MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
There’s never a good time to lose an FA Cup quarter-final. But …
Just the one giant-killing in the FA Cup this weekend, as plucky mid-table strugglers Arsenal overcame Champions League contenders Sheffield United 2-1 away from home. The underdogs rode their luck at times, and needed a soft penalty to take the lead, but the result will come as a welcome fillip for new manager Mikel Arteta, who had overseen just seven wins in 17 before Sunday.
… look, we’ll stop pretending that Arsenal are ordinary when they do, and not a moment before.
Otherwise, the Big Teams all prevailed. Manchester United underwhelmed their way past Norwich, Chelsea Ross Barkleyed their way past Leicester, and Manchester City triumphed in an echoey St. James’s Park. You have to wonder if 50,000 enthusiastic Geordies might have made a difference.
This is, of course, a terrible shame, since the FA Cup runs on magic and there’s nothing less magical than the big teams winning. On the other hand, it’s highly likely that this year’s final will be played in front of an empty Wembley. A great loss for fans of the teams that make it, but the chances are good that Manchester City, say, will be back again in a couple of years' time.
But it’s been 21 years since Newcastle made it to the final, 65 since they won it. 84 and 95 for Sheffield United. And Norwich have never been. Not once. Imagine if they’d made it this year of all years — and nobody was allowed in to watch them. It’s never good to get knocked out of the cup. But some years are better than others.
Juventus and Man City swap wonderkids – Euro Papers
The magicians of Bremen
The first of the big leagues to return after the corona-break, and now the first to wrap things up. The Bundesliga season proper is officially over, with just the playoffs to come, and the big news is: Werder Bremen aren’t quite doomed! Yet!
Needing a win and some friendly results elsewhere, Bremen stuck six past Köln while Düsseldorf were losing 3-0 to Union Berlin. That hoists Bremen out of the relegation zone for the first time since February, and means they will get one more chance to save their status. Relegation playoffs really are excellent theatre.
In that playoff they will not be playing Hamburg. When the coronavirus hit they were sitting in second place, aiming for automatic promotion; since then, they’ve deflated like a sad balloon. Needing just a draw on the last day to secure a playoff spot, they lost 5-1 at home to Sandhausen, prompting what must surely be the saddest, quietest, angriest tweet ever to appear on an official club feed.
Look what you’ve done to your social media team, Hamburg. You’ve broken their damn heart.
Listen, Leo. Leo! Leo. I love you, mate.
There was no Glastonbury festival this weekend, thanks to the coronavirus. But this didn’t stop Gerard Pique charging onto Twitter like a 19-year-old that has just had his life changed and his mind blown by MGMT on the John Peel stage. In, er, 2008.
If Piqué had spent the weekend dislocated in time and space, full of scrumpy and covered in mud, it might go some way towards explaining Barcelona’s limp performance against Celta Vigo. Twice they took the lead; twice they were pegged back. Looks like Piqué certainly wasn’t fated to defend …
Sorry. Sorry. I’m trying to delete it. Quick, look at Iago Aspas being cool.
The defending champions began the season by losing at Athletic Bilbao and their form away from home has been pretty miserable all season: six wins, five draws, and five big fat losses. And now they’re in second, after Real Madrid beat Espanyol. Looks like we might be in for another change of mgmt at the Camp Nou.
IN OTHER NEWS
Stop that, Santi Cazorla. Stop that at once.
IN THE CHANNELS
Few things in football are as pleasing as a legendary player returning to their hometown club. One last turn around the dancefloor. And so the Warm-Up is extremely pleased to see that Arjen Robben is returning to Groningen, the place where he first learned to cut inside from the left and wallop it past the keeper.
Arjen Robben: Why I returned to FC Groningen
Over on The Athletic, George Caulkin — their Newcastle United correspondent — takes a look at the “30 years of hurt” Liverpool are celebrating the end of and asks some pointed questions.
Thirty years of hurt — are you having a laugh? Thirty years — are you taking the piss? Thirty? Try doubling that. Triple it. Try more. If you want to know the meaning of yearning, of craving, of a great, restless northern club wrestling with its own lack of silverware, try Newcastle United where, after this minuscule excuse for a big occasion, another season will peter out on wasteland. Where dreams go to wither.
It’s the purest mid-table clash possible in the Premier League, as Crystal Palace (10th, 42 points) host Burnley (11th, 42 points). But you won’t be watching that. You’ll be watching Exeter City take on Northampton Town in the League Two playoff final.
Marcus Foley will be here tomorrow to make all your Tuesday dreams come true.