CASEMIRO: INSTANT HERO?
Got to be honest, the weekend Premier League fixtures aren’t the most fascinating. Leicester versus Southampton offers the vague promise of some crisis-baton rubbernecking, Brentford’s trip to Fulham has the potential to be the most polite local derby in Premier League history, and if New Arsenal are planning on revealing themselves as Old Spurs, then Bournemouth is the very place for all those box-fresh hopes of progress to crumble to dust. As for Newcastle United’s chances of taking anything from Manchester City, we point you in the direction of Eddie Howe’s record against the Citizens of 12 matches played, 12 losses, five goals scored, 39 against, and all without facing Erling Haaland. God speed the Foxes, Saints, Gunners and especially the Toon, but very little of it screams jaw-dropping, eye-popping, interesting-first-paragraph-inspiring action.
To be fair, it doesn’t help that the one choice match-up of the weekend isn’t actually slated for the weekend. Manchester United host Liverpool on Monday evening, and while this rivalry normally disappoints, rarely living up to expectations, nobody ever learns, least of all us, and the anticipation before the big one is real. Not least because both teams have suffered a cold start to their Premier League campaign, Liverpool with two draws, United two humiliations. Something’s got to give, and here’s absolutely categorically hoping the desperation doesn’t lead to a big comic-book cloud of dust with boots and fists sticking out of it. The Fiver will settle for a few goals. But the OOYAH OOF cloud of dust, no, we wouldn’t like, etc.
United will be desperate to avenge the 5-0 reverse inflicted upon them at Old Trafford by Liverpool last season, the low/high point being the bizarro LS Lowry tableau of thousands of punters streaming out of the ground with barely an hour gone. Things are different now, and they may try to use tactics this time, setting themselves out in some sort of shape and trying to maintain it. However, the player registration deadline having passed at midday on Friday, they’ll be unable to field likely new signing Casemiro, who did a number on Liverpool in this year’s Big Cup final and who has told Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti that “he wants to try a new challenge … he wants to leave … we didn’t try to convince him to stay.” Whether that should serve as any sort of red flag to United remains to be seen, but it barely needs saying that the intense 30-year-old Brazilian represents a serious upgrade on McFred, all on his own. As such, while the reported £50.7m transfer fee and £££squillions weekly stipend may raise an eyebrow, the way things are at the minute he’s cheap at twice the price.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was obviously not a nice week for [Manchester] United after the Brentford game. I watched the first half and then drove home and listened to TalkSport and Gabby [Agbonlahor]. He lost against us 6-0 in my first year and I could not remember him as a mentality monster on the pitch … but what he said about United, I was close to calling in” – Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp bites on the bait wafted at him over some nonsense or other being shouted by a former footballer on the wireless.
“Re: the UK Home Office not granting visas to two Viborg players and allow them to play against West Ham in Tin Pot (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Imagine if the situation had been reversed and a UK club’s players had been banned from playing in an important European away match due to the home country’s government’s rules …” – John Simpson.
“In answer to Clara Sidney’s note about washed-out match trips (yesterday’s Fiver letters), my first ever Merseyside derby at Anfield was called off a few hours before kick-off. I decided to drown my sorrows in town at my hotel, only to have the entire Liverpool team rock in for beers. As an Evertonian, this wasn’t an ideal situation. Thankfully everyone was throughly entertained by Newcastle hammering Manchester United 5-0 on the box. I gave my ticket to the barman who was also a Blue for the rearranged fixture, as I couldn’t make it. Things got very merry/messy” – Ian Taylor.
“My wife and I set off to watch Reading’s first game of the 2012-13 season at Sunderland, full of the optimism you know is likely to be dashed shortly after kick-off. Unfortunately it didn’t last that long – the game was postponed after a minor shower just over an hour beforehand. After a 500-mile, 10-hour round trip simply to eat a burger, when we recall the story with friends now, we’re accused of telling a Whopper” – Alan Giles.
“Clara’s note reminded me of my first abandoned game: an FA Vase match at Culverden Stadium between Tunbridge Wells and Camberley in the mid-to-late-1980s. I think it was a December or January game – so in the ‘proper’ rounds – where extra-time was played ahead of any replay. Alas, a lack of floodlights – and a kick-off time that didn’t factor in extra-time – forced an abandonment on 105 minutes with the score 5-5. Great fun but ultimately meaningless” – Ian Sargeant [1985-86, we think … Camberley won the replay 3-1 – Fiver Ed].
“My tale of wash-out woe was as a player. After some years of sweating and grunting in lower grades for my university club in the flamin’ Canberra leagues of the 1980s, I was finally selected to play … cue fanfare … in the first grade. My first professional match was scheduled in the ‘local’ town of Griffith, NSW, a mere 360km and more than four hours’ bus trip away. While we first-graders sat in the stand to watch my presumably skill-challenged ex-teammates in the second grade hoof it about for 90 minutes, a series of ominous clouds and thundery grumbles swirled around the ground, which, with a notable lack of foresight, had been constructed within a natural depression. Just as we warmed up the sky went black, the heavens cracked and a proverbial bucket was emptied upon the scene. After 10 minutes there was a foot of water on the pitch/pond. Match off, a couple of beers and a slow coach home. The following week some absent first-teamers had returned and I was not selected again. There may be a moral in there somewhere but I’m yet to spot it” – Mick O’Regan.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Mick O’Regan.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
17 August: “There are a lot of positives. I know it doesn’t look like that now, but there are” – Rochdale boss Robbie Stockdale clutches at straws after a fourth defeat from four left his team rooted to the foot of League Two.
19 August: “The board would like to place on record its thanks to Robbie” – Rochdale still can’t see them as they give Stockdale the boot.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
QPR will host a swab centre outside Loftus Road on Saturday to try and find a bone marrow transplant match for a close family friend of defender Jimmy Dunne.
Manchester City are one step away from the Women’s Big Cup qualifying playoffs, but the small matter of a one-off tie at Real Madrid stands in their way on Sunday.
As well as splurging eye-watering sums on big names, Chelsea are also splurging eye-watering sums on youngsters, the latest being Cesare Casadei.
Wesley Fofana’s head has been turned by Chelsea, it would seem, so Leicester will leave him out against Southampton on Saturday.
And Saints’ owners, Sport Republic, have bought a 70% shareholding in Turkish second-tier outfit Göztepe.
STILL WANT MORE?
Louise Taylor catches up with Southampton as the Women’s Championship kicks off.
10.1 Premier League things to look out for this weekend are right here.
A quiz on rubbish starts to a season that doesn’t feature Jim Fallon.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!