Liverpool, Real Madrid and likeable doyens of modern football | Soccer



After a season that’s gotten more extraordinary with each passing week, this is what counts. Two teams, driven by destiny, battling it out for a colossal prize in a gleaming modern football cathedral; It’s just a shame someone has to lose. And yet, when The Fiver sent his 3,000-word opus about the League Two Playoff Finals to The Man, it was sent back to us in a thousand pieces, the confetti arranged on what passes for a desk to fit two words spell: BIG CUP.

And while that opening move was more telegraphic than a $tevie Mbe Hollywood pass, Saturday night’s showdown in Paris promises to be far less predictable. Liverpool will start as favourites, but Real Madrid have shown they can destroy a carefully constructed Big Cup project in 90 seconds, let alone 90 minutes. After increasingly dramatic late comebacks against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City, we expect Karim Benzema to emerge with a late winner halfway through Liverpool’s trophy save.

So if you’re the kind of fan who likes to post the number of “UCLs” of your selected team on all available social media disgraces as if you’ve somehow made a meaningful contribution, here are some patented Fiver analytics for you. Liverpool can climb to seven Big Cups and level them with Milan – but, more importantly, spoil the flow of that dismal ‘we won it’ [x] times” sing. Madrid have won 13, of course – not that they like to talk about it. That’s right, The Fiver makes fun of teams for winning too many Big Cups. But what else is there?

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Both teams have earned their places and both are coached by likeable doyens of modern football. Carlo Ancelotti’s in-game tactical tweaks might be tantamount to talking to Luka Modric and raising an eyebrow theatrically – but hey, it works. As for Jurgen Klopp, he remains the Big Cup winner most likely to keep the spirits up at a team building weekend – closely followed by Roberto Di Matteo. To the naysayers who might point out that this is just a repeat of 2018’s showpiece and that six of the last nine Big Cup finals have contested at least one of these clubs – fair point. On the other hand, one of these teams lost at home to Sheriff Tiraspol in the groups; the other qualified thanks to a last-minute equalizer against West Brom. From their goalkeeper. Bad luck, Mansfield and Port Vale – that’s the real underdog story of the weekend.


“There have been, and will be, many dark days, but I felt ready to be able to lead my staff and my players” – Vale manager Darrell Clarke on his return from a near family bereavement earlier this year, during he is preparing to guide them to Wembley on Saturday.

Darrell Clarke from Vale.
Darrell Clarke from Vale. Photo: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian


“Within hours of you kindly reprinting my letter in yesterday’s Fiver, Soccer Canada canceled their friendly against Iran. I knew you were a global force in the world of football, but that’s just remarkable” – Alan Etherington.

“Interesting that the Norwich suit wearer described his team as average (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). I would think if they had reached the lofty heights of average they would still be in the Premier League” – Dominic Dawson.

“Stir the last remnants of ‘applauding money on TV’ (five letters passim). One only has to watch Antiques Roadshow to understand how to applaud the money. Low value gets no applause from the crowd in attendance, high value gets a lot of applause… but nobody did anything, they just got the news of a large amount of money attached to them. You did well! Newcastle fans can understand that idea” – Paul Sanderson.

“Like John McKay (Letters From Yesterday), I can’t believe I deign to write a letter to The Fiver. Especially since I really don’t have anything funny to say. A bit like The Fiver” – Steve Mintz.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our award letter of the day is… Dominic Dawson.


Listen to the latest Football Weekly Extra. Speaking of which, Max, Barry and the Pod team are back on tour. Tickets for live shows in June and July are available here.


It sounds like Sadio Mané might stay at Liverpool after all. “Come back to me on Saturday and I’ll be sure to give you the best answer you want to hear,” he teased. “It’s something special. I will then give you everything you want to hear.”

Sadio Mané with a big cap game en route to Paris.
Sadio Mané with a big cap game en route to Paris. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Forest Green reckons her dealings with tantalizing Notts County manager Ian Burchnall is eye-catching for Watford. “Together we showed how football can still be done right and correctly,” said chairman Dale Vince.

Another non-league boss on the move is Pete Wild, who traded Halifax to appear at League Two Barrow.

England captain Harry Kane has been entertaining himself on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show in New York. “We’ve got a great team, really good players, a really good coach, and we’ve prepared well for this World Cup and I’m really looking forward to it,” he cooed, casting the old look at the relatively empty crowd. “Hopefully I can try to break that goal record while we’re there.”

Badoom table.
Badoom table. Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

That high-pitched howl you might be able to hear is the constant spitting between French and Spanish football suits over this whole Kylian Mbappé thing. “When Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and others left your league last year – voluntarily – instead of recognizing theirs [greatness], They commented on their age and described our league as ‘like the League of Legends given the age of some players’,’ snorted LFP’s Vincent Labrune in a letter to his counterpart Javier Tebas. “Now your disrespectful slurs seem to be aimed at Mbappé, who is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in the world and who simply hasn’t joined your league despite receiving a similar offer.”

And in the news about more grown men, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry have been beating each other up on social media subscription Twitter over the Premier League’s best centre-back rankings – with himself No. 1 and Terry No. 5. It’s too tiring to elaborate .


Want to know where the Big Cup finals are won and lost? Then lend your eyes to Jonathan Wilson [he’s written a tactical breakdown, he’s not gone serial killer – Fiver Ed].

Here we go.
Here we go. Composition: Getty, Shutterstock

Karen Carney previews Liverpool vs Madrid as Philipp Lahm shares his thoughts on the big game.

Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konaté tells Andy Hunter about his excitement at returning to Paris and Sid Lowe hears about Thibaut Courtois. Meanwhile, Steve McManaman reveals he is most closely linked to Liverpool. Shocker!

It could be quite the weekend if you’re the Huddersfield personality, reports Aaron Bower.

Other final look back at the 2021-22 Premier League, this time looking at pre-season predictions.

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

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