Atlético, Chelsea and cramming square pegs into a variety of holes

Barry Glendenning
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA</span>
Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

ANOTHER NIGHT, ANOTHER CITY

The Fiver didn’t get where it is today by stealing catchphrases from characters in 1970s sitcoms about a man named Reginald Perrin who fakes his own death out of boredom. No, The Fiver got where it is today by showing a willingness to improvise and adapt in a bid to overcome adversity, much like Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid. While the Argentinian’s pitch-side attire remains as Johnny Cash as ever, he has in the past year completely changed his team’s approach to the game. Whether it’s changing his formation or slotting assorted square pegs into round, triangular or hexagonal holes, the man once renowned for the rigidity of his thinking about how the game should be played has surprised many with his flexibility in the face of necessity.

It is an approach that has worked to great effect for Atléti, who currently lead the Spanish title race by three points from bitter city rivals Real Madrid and face Chelsea in Big Cup on Tuesday night. For reasons not entirely unrelated to the fact The Fiver hasn’t been allowed to set foot in its local drinker for almost four months, this match is not being played in Madrid, but Bucharest instead. Or is it Budapest? Well, it’s definitely one of them and The Fiver can only hope whoever made the travel arrangements for each team was more inclined to check than we are.

Related: Thomas Tuchel's misfiring forwards face tough test from Atlético Madrid

“Chelsea have changed a lot under Thomas Tuchel, who pushes teams to play well,” cooed Simeone, a man who is not adverse to pushing, pulling, screaming at and gesticulating furiously in the direction of his own players if he thinks they’re not delivering the goods. “They are a powerful team with great players and they have made a good financial investment. Their attackers could play in any team in Europe.”

While that may be the case, several of Chelsea’s attackers can struggle to get a game in their own team and all eyes will be on their teamsheet an hour before kick-off to see if Callum Hudson-Odoi is selected and whereabouts Tuchel elects to play him. Taken off not too long after being brought on as a substitute wing-back at Southampton on Saturday, this very public indignity appears to have outraged some pundits and hacks far more than the actual player it was visited upon, and Tuchel has hinted Hudson-Odoi may well feature. Whether he starts or comes off the bench before possibly going back to the bench remains to be seen, but will at least provide a mildly intriguing warm-up to an already mouthwatering main event.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Ben Fisher for hot MBM coverage of Leeds 2-1 Southampton in the Premier League from 6pm GMT, before a Big Cup double-header at 8pm of Atlético Madrid 2-1 Chelsea and Lazio 0-2 Bayern Munich.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to know which coach has always had blue sky and never cloudy or a bit dark. Perhaps only a coach who is always at a dominant club in a league. It shows how beautiful my career has been. Does it make me depressed? No. It’s a challenge. I work for the club, the players and the supporters. I always feel I have to give them so much. It hurts me and it’s a great challenge for me and I believe I can give it” – José Mourinho waxes lyrical on the troubles at Spurs.

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FIVER LETTERS

“What are the odds that, should the new Sunderland owner come up with the dosh to buy a standout player in the summer transfer window, the chant from the terrace will be: ‘Nice one Kyril, let’s have another one’?” – Phil Roberts.

“Can I join the other 1,056 readers in pointing out that only 75% of Abba were actually Swedish (yesterday’s Fiver), although I suppose that means that you were still more than 50% accurate for once” – Richard O’Hagan (and no others).

“Can I be the first of 1,057 pedants to point out that Brighton and Hove Albion’s home (yesterday’s Fiver) should actually be referenced as the ‘Charge Card Stadium’. The card in question does not offer credit. I would get out more but we’re under curfew, and anyway, there’s always a bloody match on the TV” – Jeremy Boyce (and no others).

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day prize is … Phil Roberts.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago. “The frequency of accidents on World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world,” said a Fifa spokesperson, without providing evidence.

Former Scotland, Manchester United and Leeds defender Gordon McQueen has been diagnosed with vascular dementia. “We felt it was important to let people know, particularly if raising awareness can help others in similar situations,” read a statement from his family.

Hege Riise’s tenure in interim charge of England Women has begun with a windswept 6-0 win over Northern Ireland.

Everton’s proposals for a shiny new 52,888-capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock have been granted planning permission by Liverpool council.

Mr Roy isn’t fussed one bit about the smash-and-grab manner of Crystal Palace’s 2-1 win at Brighton. “The game’s not about touches in the opposition box, is it?” he honked. “The game’s about scoring goals and not letting any in.”

And Roma legend Francesco Totti would consider a return to the club, despite being forced out as a director in 2019. “I saw myself at Roma for ever, but there were some unexpected consequences, as if they backed me against a wall to get me to take a decision I would never have taken,” he sighed. “Someone who is from Rome and knows everything about Rome is what they are missing at the moment.”

STILL WANT MORE?

Football’s power grab amid the game’s infinite scroll. By Jonathan Liew.

Martin Laurence casts an eye over this week’s Big Cup last-16 ties.

Felipe: the Atlético Madrid player who owes his career to a highlights DVD. By Josué Seixas.

Hay Liga! Sid Lowe on the reignited Spanish title race.

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

‘A HEART THAT’S FULL UP LIKE A LANDFILL’