SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR FIGHTING
It’s the second Merseyside derby of the season on Saturday. You can be forgiven for forgetting what happened in the first one, what with this strange concertinaed season, the hectic schedule, the lockdown, the days and matches melding into one, the misery, the comfort eating, the drink, all that. It also doesn’t help that nobody ever refers back to the game in question, perhaps melodramatically framing it in terms of season-jiggering savagery, or refereeing atrocity that wholly justifies the subsequent Blackburnesque title defence. At least we’ve heard no word.
So to jog the memory, at Goodison back in October, Jordan Pickford came at Virgil van Dijk like a boulder in an Indiana Jones movie, Jordan Henderson had a late winner disallowed because Sadio Mané forgot to file his toenails the night before, and Richarlison launched himself at Thiago with a rabid intensity that even $tevie Mbe would baulk at. Fair to say, then, that Liverpool may have issues for which they will be seeking closure. Throw in the fact that Everton are desperate to end an 11-year wait for victory in the derby, and we’ve got ourselves two cats in a bag.
It’s at this point you’d expect the managers to pour oil on troubled waters. And to be fair, Jürgen Klopp has categorically promised that “nothing will be carried over” from Goodison. However, he followed that up with this sequence of glorious contradictions: “A week later, two or three when we got the diagnosis for Virgil van Dijk, it is good we didn’t play Everton straight away again, let me say it like this. But that’s long gone. Now we just don’t think about it.” Does that sound like the group have compartmentalised everything to you?
The Fiver certainly isn’t 100% sure, and will be tuning in to tally the number of people involved in the bench-emptying homage to George Graham’s Arsenal, instigated at a corner when someone tries to slyly give Pickford a hot ear. Of course, nobody wants to see it, least of all The Fiver. Won’t somebody think of the kids?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m a Milan fan and he’s an Inter fan, so for us it was already a derby doing this mural with four hands belonging to two different teams. Our message is definitely a positive one. We hope that this mural can also encourage these champions towards a peaceful encounter in front of the mural” – artist Stefania Marchetto talks about the San Siro mural, created with Marco Mantovani, which shows Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming together in the kind of scenes that nobody wants to see, again least of all The Fiver. The teams meet again on Sunday.
“The Fiver is only interested in competitions that Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool might (not) win, so it comes as no surprise that there was no mention of a much more important cup game that took place on Tuesday evening: the semi-final of the Papa John’s Trophy [is this a nickname we came up with that finally stuck? – Fiver Ed]. The mighty Oxford United were humiliated by League Two Tranmere Rovers, who are the third side of the Mersey (the other two being Everton and Everton Women). There was no report of the match on Big Website. But surely the fact that Rovers will grace Wembley for the fourth time in five years is, I think, worthy of mention” – Joy Clancy.
“Reading about Spurs’ Big Vase tie versus Austrian village side Wolfsberger, not Bundesliga giants Wolfsburg, brings back memories of pre-pandemic away travel, when two Liverpool fans erroneously bought travel and tickets to Gent, not Genk, only to arrive at a dark and empty stadium in deepest Flanders. Imagine if they had a 10-day hotel quarantine thrown in today” – Steve Lewis.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Poor Terence Kongolo is in the deep stuff after a surprise birthday shindig was thrown for the Fulham player, breaking lockdown rules. “It’s not acceptable,” sniffed boss Scott Parker. “The people who have planned this have put him in a very vulnerable position. It’s something that we will deal with as a football club in-house and that’s the nuts of it, really.”
Athletic Bilbao’s first-team squad have agreed to an 8.43% salary reduction because of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. “The step forward taken by the players, the second in less than 10 months, shows an exercising of responsibility and loyalty to our institution and its members,” said the club.
Lots of buzzwords have clearly been thrown around behind the scenes at Morecambe, who have announced “an exciting new vision and strategy” at the League Two club under the banner of “Goodbye Little Old Morecambe”.
Ryan Shawcross is headed for the USA! USA!! USA!!! after his 14-year spell with Stoke City was brought to an end. “He feels the time is right to explore new opportunities and leaves with our very best wishes,” cheered chief suit Tony Scholes.
And Tottenham boss José Mourinho is still dialled in on making the top four this season, despite a run of three wins in 12 Premier League games. “It’s very premature to think about the table,” he cooed. “People still have matches in hand. In our case, we played already two matches against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City. There are other teams that didn’t even play a second game against one of the top teams.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Jonathan Liew on that new Pelé film and how the Brazilian became more myth than man.
Manchester City’s Alex Greenwood and Ellen White on the “brilliant, unbelievable mentality” of their USA! USA!! USA!!! World Cup-winning teammates and their impact on England.
With Mee-lan and Inter facing off this weekend, Sam Brookes basks in five of the best goals the derby has thrown up this century.
Premier League. This weekend. Ten things. You know the drill.
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