TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
The Champions League just got even worse
The Chaaaaaaaampions. And the teams that finish second, third, fourth and fifth.
Opinion: Chelsea can’t keep expecting Lukaku to save the day
That’s one takeaway from the latest ludicrous proposal dreamt up by European football’s decision makers, who have applied for planning permission to extend the Champions League from 24 teams to 36. While hidden behind the ‘new places for new leagues’ slogan, there are obviously a few wildcard spots thrown in that should see the top leagues – including England – have five sides in the competition.
Teams would play 10 matches in a group stage bizarrely containing all 36 teams, a transparent shield that prevents the top sides from being eliminated while also ensuring they meet in MUST-SEE glorified friendlies. And in the end? Bayern, Liverpool, Man City, Real Madrid, PSG, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus reach the quarter-finals. Actually, maybe not Barcelona.
New teams would be a lot of fun if they didn’t arrive with the caveat of a never-ending group stage. And it got us thinking…
Why not strip the Champions League back? Invite a maximum of two teams per nation – the top two in the best eight leagues, per the nonsense UEFA coefficient – then a selection of 16 other champions across Europe. The first round would be a seeded two-legged knockout tie, then the 16 winners would be drawn into four groups of four – unseeded – creating some actual jeopardy from a round-robin format. Think 1998-99 when we saw Manchester United, Bayern and Barcelona duke it out.
Teams that lose in the first round might be fuming that they only get two games in the Champions League but: a) that will make them hungrier for a repeat, and b) that’s where the Europa League comes in, hoovering up the teams that drop down into a much more exciting second competition. And teams in the big leagues? Finally, no more reward for being above average and no certainty the current elite will be there, thereby fuelling up domestic leagues and making the European adventures mean more.
When was the last time we had a shock winner in football’s golden goose? When Jose made the most attacking move of his career by running down the touchline at Old Trafford en route to steering Porto home in 2004? There can’t be many players currently playing in the Champions League who were also playing back then – an entire generation starved of a surprise.
We know Andrea Agnelli, mastermind of the new proposal and European Clubs' Association (ECA) chairman, is a huge fan of the Warm-Up so we can only assume this sorry mess will be over by lunchtime.
Barca to steal Bayern target from Real as Laporta returns - Euro Papers
Brief: get superstar Germans playing well. Current progress: 1/2.
OK, so it’s only one match but Kai Havertz put in the performance Timo Werner has been desperate for all season. The £71m signing from Bayer Leverkusen excelled in his new role as a false nine, forcing an own goal and winning a penalty as Chelsea beat Everton 2-0.
The parallels might be unavoidably simple – ex-Bundesliga stars trying to carve a path in the Premier League – but this is the yardstick Thomas Tuchel will be judged on. And while the signs for Havertz are good, we would be lying if we said the same for Werner, who fills you with less confidence than Tony Hibbert when through one-on-one.
“He is a guy that has all the qualities and all the talents to be a dominant figure in the offence. He stepped up and was involved in a lot of dangerous attacking situations for us,” Tuchel beamed about, well you know.
“There is no doubt about his quality, his talent and also his character. He needs to adapt to the Premier League and a new club where you play to win every game and the highest standards are normal but he did that excellently today.”
'I'm very happy' - Tuchel praises Havertz
IN OTHER NEWS
West Ham are winning the Premier League next season.
And, more importantly, do we still have to pretend we don't want to see a John Stones-Craig Dawson partnership for England at Euro 2020?
IN THE CHANNELS
A #greatcontent double-header for you on this wonderful Tuesday, starting with that shocking moment from that shocking interview:
And cometh the hour, cometh…
We’re all guilty of slagging off a goalkeeper* when they don't save a thunder-blaster from four yards because it looks bad on slow-mo, so it was great to see Rob Green stand up on MNF to give a bit of insight. Shame he didn’t apply any of this logic in South Africa.
(*the Warm-Up’s sole outing as a goalkeeper saw us nutmegged from distance despite having our lower legs crossed)
The Champions League returns with sixth-placed Borussia Dortmund facing fourth-placed Sevilla, and third-placed Juventus meeting second-placed Porto. Only one of you would be welcome next season under our plans.
Marcus Foley is hosting a whip-round for the Warm-Up's proposals tomorrow, so why not chuck him a tenner?
'The situation has changed' - Tuchel backs Chilwell after 'mentally tiring' summer
Opinion: Saul debut flop highlights importance of Jorginho to Chelsea