WORTH EVERY PENNY
Yesterday evening, Barcelona took 25 shots against Lyon but none of them went in, so they drew for the fourth time in five matches. At Anfield, Naby Keïta had a pass completion rate of 74%. But apart from those two examples of things that are brimful of pretty attacking promise but aren’t quite clicking at the moment, there was very little to talk about in Big Cup. The needle on the Fiver’s patented Entertainmentometer™© got stuck halfway between Mildly Diverting But Only Because There’s Nothing On Any Of The Other Channels and Intriguing But Only Because You’re Trying Way Too Hard. Bah. As a banner displayed in the Bayern end and applauded by the Liverpool fans noted, you had to pay £48 for a ticket to watch this stuff. One day a real rain will come.
Whether we should have been surprised by the Liverpool-Bayern match ending goalless is a moot point. The two clubs had met at Anfield in official Uefa competition only twice before, in 1972 and 1981, and on both occasions the game finished with both keepers as content as you’ll ever find them. A 0-0 scoreline was staring us in the face, in plain sight, giving us the big do-you-want-some, despite all that talk of two rickety defences facing two potent attacks. The Fiver has Bayern in the box seat now, though Andy Robertson was quick to play the no-away-goal-conceded card, which is a fashionable argument these days, while Mats Hummels insisted that “the result is satisfying but no more, it is still 50-50.” Nevertheless, the Bayern defender was happy to have carried out a plan to perfection. “We wanted to keep the fans quiet. They tried to be loud but then we took some time off the clock.” To repeat, it’s nearly 50 of your leisure-purchasing pounds a ticket. A hard rain’s gonna fall.
Hopefully tonight’s ties will produce a higher level of recreational enjoyment. Manchester City are the current favourites to win Big Cup, even though we all know pantomime villain Sergio Ramos will find some way to keep a hold of the thing – he’ll not be letting go without a fight. Still, City will be confident of getting a positive result tonight at Schalke, as they’ve got a decent record in Germany recently, winning away at Hoffenheim, Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich in the last few seasons. Elsewhere, Atlético Madrid host Juventus; both Antoine Griezmann and Him are usually good for a Big Cup goal or two. So it could be a banner evening of F.U.N.!!! Having said that, Atléti and Juve have only met twice before, and those encounters finished 1-0 and 0-0. Ah. Oh dear. Prices for the return leg, in case you’re planning to go, start at €75. Goals, please! Or failing that, some sort of game-cleansing reckoning.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray from 8pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Atlético 0-0 Juventus, while Paul Doyle will be on hand for Schalke 0-1 Manchester City.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I would like to thank you once again for your help in the preparation and delivery of the World Cup. To demonstrate our gratitude for this joint work, I signed a decree awarding you the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation” – Vladimir Putin thanks chief Fifa suit Gianni Infantino. Just think what he could get from the Qataris!
“Dear Ilkay Gündogan, rather than winning Big [Cup] once and being at the same level as Real Madrid etc, your first target is to win it twice so you can be compared to Nottingham Forest. A bit of perspective and taking things step by step is required methinks” – Brendan Mackinney.
Regarding claims about taking people to football matches and them marrying them (Fivers passim), I took my long-term partner to see Arsenal v Aston Villa (neither of which are my teams) in 1993. The language on the home terrace was frankly Rabelaisian due to an away win. She has since refused my invitation to marry three times. Can I claim an infinite timescale between said match and yet-to-be-hitched? My daughter is still talking to me after taking her to see Oxford United before Christmas. My son is simply ‘not interested’” – Ed McDowall.
“In 2001, I took my Dutch girlfriend to see Ireland beat the Dutch 1-0 and knock them out of the 2002 World Cup Qualifiers. She quickly got over the disappointment by us attending U2 at Slane the same day, meeting Bono and the Edge afterwards and then much later a drunken Irish football team in Lillie’s Bordello nightclub. We did get married, but as both a Republic of Ireland and Coventry City supporter, I have repeatedly told her that that magic is unlikely to be recreated in the near future. Still, we wait in hope” – Gerry Rickard.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Brendan Mackinney, who wins The Game, by Stuart Roy Clarke. Condolences to Nick Livesey. Plenty more prizes to come.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Harry Kane is back, baby.
Manchester City’s world domination enterprise, City Football Group, has confirmed the gobbling up of another club, Chinese third-tier outfit Sichuan Jiuniu. “China is an extremely important football market,” trilled City chief suit Ferran Soriano.
Maurizio Sarri has had no contact with the Chelsea hierarchy this week and suggested his tactics are not the reason for the club’s struggles. “The system is a false problem,” he Sarri-ed.
Nantes are set to take their transfer-fee dispute with Cardiff over Emiliano Sala to Fifa this week.
Ashley Young is feeling all chipper about Manchester United facing Liverpool this Sunday.
Karl Oyston’s tribunal case against his equally revered dad, Owen, over non-payment of wages at Blackpool has been adjourned. Blackpool, now in receivership, huffed that it was not something they could comment on.
Sami Khedira has undergone “electrophysiological study and successful interventional therapy with ablation of an arrhythmogenic atrial focus”, which is the long way of saying he’s being treated for an irregular heartbeat. The German is expected to be fit again in a month.
STILL WANT MORE?
Defending is back, which is exciting news for Jonathan Wilson.
Want some meat and potatoes? Get Jordan Henderson round, writes Barney Ronay.
Remember when PFA suit Gordon Taylor promised a review into how the PFA is run? Marina Hyde does, and she’s here to remind everybody else.
Matija Nastasic asked Manuel Pellegrini to let him leave, luckily he allowed Nick Ames to stay long enough to tell him about it.
Diego Simeone’s plan to never let the opposition score was formed in Italy, as Greg Lea explains.
Bury manager Ryan Lowe sat down for a hot chat about playing like Barcelona in League Two, $tevie Mbe and a Jürgen Klopp compliment.
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