TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Boom!

It’s only September but Barcelona have skipped 60 pages in the crisis manual and landed on ‘Gerard Pique: The striker you didn't know you needed’. And to be fair, it sort of worked. While he wasn’t Messi, Cruyff or Rivaldo, he did cause enough of a nuisance to help the ball on its path to Ronald Araujo’s head in the last minute as Barca over-celebrated a 1-1 draw with Granada.
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Barcelona condemn supporters who confronted Koeman in his car
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Firstly, the positives. Barca are unbeaten in La Liga, boast a very promising set of youngsters, have a game in hand in the race to finish closest to the Madrid clubs and 3-0 against Bayern Munich isn't that bad.
There are a few problems though, chiefly the small matter of £1bn+ debt and a manager they don’t really want. Do they sack Ronald Koeman and pay another €12 million they don’t have in severance fees, or keep him and expect to have Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the No.10 shirt by Christmas?
Perhaps the greatest illustration of how far they’ve fallen was a tweet posted moments after Araujo bagged the equaliser. Seriously, ONE HUNDRED AND NINE (we double counted, don’t worry) bang emojis for a 1-1 draw. At home. Against a team without a win all season. Shambles.
It could have been so different, had they not ballsed up their three biggest ever transfers. Every time Philippe Coutinho turns out for Barca, as he did on Monday before being hooked for a 17-year-old at 0-1, he must know that if they hadn’t wasted €160 million on him they might still have Messi and they wouldn’t be 1-0 down to Granada after 86 seconds.
Not that it’s Coutinho’s fault Barcelona spend so frivolously. Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann also arrived in deals each spiralling over €100 million, with the latter wisely jumping ship back to Atletico Madrid in a cut-price return this summer. And now the club piggy bank is smashed and empty, it’s down to a mishmash of vets and kids to save them – a combination that looks hopelessly inadequate at present.
Still, at least the weather is putting on a show at Camp Nou.

For the love of the game

We had our doubts when James Rodriguez signed for Everton. Then again, we’ve had our doubts ever since he joined Real Madrid on the back of five good games at a World Cup and his ability to control a grasshopper with his shoulder mid-match.
Mediocre stints at Real and Bayern Munich led him to Goodison Park, where he had a good month before disappearing into the Merseyside mist. Lost without Carlo Ancelotti, the Colombian is now plotting an escape route so he can fulfil a childhood dream: play in the Qatar Stars League.
We don’t know about you, but nothing screams the beautiful game more than an Al Rayyan football shirt with James No.10 on the back.

HEROES AND ZEROES

Heroes: Everyone at El Chiringuito

The only team worth watching in Spain right now. The panel are back with another considered take on La Liga, calmly and elegantly dissecting Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid.
Although the whole clip is majestic, if you’ve only got a few seconds to spare then head to the dramatic thigh slap and mid-life crisis from 1:24. Unrivalled entertainment.

Zero: Maty Ryan

Where to start? Twitter is a platform to one-up people with your personal misery, not for shifting a suspiciously beige corner sofa.
We know Maty Ryan isn’t paid the big bucks, but we expect he’s comfortable enough to move on from the university freshers starter bedsheet set.
Anyway in the interest of balance, we’ve put in a bid on the table, chairs and (we hope) hand sanitiser. Outbid us if you dare.

HAT-TIP

At times last season, it was exhilarating and frustrating to watch at the same time. Brighton occasionally overplayed, they dominated, but could not finish their chances. There was no better example than the two games against Crystal Palace, recording a 1-1 draw away and a 2-1 defeat at the Amex. In those matches, Potter's side accumulated a combined 45 shots, while Palace scored three times with their only three attempts on target. According to Understat, Albion would have finished fifth if all clubs in the division had finished on their expected points, a measure calculated by xG for and against.
Richard Newman dives into Ryan’s old club to explain why they’re going to pip Manchester City to fourth place. Or something like that. It’s worth a click just to see how you react to the gloriously inflammatory headline.

RETRO CORNER

What, you don’t remember that MASSIVE GRASSHOPPER?

COMING UP

Vuvuzelas at the ready, it’s League Cup week! Norwich host Liverpool in the pick of the ties (19:45) and you can enjoy live text commentary of that clash on this very website.
Vuvuzela down, Marcus Foley, and back to work please. Save your excitement for tomorrow morning’s Warm-Up
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Alaba scorcher inspires Real Madrid to Clasico victory at Barcelona
24/10/2021 AT 13:21
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Inside Europe: Who will win El Clasico? Has game lost lustre? Which youngsters could star?
23/10/2021 AT 22:40