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CUP HALF FULL
While it might languish in sixth place in terms of prestigious domestic honours after the league title, both transfer windows, and the FA Cup, the Caffeine Cup remains a trophy well worth winning. When even the lowliest clubs left in this season’s competition are fielding deliberately weakened sides, The Fiver can’t help but wonder why one or more of the Premier League’s more pointless mid-table perennials doesn’t grab the Carabao by the horns, put out their strongest team and go all out to give their fans a rare chance to visit Wembley … even if it is just to watch their brave boys lose to Manchester City.
In the past four finals, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Arsenal have served as City’s Wembley whipping boys and all four sides are in action on Wednesday. With little else to occupy their midweek time this season, Arsenal host AFC Wimbledon at the Emirates in what is the first ever meeting between themselves and the born-again phoenix club and the potential for embarrassment is high even by the snake-belly low standards of the Gooners. Should Mikel Arteta’s side lose, the howls of derision will be heard far away in the Black Country, where Tottenham are in town for a Nuno Derby against Wolves.
Having left Wolves last May after four years because it was widely agreed his tactics had become stale, Nuno Espírito Santo returns with a team whose fan base already seem to be fed up with his belt-and-braces approach after just five weeks. “We did quite well in the first matches,” he said. “Of course, when things happen, [when] we have problems and results and performances don’t appear, the momentum goes. The good feeling goes away.” On the plus side for Nuno, given how meekly Tottenham capitulated to Chelsea last weekend, it is difficult to imagine him being able to select an even weaker side.
Elsewhere, the Seagulls take on the Swans in an Angry Birds derby, while the young boys of Chelsea will host an Aston Villa side who have bigger fish to fry against Manchester United at the weekend. Fresh from beating West Ham on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side have every chance of putting one over David Moyes’s boys again, even if they are likely to be confronted by a fully warmed-up reserve midfielder in Mark Noble. Finally, at the Den, Millwall reserves host Leicester reserves in a match that could scarcely be more exciting if … oh, look, is that the time?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If you score 10 that’s OK. We had one or two mistakes but everyone worked in transition to win the ball back in a few seconds, and that’s what it’s all about. I really enjoyed that” – hard-to-please boss Sarina Wiegman seem more impressed by the gegenpress than the T-E-N goals in England’s mauling of Luxembourg.
“Having willingly exiled myself to the Antipodes for the last 63 years, I almost never get David Squires’ arcane references to Premier League matters but reading through his retrospective was a joy. When I arrived at the Pippo Inzaghi panel I hooted with laughter for several minutes. I laugh every time I look at it or even just remember it. The Likely Lads had me hooting as well. Long live Mr Squires and his pen” – Richard Fernandez.
“Having spent a decade or more being used to the Fiver showing up at very approximately 5pm, it has suddenly decided to start pinging into my inbox before 4pm. This unaccustomed punctuality and efficiency is, in turn, causing me to stop work for the day an hour too early, and now The Man wants a word. You’ll be doing actual research next, and then we’ll all be out of work” – Richard O’Hagan.
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 … Richard Fernandez.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Clubs in the Premier League and Championship will be able to offer licensed standing areas from 1 January next year as part of a pilot programme.
Liverpool have announced that work to expand Anfield’s capacity to 61,000 is ready to start again after being put on hold due to Covid. “[It] will begin in earnest with an official ground-breaking ceremony planned for next week,” tooted a suit who clearly wanted to test our knowledge of hyphens.
It’s going well at Barcelona. Ronald Koeman has entered the phase where he reads out statements instead of taking questions.
Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth said the brief 1-0 lead against Manchester City made the eventual 6-1 Milk Cup defeat easier to stomach. “It was fairytale stuff to lead for five minutes,” he beamed. “I’ll try to take the positives.”
Rafa Benítez bemoaned Everton’s leaky backline after the penalty shootout defeat by QPR. “In defence we have to be more aware of what is going on around,” he sighed.
Ellen White’s two goals against Luxembourg took her within three of Kelly Smith’s all‑time England goalscoring record of 46.
And Marcus Rashford’s use of social media to shame the government into expanding free school meals is to make up part of the GCSE media studies course. We still haven’t heard if there will be a syllabus on The Fiver’s STOP FOOTBALL campaign.
STILL WANT MORE?
The key lessons from Sarina Wiegman’s first games as England manager, which ended: F18 A0. By Suzanne Wrack.
Ben Fisher looks in on Wimbledon’s set-piece specialist training as the League One side prepare to visit Arsenal in the Worthington Cup.
Rebels without a cause: have Atlético lost a bit of hunger since winning La Liga, asks Sid Lowe.
This week’s Knowledge looks at the teams that could cut their carbon footprint by joining another country’s league, international players refusing to celebrate goals and more.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!