WHAT’S THE MATTER, LIONEL MESSI?
It was a fairly instructive evening in Paris last night. Leo Messi wandered around the Parc des Princes with a scribble of comic-strip-cloud misery constantly hovering above his head. With a faint but unmistakable air of hopelessness and ennui enveloping the poor little chap, the Fiver couldn’t help but notice his increasing resemblance to Charlie Brown. When he missed that penalty, we found ourselves hitting rewind, just to double check whether Lucy had moved the ball just before he kicked it. Good grief.
Fortunately for Paris Saint-Germain, just as Messi was working through his existential crises, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé combined in the last minute of injury time to give the French side a slender first-leg advantage against Real Madrid and dig their teammate out of his penalty-hell hole. It felt epochal, though there was less a sense of the simple passing of a torch, more of one being cheekily back-flicked down the wing then confidently swept through someone’s legs in the circus-troupe style. Fortunately the torch handed over by Messi had nearly gone out, so there was never any real danger of Thibaut Courtois’ low-hanging fruit being accidentally flambéed.
There was also the sense that if Manchester City ever get a shot at either of these otherwise ponderous teams, things could get ugly at warp speed. City utterly eviscerated Sporting in Lisbon, the tie as good as over in half an hour. Bernardo Silva in particular enjoyed himself, his two goals silencing the boos of fans who simply can’t forget his legendary stint at arch-rivals Benfica, for whom he made three appearances as a 19-year-old. Only a fool – or Thomas Tuchel, who has their number – would want to draw City in the next round.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Big Cup continues! Join Scott Murray for Internazionale 1-1 Liverpool, while Paul Doyle will be all over Red Bull Salzburg 2-4 Bayern Munich (both 8pm GMT).
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t think Roma were prepared for us in any way. They came late to the city. They didn’t have a training session. I don’t think they were ready for the weather, the conditions – or our players” – Bodø/Glimt’s Ulrik Saltnes has warned the Queen’s Celtic not to take things lightly when they meet in Big Pot on Thursday night, or a repeat of that 6-1 drubbing could be on.
Football Weekly Extra is here! Join Max, Barry and co to break down the Big Cup action, with Manchester City and Kylian Mbappé looking magnifique.
“Now The Fiver has exclusively revealed that Ralf Rangnick, 63, is 63 years old, the question is, given their uninspiring form, will Manchester United still need him, will they still feed him, when he’s 64?” – Michael Smith.
“What’s all this nonsense about Manchester United’s decline? They’re playing football on a Big Cup night, aren’t they?” – Maurice Devenney.
“Re: beef between Fiver readers [Tuesday’s Fiver] How will Brian respond?! I haven’t looked forward to an edition of the Fiver this much since, well … ever. I was Team Copestake until he asked for the concept of a joke to be explained to a Fiver reader” – Alex Headey.
“Regarding Ian’s response to my non-prize-winning letter, I would refer him to grammarly.com – ‘Not all questions are phrased as questions. Sometimes we phrase questions the same [snip! – Fiver Ed] … but in writing, you need a question mark to signal to readers that they should read the sentence as a question’” – Brian Ross.
Send your letters to t[email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Michael Smith.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Kylian Mbappé has said he is happy at PSG but left the door to Real Madrid firmly ajar. “I’ve not decided my future,” Mbappé trilled after scoring a late Big Cup winner against his potential future employers.
Reports in Spain suggest that Florentino Pérez is so hopping mad about Real’s first-leg defeat, he’s already making plans to ditch Carlo Ancelotti in the summer. The Real Madrid head honcho is “very clear that the Italian is not the right person to rebuild” the club, according to Sport.
Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City have plenty of room for improvement after their Big Cup thrashing of Sporting. “The result is a dream, but the performance – we can do better,” bragged Guardiola. City are also in early talks with Bernardo Silva to extend his contract, with the midfielder absolutely running things in Lisbon.
Cristiano Ronaldo ended his 47-day goal drought with the opener in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Brighton on Tuesday. “An amazing goal,” hooted 63-year-old Ralf Rangnick after Ronaldo edged ahead of Neal Maupay in the scoring charts.
Uefa has been accused of exposing supporters to “crypto-mercenaries” after signing a deal with the fan token company Socios.com. “We are appalled by Uefa’s decision to team up with Socios, a company that monetises fan engagement at the expense of match-going fans,” said Football Supporters Europe.
Dundee have sent manager James McPake skidding through the Door Marked Do One, despite back-to-back recent victories. The good news for McPake is that, with Tannadice just 200 yards down the road, he might end up at Dundee United if his former club threw him hard enough.
Jess Fishlock scored twice and Natasha Harding added a third as Wales defeated Scotland 3-1 in the Pinatar Cup, advancing to the semi-finals of the friendly tournament in Spain.
And a progress update: two years after resigning in the wake of a legal filing that claimed female players had less ability than their male counterparts, Carlos Cordeiro is running for his old gig as president of USA! USA!! USA!!! Soccer.
STILL WANT MORE?
England host Olympic champions Canada in the Arnold Clark Cup on Thursday – the Lionesses’ first real test under Sarina Wiegman. Louise Taylor sets the scene.
Sid Lowe is in thrall to Kylian Mbappé after the Frenchman put on quite the audition against Real Madrid.
Simone Inzaghi’s shrewd signings and tactical tweaks have put Inter back in the Champions League last 16 and will give them hope against Liverpool, writes Nicky Bandini.
“City did not just put the tie to bed: they embalmed it, sealed it in a lead coffin, wreathed it in chains and dropped it somewhere off the north Atlantic coast” – it’s Jonathan Liew on a one-sided Big Cup night in Portugal.
Mason Mount: Champions League winner and a double Wordle answer. The Knowledge tackles more of the big questions.
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