Europa League

The Warm-Up: Sarri’s misery habit, haircut inception and the Francis Coquelin Clasico

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Maurizio Sarri manager of Chelsea speaks with Eden Hazard during the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Slavia Praha at Stamford Bridge on April 18, 2019 in London, England.

Image credit: Getty Images

ByJack Lang
18/04/2019 at 22:37 | Updated 19/04/2019 at 08:15

Jack Lang pores over last night's thrilling Europa League action so you don't have to...


There are times in this life of mine

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Have you heard of The Tremeloes? They were kind of like The Beatles, only from Essex and significantly uglier. They released albums with titles like Here Come The Tremeloes, World Explosion!, and – yes – Alan, Dave, Rick and Chip. I’m not making this up. They have a Wikipedia page.

That last paragraph was quite catty – The Warm-Up has KPIs to chase – but in truth The Tremeloes were quite decent songsmiths. And their biggest hit, Even the Bad Times Are Good, is a genuine cracker, all dumb fun and sunny optimism.

The Warm-Up thinks about that song quite often, especially when watching Chelsea play. Not because doing so is an especially joyous experience, but because, in Maurizio Sarri, they have a manager endlessly capable of inverting The Tremeloes’ most memorable line.

For the Italian, even the good times are bad.

Last night’s Europa League game against Slavia Prague was a case in point. Chelsea won. They scored four goals in an insane half-hour romp. They went through to the semi-finals, where they will play Eintracht Frankfurt. This is all positive stuff.

And yet the overall feeling is decidedly mixed, thanks to an abject second-half display, during which they conceded three times. To a side whose only famous player is Miroslav Stoch, who Chelsea themselves binned off a decade ago.

“We need a solution to solve this because in the last 10 matches it has been the same,” Sarri sighed. “I said the target was to start with the same application and attention as the first half but we didn’t do it.”

Maybe he could swap his half-time teamtalk for a simple death stare. Another big Tremeloes hit? Silence is Golden.

Gunner take some stopping

Napoli 0-1 Arsenal. Weirdly easy for the Gunners.

Alex Lacazette sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. From a free-kick.

That’s about it. Valencia – aka the Francis Coquelin Clasico – up next.

Macca checks out

In a move that will have surprised literally no-one who watched even a minute of their last two games, Scotland have axed Alex McLeish. Losing to Kazakhstan and barely scraping past San Marino will do bad things for your career prospects, it turns out.

“The decision to part company was not an easy one, especially given Alex’s status as a Scotland Hall of Fame member, earning 77 international caps, having played in three World Cups and taken charge of the national team for two spells,” said Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell, beating around the bush in glorious style.

“Ultimately, the performances and results… did not indicate the progress expected with a squad we believe to be capable of achieving more.”

Now this is by no means scientific, but The Warm-Up has just looked at the latest squad and literally recognised just 10 of 25 names. Make of that what you will.


Yet more proof that everyone now wants Ajax to win the Champions League: the Dutch FA are postponing an entire round of fixtures so the Amsterdam side have ample time to prepare for the clash against Tottenham.

And no, that’s not a typo: so close is the Dutch title race that just moving Ajax’s game was seen to be unfair on their rivals. So the whole season has been extended to make room.

Heaven knows what they’ll do if Ajax make the final. Fold this season into next? Massive rock-paper-scissors play-off? Answers on a postcard please.


Coming soon to cinemas near you: INCEPTION 2: HAIRCUT INCEPTION.


Still laughing at this, 24 hours later. This poor, poor, poor man.


A very happy Warm-Up birthday to Rivaldo, who turns 47 today. To start us off, here are a few of his best goals for Palmeiras, with whom he won the Brazilian title in 1994:

From there, he moved to Deportivo La Coruna. That went quite well, too:

Then, of course, came his zenith, at Barcelona. And it never got more zenithy than his spectacular performance against Valencia, graced by what is surely the greatest hat-trick of all time.

A gorgeous free-kick: good.

An absolute piledriver after sending two defenders off for dinner: very good.

An overhead kick FROM OUTSIDE THE AREA? Come on now. Leave a little portion of glory for someone else, would you?


Mo Salah is a better human being than he is a football player. And he’s one of the best football players in the world.

We’re a day late to this (sorry), but that’s TV’s John Oliver on Mohamed Salah. It’s short and sweet, like Salah himself.

And yes, that’s the Egyptian on the front of actual Time magazine, in actual America. And looking particularly dashing there, too.

V, v, v cool.


You normal people will be enjoying what I believe you call a “Bank Holiday,” so lucky you. They don’t exist for us lowly online journalists, so here at The Warm-Up we’ll be digging our crumbling teeth – we don’t get dental cover, either – into a full schedule of Championship action, culminating with Norwich vs Sheffield Wednesday in the evening.


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FootballEuropa LeagueChelseaSlavia Prague
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