WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Liverpool ride their luck
Geronimo! A shout given by paratroopers as they jump into battle, and also an exclamation expressing exhilaration, especially when jumping from a great height (thanks, Collins dictionary).
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It’s also what Geronimo Rulli (probably) shouted as he catapulted himself towards a pretty famously quick Sadio Mane. Already at fault for Liverpool’s first two goals, Villarreal’s goalkeeper rushed out to try to beat the Senegalese to the ball – it ended exactly as you’d expect.
You could say that for the whole match, too. It ended how you expected, a Liverpool win, a third Champions League final in five years confirmed, but it played out in a manner few saw coming.
In the first half Liverpool were quite simply terrible. Naby Keita may be lucky to start again this season, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson can count themselves lucky they had another 45 minutes to outline their importance to this side, for their defensive frailties turned it into the contest it never should have been.
However, it could serve them well, that first half, and though it is one they can ill-afford to repeat, it is one they can contemplate in the weeks to come – play like that again, and the quadruple dream is over.
And as much as Rulli was to blame, with his inability to stop shots directly at him, Liverpool also had Luis Diaz to thank, this footballer who has all but sealed his status as the signing of the season despite only joining halfway through.
He is a terror, an absolute nightmare to face, and is the reason why Liverpool are still pursuing four trophies. Virgil van Dijk is playing that down – “If you listen to all of us, it’s obvious we don’t think about these things, and it’s really like it… you can dream but you have to be realistic “ – but Mohamed Salah isn’t.
“For sure,” he said. “Now we are close to everything, so why not?”
Why not indeed.
Real-City yes please
It’s chalk and cheese in terms of Champions League experience, although despite their relative newbie status it is Manchester City with the greater overall quality when compared to Real Madrid.
That edge is only slight, however, and they do not possess a Karim Benzema up front, meaning it is all shaping up to be an incredible night at the Bernabeu. Yeah, we’re calling it early, although the 4-3 first leg means it isn’t the boldest of claims.
City are out to reach a second Champions League final. That can be written without googling the answer, but for Real they are chasing a *googles “Real Madrid in Europe”* 17th European Cup final. Seventeenth.
City’s one experience of a final may be painful, but it is at least recent, and Pep Guardiola knows his side will need to have woken up this morning in the mood to tackle the giants of European football.
“The question is what did you learn from this experience?” said Guardiola, whose side lost the final 1-0 to Chelsea last year. “Every game in this competition is different. It’s difficult to compare last season to tomorrow.
“It’s about how the guys wake up, what their mood is and how they perform. We have been there - and we have been there quite often - that is good. We know how to handle it. It helps. But it is no guarantee we will play good. We have to perform our best to reach the final.”
Bournemouth are back
Two years ago Bournemouth joined Norwich City and Watford in suffering relegation from the Premier League, and there were fears the Cherries may never make it back.
They fell short in the play-offs last year, but avoided that lottery this time around, overcoming third-placed Nottingham Forest last night to seal automatic promotion behind champions Fulham.
It will be a tall order to stay up, but for now that is a distant concern. Bournemouth’s rise to the top tier was a cause for celebration, and their return is just as commendable.
IN OTHER NEWS
A great Wednesday for Bournemouth indeed. David Brooks is cancer free, having been given the all clear after being diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin lymphoma in October.
“It has been a few months since my last update and in that time I have thankfully completed my cancer treatment,” the Bournemouth and Wales midfielder said.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the incredible medical staff for their amazing work and support throughout the process.
“Last week I met with my specialist having reviewed my final test results. I am delighted to say the treatment was successful and I can now say that I have been given the all clear and am now cancer free.
“Those words feel incredible to say and I am so thankful for all your messages and good wishes, these really helped me through the tough times.”
IN THE CHANNELS
This has baffled football fans aplenty. Just look at the trajectory… Rory De-who?
In this never-ending reminder of gosh ain’t we old, here’s Mark Viduka with a fine turn and finish that ended Arsenal’s title defence and handed Manchester United the Premier League – 19 years ago today.
The stage is set for a thrilling second leg. Follow our blog of Real Madrid v Man City tonight to see who'll make the final.
There's also a WSL double header with Man City taking on Birmingham and Arsenal out to take the title race to the final day when hosting rivals Tottenham.
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