Thinking about running very fast at John Stones from different angles

Scott Murray
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

BIG CUP SEMIS: PART DEUX

Manchester City have had an ambivalent relationship with Big Cup from the get-go. In 1968, Malcolm Allison announced City’s arrival on the continental stage with the smooth silver-tongued diplomacy for which he was long renowned. “I think a lot of these foreign people are cowards,” began what appeared to be a thick cloud of cigar smoke sporting an informally angled hat. “They play with a fear of defeat. I promise you that City will attack these people as they haven’t been attacked since the old Real Madrid!” Sure enough, City went out in the first round to Fenerbahce, and didn’t appear in the competition again for another 43 years. Oh Big Mal! How could you?

Related: El Gasico? El Cashico? But Man City v PSG is worth getting excited for | Jonathan Liew

City have been a constant in Big Cup since their return, usually doing pretty well in the group stage, to be fair – yet something always seems to go wrong during the knockout bit, whether it’s shipping three goals in 19 minutes at Anfield or two goals in three minutes at home to Spurs, passing up last-minute equalisers from a couple of yards out, or finally making it to a semi-final and then not bothering to turn up. Throw in Uefa coming at them with the giant foam hammer that is financial fair play, and you can see why a section of City’s support have long made a performative song and dance of kidding on that they don’t care.

Tonight, that garden-variety coping mechanism will undergo a severe stress test, as City travel to Paris for the first leg of what promises to be a semi-final goalfest against Paris Saint-Germain. Pep Guardiola’s side have scored 56 goals in their last 23 Big Cup games, while Kylian Mbappé will have been thinking about running very fast at John Stones from many different angles for some time now. “The Premier League is the most important one, but [Big Cup] is the nicest one,” says Pep, spinning a semantic riddle before heading off to solve the puzzle of keeping Mbappé and Neymar quiet. The Fiver is no tactical genius, but the best form of defence might be attack. Yessir. Attack these people as they haven’t been attacked since the old Fenerbahce.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Scott Murray from 8pm (BST) for hot Big Cup MBM coverage of PSG 2-1 Manchester City.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Hennes VIII was a special goat in many ways.” The Cologne vice-president, Eckhard Sauren, reflects fondly on the Bundesliga club’s dear departed mascot, who died last week having retired from pitchside duty two years ago.

RIP, the Goat.
RIP, the Goat. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Football Weekly is here! The podders chat all things Big Cup, Glenn Hoddle anecdotes and a party being spoiled in Peterborough.

FIVER LETTERS

“Now that STOP FOOTBALL has nearly come off twice, surely it’s time for an influx of young hipsters to push the campaign over the line. Can a rebrand to FVR be far off?” –Ken McCarron.

“The impressive bit about David McMurrugh’s amusing anecdote [yesterday’s Fiver] is that he was 20 minutes into the match before he noticed that he didn’t have a whistle. What sort of game was it with no stoppage in all that time, some sort of ultra tiki-taka exhibition? Or was everyone just stood waiting for him to blow for kick-off, before getting so bored they decided to have a scrap instead?” – Robin Hazlehurst.

“Given the revelations about McMurrugh’s non-VAR reffing difficulties in Wythenshawe (lacking control, compromised decision-making, etc) can we assume that Stockley Park is in fact located somewhere nearby?” – Jeremy Boyce.

“It was interesting to see Barney Ronay angling for a free box of Drumsticks. If only Big Paper would also highlight my inclinations towards Aston Martins, Château Margaux and Sherbet Dip Dabs. Incidentally, the Swizzels Matlow corporation are also purveyors of the least informative how-it’s-made video of all time” – Noble Francis.

“Back in the late ‘80s I worked as a referee in the Lasa League in Fall River, Massachusetts, USA! USA!! USA!!! There were usually a lot of passionate Portuguese relatives lining the pitch. One day I flagged a potential winning goal for offside, generating a storm of Azorean invective and a particularly devious assault. As I sprinted back up the touchline, I felt a sudden pain in my ribs. I looked back and saw an elderly lady holding a long black umbrella, from the point of which dangled a shred of black fabric. Turned out the denied goalscorer was her great-grandson, and she wasn’t having it. The three stitches I needed, and a new shirt, cost me considerably more than my match fee” – Mike Gaynes.

“Re: Lynda Caines and a new name for Jonathan Wilson ... The Brain in the Brine?” – Declan Houton.

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 is … Mike Gaynes.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Ryan Giggs has pleaded not guilty to three charges of domestic abuse against his former partner and her sister. The Wales manager has been bailed to appear at Manchester crown court on 26 May.

Harry Kane has been talking about his ambitions, and it’s not great news for Spurs. “The goal right now as a player is to win team trophies,” Kane told Sky Sports.

Harry Kane with his runner-up medal.
Silver medal and a can of Carabao, Harry? Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Real Madrid full-back Marcelo could miss the Big Cup second leg against Chelsea because he’s been called up for polling duty in Madrid’s local elections. So while Christian Pulisic is flying up the wing, Marcelo will be standing around, staring into space … a lot like the first leg, then. Honk!

Tommy T has urged Timo Werner to “put his chin up” and be a brave soldier after missing another sitter against Real Madrid. “He missed a big one [against] West Ham, now he missed another big one here,” Tuchel muttered, somewhat unhelpfully. “It does not help to cry about it or to regret it all the time.”

Leicester’s Harvey Barnes will miss the rest of the season and Euro 2020 after suffering a setback in his recovery from knee-knack.

Spotify head honcho Daniel Ek has “secured the funds” to lead a takeover of Arsenal. Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, has been bigging up the Kroenkes. “They are fully excited and committed to this project,” Arteta cheered about the people who pay his wages.

With their Big Vase semi-final battle looming, Villarreal’s Unai Emery has revealed he once spoke to Mikel Arteta to see if his successor at Arsenal fancied buying his house. “It was good for me as I had to leave London,” Emery beamed.

And in Spain, Rayo Vallecano fans turned out in hazmat suits to “clean” the club’s Vallecas stadium after two members of the far-right Vox party attended a game.

STILL WANT MORE?

Janelly Farías, Mexican soccer’s most outspoken and fearless player, talks to César Hernández about using her platform to fight for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.

Janelly Far&#xed;as (centre) in action for Mexico against Brazil.
Janelly Farías (centre) in action for Mexico against Brazil. Photograph: Sebastião Moreira/EPA

The King’s (Rahd) Gambit: Chelsea’s manager won another tactical chess match to give his team the Big Cup edge, writes Barney Ronay.

Jacob Steinberg agrees that it’s advantage Chelsea, but warns Tommy T and co to watch out for ruthless Real Madrid.

England’s top women’s clubs are aligned with members of the ‘Super League Six’ – and that could be a problem for a league seeking sustainability, notes Suzy Wrack.

In the wake of the ESL farrago, a topical Knowledge. Who would have won Premier League-era titles without the ‘big six’? Reading fans, look away now.

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

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