I THREW A WISH IN THE WELL …
The last time Chelsea and Liverpool met in the FA Cup was seven years, nine months and 29 days ago in the 2011-12 final at Wembley. Canadian popster Carly Rae Jepsen’s catchy, saccharine-sweet cri de coeur Call Me Maybe was No 1 in the UK singles charts, Andy Carroll was fit enough to replace Jay Spearing on 55 minutes before scoring for Liverpool and Chelsea prevailed by the odd goal of three to get some trophy-hoisting practice in before their Big Cup final against Bayern Munich two weeks later. But most of that’s by the by, because you can’t get the sound of Carly Rae belting “This is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe!” out of your head, can you?
On Tuesday the sides meet in the competition again, with another Canadian – The Weeknd – bestriding the UK hit parade, Chelsea’s players still shell-shocked from having their collective backside handed to them in Big Cup by Bayern last week and Spearing relaxing after his first day training under brand new Blackpool manager Neil Critchley. Yes, the same Neil Critchley who masterminded Liverpool U-23s’ fourth-round replay win over Shrewsbury Town in the last round.
Their season threatening to go off a cliff Wile E Coyote style, following two defeats in three games, Liverpool find themselves legs-spinning-in-mid-air over the abyss as they travel to Stamford Bridge to take on a team whose manager wants them to cement first-team ideals and go for victory. “We want to cement first-team ideals and go for victory,” roared Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. “It is Liverpool, our fans are coming to the FA Cup to try to overturn the best team in the land. It doesn’t mean I might not change a couple of people. There might be something for freshness of legs or a couple of different options, but I won’t pick a team to casually give minutes to but treat it like I would any Premier League game.” We’re sure whatever he was trying to say made sense in his head.
Having literally failed to turn up for their last FA Cup game and metaphorically excused themselves from the Premier League outing at Watford, Liverpool will be hoping to get back to winning ways. “This is an exceptional group of players,” tooted Jürgen Klopp. “They did outstanding stuff – but not that night. Should I think that just because we want to respond that we shoot Chelsea out of their own stadium? No. It will be a tough game.” While visitors to Stamford Bridge are unlikely to see a shootout in the guns drawn, bullets screaming, High Noon interpretation of the phrase, they may be treated to one in the more traditional footballing sense. Due to the reluctance of top-flight professional clubs to play more matches than are strictly necessary, replays are no longer played from the fifth round on. In the event of a draw, extra-time will be played, followed by pistols at around 10.15pm (GMT) if required.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They were training to play in the style they would have played in the 1880s” – director Rory Aitken explains how the actors from his new Netflix series about the origins of football, The English Game, learnt to play like archaic, limited footballers in intensive sessions at Manchester United’s training ground. You can insert your own honk here.
ESTEEM OF THE DAY
28 February: “I’ve had the good fortune to meet a real man who brings with him a great work culture. Before I took him on, I had a very positive opinion of him. But after seeing him work, my esteem has grown even more” – Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini pays tribute to coach Rolando Maran amid a 10-game winless run.
3 March: An 11-game run prompts Maran to sack Giulini.
It’s your boy, David Squires, on … Manchester City and wins elsewhere in the most minor way possible.
“Good day Fiver. So sad to hear of Daniel Sturridge’s extended ban (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Can I recommend he head across the pond to keep himself busy trying out as a kicker for an American football team. They might appreciate someone unafraid to take a quick punt” – Tony Crawford.
“While certainly admirable/heroic, there really was no need for Jürgen Klopp to ‘throw himself in front of the bullets fired the way of Dejan Lovren’ (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Given Dejan’s usual approach to positioning, he wouldn’t have been where he was supposed to be by the time the bullets got there” – Derek McGee.
“Re: Jordan Flores’s ‘physiologically outrageous’ effort for Dundalk (yesterday’s Quote of the Day). The accompanying picture seems to show him with three arms; that certainly fits your description. I wonder what VAR would make of this. Might all three armpits possibly be ruled offside?” – Dave Kramer.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Tony Crawford, who bags a copy of Premier League Nuggets, by Richard Foster. We’ve got more prizes to give away, so get scribbling.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Uefa head honcho Aleksander Ceferin has warned against fixating on “dark scenarios” over the spread of coronavirus, even as it was revealed that Scotland boss Steve Clarke had swerved the Nations League tombola.
Inter chief suit Steven Zhang is facing disciplinary action for insulting Serie A bigwig Paolo Dal Pino in an Instachat post about how the league is handling the fallout from the virus in Italy. “Playing around [with] the calendar and always putting the public health as a secondary consideration,” fumed Zhang. “You are probably the biggest and darkest clown I have ever seen.”
Meanwhile, the Premier League is discussing contingency plans for playing matches behind closed doors should a widespread outbreak in England lead to mass gatherings being banned.
Claudio Bravo is weighing up an offer to join Manchester City’s soccerball-playing cousin club, New York City FC.
Mikel Arteta is feeling like a proud parent who’s let their child walk to the corner shop unaccompanied to buy a pint of milk for the first time after watching his Arsenal pups beat Pompey 2-0 in the FA Cup. “It’s always a risk but they’re worth the risk,” he cheered.
And despite saying he would have to do some “serious thinking” about his Pope’s Newc O’Rangers future after the Scottish Cup defeat by Hearts, $tevie Mbe now insists he’s all-in. “This is when the club needs me most to stay on,” he roared.
STILL WANT MORE?
Proper Journalism’s David Conn mulls over the future of Big Cup as part of Big Website’s This is Europe series.
Suzanne Wrack gets her chat on with the England squad’s sports scientist Dawn Scott, the Lionesses’ “secret weapon”.
Spain’s domestic cup competition has had a revamp, and it’s helped smaller clubs and actually worked. Mark Sochon on the rebirth of the Copa del Rey.
The Fiver doesn’t know much about dietary preparation, but Richard Foster does, and he’s written about how football nutrition has developed.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!