still struggling to digest Brighton’s 95th-minute equaliser which left his team with just six points from six games. “We are really gutted … it is difficult to accept,” he gasped.
And Carpignano coach Giovanni Alosi has apologised after being sent off against Oleggio Castello, punching the referee and causing the Italian amateur match to be abandoned. “Unfortunately I had a second of total darkness in which I misinterpreted an expression of the referee who seemed to be mocking me,” he parped. “But this should never have led me to make such an ugly gesture.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Actor, activist and proper writer Benjamin Zephaniah tells Donald McRae how he fell in love with this England team and his respect for players making a stand against racism.
PSG’s “PlayStation team” is yet to become more than a balance-sheet success story as they prepare to face City, writes Barney Ronay.
Oh Spurs, sighs Ben McAleer.
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