The Warm-Up: Cristiano Ronaldo deserves more respect, and so does the Norwegian Cup
Plus the ever-anti-climactic finale of the Champions League group stage, and the good and bad sides of Real Madrid.
WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Manchester United dodge fate worth than death; grave consequences for Chelsea
TV competition shows inhabit a strange universe. They’re fundamentally meaningless, but their very success rests on persuading you otherwise – so they constantly remind you how bloody important everything is.
People weep tears of joy at getting to dance in Blackpool (the Warm-Up has been dancing in Blackpool and it can tell you its tears were not a result of happiness), while the act of making a cake is lent unbearable tension by having panel show staples shout ‘BAKERS, TEN MINUTES!’ at seemingly random.
Most commonly of all, presenters say stuff like: “Here in the jungle, the stakes have never been higher.”
And you think, of course they haven’t. With each week, it gets slightly more important and the stakes a bit higher. How else could a competition work?
The answer: Like the Champions League.
Every autumn, the group reaches its climactic final round of matches... and pretty much everything has already been decided.
In a scenario even Dermot O’Leary would struggle to hype, Manchester United’s fate last night rested on their ability not to lose at home to CSKA Moscow by six goals (they managed, phew).
Paris Saint-Germain likewise avoided the four-goal gubbing to Bayern that would have seen them lose top spot in Group B.
There was something at stake in Group D, where Juventus got the win they needed against bottom side Olympiacos. Well, a win they would have needed had Sporting Lisbon won away to Barcelona. Which, of course, they didn’t.
All of which leads you to lend extra weight to largely meaningless happenings like Chelsea losing top spot in Group C. This after drawing at home to Atletico Madrid while Roma won.
Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.Getty Images
Chelsea’s punishment is to be moved from one set of teams who are always in the last 16 to another set of teams who are always in the last 16 when the knockout ties are drawn.
It might mean... (tension-building music)... THE TOUGHEST DRAW EVER. But then again it might not, given Real Madrid and Bayern are also among the runners-up.
Wednesday’s match sees equally thin scraps to feed off, with Tottenham and Manchester City already confirmed as group winners.
It’s all as inevitable as a narky snake at a Bushtucker Trial.
Big Sam opts of out Mediterranean excursion shock
Sam Allardyce, Manager of Everton greets David Wagner, Manager of Huddersfield TownGetty Images
Everton manager Sam Allardyce is to sack off Thursday’s Europa League tie to concentrate on the Merseyside derby.
The already-eliminated Toffees face Apollon Limassol – and there’s literally no-one on earth you’d think would be more up for a midweek excursion to Cyprus than Big Sam.
But no, he’s staying in Merseyside, correctly diagnosing Sunday’s match with Liverpool as more deserving of his time.
The Warm-Up mentions this, because it spent the summer telling anyone who would listen that this is precisely what Arsenal should have done.
Given the propensity of teams not in Europe to win the Premier League, why not sack off the Europa League altogether? Keep the entire first-team squad and manager focused on the league, send Bouldy and some kids off to fulfil European duties – and if they happen to get through, reassess after Christmas.
Surely their best chance of winning the league – other than taking Manchester City’s players, coaching staff, medical team and general sense of optimism.
And, sure, maybe they’d have Arsenalled it up. Then they would have been out of Europe AND the title race, while trying to persuade their two best players to sign new contracts. OK, maybe a good idea they didn’t try it.
But as a general principle, holding managers out of long midweek away trips seems like a thoroughly sensible idea. More please.
IN OTHER NEWS
Lillestrom’s Aleksander Melgalvis Andreassen has come under fire for celebrating the club’s King’s Cup win by stripping naked on stage and using the cup to protect his modesty.
With typical Nordic understatement, the Norwegian FA’s communications chief Yngve Haavik said:
“Winning the Cup is a big thing and obviously it should be celebrated. But it is very possible to do so in a manner that shows the cup a bit more respect. I am sure it wasn’t intentional from Melgalvis but it came out the wrong way regardless.”
An only slightly remorseful Melgalvis said:
" I’ll admit that [it was over the top] and apologise, but it is not something I regret. Should I apologise to the king? Well, I was very privileged to say hello to the king yesterday so maybe I should apologise today."
HEROES AND ZEROES
Heroes: Real Madrid
File under #ClassyGesture.
Real Madrid have sent a letter wishing Sunderland’s Duncan Watmore a speedy recovery from his knee injury.
We don’t know whether Real enter into correspondence with every injured player, but this is really very nice of them.
Zeroes: Real Madrid
Not so classy: Real’s absurd massaging of Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego.
Asked about Ronaldo’s patchy form, coach Zinedine Zidane told a press conference yesterday:
" I think Cristiano deserves more respect, because he is such a great player that when things don't quite go his way everyone has something to say about him."
This is a man who is going to win his fifth Ballon d’Or tomorrow. He is (rightly) considered one of the greatest players of all time. And you, Zinedine Zidane, yourself an all-time great, believe the problem is he’s not given enough respect.
Twitter stalwart Crap 90s Football is doing a Badvent (guffaw) calendar. Sure, it might just be their usual output with a number at the start. But hey, we like it.
Well you can’t say Benjamin Mendy hasn’t made the most of his injury lay-off, what with developing a banterous social media persona, his cruciate-endangering touchline sprints and now his column in The Times.