The Warm-Up: The Old Lady's not for turning
Jack Lang picks through the bones of the Champions League action and marvels at Gary Neville's Twitter stylings...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
The Italian job
The thing about miracles – figurative ones; The Warm-Up doesn’t go in for all that spiritual stuff – is that, by definition, they don’t happen very often. They’re one-off events, not something on which to rely.
That, in part, is why a filthy first-leg capitulation habit is not conducive to a team’s long-term health in the Champions League. Sure, now and then the stars will align (bunch of Parisian chokers, your left winger activating God mode, a laughably generous referee), but you can’t expect them to do so again and again – especially when the opposition gets ever tougher.
Earlier this week, Neymar and Luis Enrique had talked up Barcelona’s chances of reeling Juventus in. The believers could point to an impressive run of results at Camp Nou: the Blaugrana had won their previous four Champions League home games by an aggregate score of 21-1.
Juve, though, are not Paris Saint-Germain. Where the Ligue 1 champions withered, their Italian counterparts puffed out their chests and rolled up their sleeves, going about their work with trademark conviction. That defence for the ages was never likely to collapse as PSG’s had.
Yes, Barça had chances. Lionel Messi flashed a couple of efforts just wide. Sergi Roberto and Javier Mascherano came close. But Juve were also a threat at the other end, Gonzalo Higuain spurning a couple of presentable opportunities. If Juve rode their luck at times, their hosts did too.
In the end, the resistance was futile. There would be no comeback. No consolation goal, even. Barça were all out of miracle chips and Juventus, over the two legs, by far the better side.
Dark horses gathering pace
Another week, another brilliant Monaco performance in Europe. The side from the principality already had one foot in the semi-finals after a helter-skelter victory in Dortmund last week, but put the result beyond doubt in clinical fashion on Wednesday, scoring twice in the first half and sauntering through the second as if it were a training session.
Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao did the early damage and Dortmund’s resistance was ended by Valere Germain, who added a third on the break after Marco Reus had pulled one back. A miserable couple of days for Bundesliga sides, then, but at least one Germain got the job done. (Sorry.)
Where there’s a Wil…
The Warm-Up has spent the last few months worrying for Jack Wilshere’s gold membership at his local health clinic. With game time at Bournemouth limited, the midfielder just has not been getting the opportunities to compile any kind of consistent injury record on the south coast. We all know there’s world-class outpatient in there; he just needs a proper run in the side to prove it.
Jack Wilshere sustains an injuryEurosport
It is with some relief, then, that we report that Wilshere has been ruled out for the season with the injury he picked up in the defeat to Tottenham at the weekend. It’s late in the campaign, sure, but it could provide a real springboard for even greater achievements next term.
IN OTHER NEWS
It slid under the radar on a busy day of football, but the best thing that happened on Wednesday was arguably Gary Neville’s deeply Patridgean trip down the rabbit hole of train-related ranting on Twitter, complete with upside-down photos of tickets and excessive punctuation. That Simon has a lot to answer for !!
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Dani Alves
Some people obviously just love life. Dani Alves is their patron saint.
Zero: Lionel Messi
OK, so “zero” is probably a bit harsh, but we wanted to get this in somewhere. Messi did not have much joy against the Juve backline and also lost the latest skirmish in his ongoing battle with the laws of physics, faceplanting in thrilling fashion near the end of the first half.
Memes of this moment will almost certainly be circulating by the time you read this.
"Many of Madrid’s fans are entitled and eternally unsatisfied, always wanting more. Especially from Ronaldo: he has set the bar so ludicrously high for so long it is easy to fall short. His 'rubbish' is everyone else’s best game ever, their best season, their dream night."
Marcus Rashford (L), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R)Reuters
Thursday nights, Channel Fi… actually, that’s a bit out of date, isn’t it? The Warm-Up isn’t sure Channel Five exists anymore and certainly isn’t prepared to risk exposure to Fort Boyard or some other nonsense to find out for sure.
Where were we? Oh yes, football. Manchester United’s Europa League campaign continues at Old Trafford, with Anderlecht their visitors this evening. The Red Devils are strong favourites to progress to the semi-finals, but will have to be wary after that late equaliser by Leander Dendoncker (great name) in the first leg.
Tom Adams snuck through the midweek action on away goals and has qualified for Friday’s Warm-Up.