The Warm-Up: United need a bigger miracle than ’99 in Barcelona
Also: Arsenal have the twin joys of winning an away game and seeing Troy Deeney do something daft, plus Shay Given loves his dinner...
TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Solskjaer needs a bigger miracle than 1999 to beat Barca
“I don’t really look back that often,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the man whose only motivational tactic seems to be ‘hey, the past! Remember when Manchester United were really good?’ sometimes, when asked about that night in 1999 ahead of his side’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Barcelona. We think he even said it with a straight face.
United were 1-0 down going into injury time against Bayern Munich 20 years ago, but they’ll need a bigger miracle in the Nou Camp if they’re going to go through this time. Sure, again they’re only one down, but such is the gulf in class between the two sides of late it will be pretty extraordinary if they can pull something off.
"I believe that you get what you deserve in sport, if you put your life, effort and determination into it. Belief is massive. Everyone has talent, a certain ability, but we saw against PSG that we can get back from 2-0 down against a fantastic team. Historically, Barcelona are the best in the world over the last 10 years so we know that this will need a fantastic effort."
And you suspect it might come down to one of the old guard. “Thank God he’s playing for us and not the opponents,” said Max Allegri about Cristiano Ronaldo, who dug Juve out of a hole in the first leg.
While the Italians are clearly favourites, it would be wonderful to see this young, vibrant and thrilling Ajax side go through.
How s— must Watford be, Arsenal win away!
If there is one thing better than watching your team win away from home, it’s seeing an unpopular player get comeuppance, and Arsenal got both of those things in Watford on Monday night.
First: the win. Arsenal winning away from home has been rarer than rocking horse poo this season, and their success at Vicarage Road, thanks to some quick thinking by Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and some slow feet by Ben Foster, was just their second on the road since November, the other being against the hapless Huddersfield. It was also their first away clean sheet all season, although admittedly they could probably have done without the sass from the Premier League’s official Twitter account.
But arguably even more satisfying for Arsenal might be the dismissal of Troy Deeney, the man who has previously questioned their ‘cojones’ and basically suggested that Arsenal are a bunch of spineless dweebs, for unwisely sticking a forearm on Lucas Torreira. He pleaded his innocence afterwards, but he very clearly and ultimately absolutely pointlessly gave his opponent a whack. Given his history with the Gunners, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.
Is this the biggest game of the night?
Sure, there are two colossal Champions League games going on, but if you judge the size of games on how important they are to the clubs involved, this is waaaaaaaaay bigger than the more glamourous fare in Europe.
Brighton and Cardiff face each other in the Premier League tonight, and it’s squeaky bum time for the pair of them in the battle to avoid relegation. Both are in shocking form, and Brighton go into this one on the back of an absolutely calamitous humping by Bournemouth at the weekend. Cardiff, on the other hand, know that anything other than a win will almost certainly be curtains for their chances of remaining in the top flight.
And Neil Warnock is seeking inspiration from elsewhere:
"We just have to look at the golf and at what Tiger [Woods] has done – amazing. Nobody gave him a chance either. He has been written off that many times and we have…this is an opportunity to give ourselves a chance till the end of the season. We have to grab that.”"
Admittedly, this might not be a game of the highest quality. These two teams are down there for a reason, after all. But it will be extremely tense. And there’s a chance of someone doing something stupid. Can’t ask for much more than that.
IN OTHER NEWS
Fun and games in Romania over the weekend, as this…
…led to this…
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Shay Given
Now that’s commitment to your dinner…
Zero: Leonardo Bonucci
Perhaps ‘zero’ is a little harsh, but it is pretty funny, after his little snafu when Moises Kean was racially abused the other week, observing Leonardo Bonucci’s social media posts recently. What point do you think he’s trying to make?
Manchester United have had some good nights and some bad nights at the Nou Camp in years gone by. Here’s one of the bad ones, as Stoichkov, Romario and pals tore them a new one in 1994.
"United’s Treble season had such a perfect killer-to-filler ratio that their two astonishing 3-3 draws against Barcelona in the Champions League group stage are great songs tossed off as B-sides. The second of those matches, which Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona had to win to stay in their tournament (the final, as you may have heard, was to be played at the Camp Nou), had almost as much in common with basketball as football. For both sides, valour was the better part of discretion. “It was a night of complete abandon,” Ferguson said, “played exactly in the spirit of ‘let the best team win.”"
Three honkingly good games on tonight. Truly, the football gods have blessed us all. Cancel your plans, see if you can somehow manage to watch all of them.
Making sense of those three games tomorrow will be Eurosport’s chief sense-maker, Ben Snowball.