Good morning. Here is your Monday briefing. Let’s start with the news.
Rafa Benitez is toast. That’s the view of Guillem Balague on Sky Sports. “There is no way whatsoever that this performance will have no consequences,” he says. “It has to have consequences.” Well, maybe. But perhaps those consequences will just be a realisation that you can’t run a real football club like you’re playing FIFA, frantically signing all the most skilful players without ever stopping to concern yourself with things like the balance of the squad. Perhaps President Perez will conclude that a record of one title in seven years is indicative of wider strategic failings…on second thoughts, Balague is almost certainly correct.
That 4-0 snotting has brought lots of transfer gossip. We’d recap it ourselves, but we’re not feeling at our best this morning and our friends at Football 365 have done a far better job.
There’s a nice read from Simon Burnton here on the rise of Dele Alli. The former MK Dons midfielder doesn’t have to look far to see examples of players who have failed to live up to their potential.
And if you’re a Liverpool fan still glowing with pleasure after the weekend, John Brewin has a nice reflective piece on how it all happened over at ESPNFC.
ON YOUR TELLY THIS WEEK
Welcome back, top flight club football! God, we’ve missed you.
Sunderland travel to Crystal Palace tonight for a game that, like all their others now, they can’t really afford to lose. With six points on the board and 24 games left to play, you don’t even need to pull out a calculator to conclude that they’re in the shit. Slow down to stare at the wreckage on Sky Sports 1. You don’t have to do that though, you can watch Getafe vs Rayo Vallecano on Sky Sports 2 or even FC Nuremburg vs Eintracht Braunschweig on BT Sport Europe.
We’re already at week five of the Champions League and there are some important decision to be made on Tuesday. Will Arsenal show a leg against Dinamo Zagreb, or will they conclude that their incompetence in earlier ties has made progression unlikely and, worse still, brought the Europa League into play? Elsewhere, Chelsea have to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv. They cannot contemplate any other result for fear of letting Dynamo Kiev sneak into second place. If you don’t fancy either of those, perhaps Barcelona vs Roma will tickle your fancy? It’s all on BT Sport. If you can decide what to watch, watch everything all at once with James Richardson.
You can watch Manchester City vs Juventus on Wednesday, but given that Manuel Pellegrini’s side are already through, you might do better to watch Manchester United instead. They play PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford in the tightest group in the competition. If sir desires something a little more exotic, perhaps a ghoulish leer at a devastated Real Madrid side as they take on Shakhtar Donetsk will work?
And then there’s the Europea League on Thursday. An English double bill awaits, should you choose to tune in. You can watch FC Qarabag against Tottenham Hotspur and then take in Liverpool against Bordeaux. Again, it’s all on BT Sport.
Steve Bruce is well set for an immediate return to the Premier League. His high flying Hull City play promotion rivals Derby County on Friday night on Sky Sports 1. Not bothered? How about Lyon vs Montpellier on BT Sport Extra 2? No? Okay, why don’t you watch Levante vs Real Betis on Sky Sports 3 then? Really? Not interested? Can I tempt you with Darmstadt vs Cologne? I see. Just go to the pub then, eh?
Full TV listings can be found over here on the Live Football on TV page.
GO TO A GAME
If you’re up in the north-west and you want to switch off the telly and actually go to the game, consider Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night. Nestled between Blackburn and Burnley, just off the M65, John Coleman’s side are chasing promotion, no mean feat for a club on their budget. Oddly enough, we saw Stanley late last season away at Hartlepool and they’re pretty easy on the eye. It’s apparently easy enough to find parking spaces on land adjacent to the ground, or you can get the train to Accrington and walk for 20 minutes. Tickets are just £20, or £10 if you’re U18.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
When it comes to Brian Clough books, the bar is so high that you wonder why anyone bothers. The most comprehensive account of Old Big ‘Ed is Jonathan Wilson’s excellent ‘Nobody Ever Says Thank You,’ the most personal memoir is Duncan Hamilton’s ‘Provided You Don’t Kiss Me,’ the most contemporary and searing biography was written by Tony Francis in the 1980s and, of course, the late John Sadler captured him in fine form for his first autobiography after his retirement. So what does Danny Taylor bring to the party?
Released to accompany the film of the same name, ‘I Believe In Miracles‘ is written with the sort of style and flair that has made Taylor one of the most readable columnists in the business. The prose is effortless and there are golden nugget anecdotes scattered about everywhere. With access to almost all the surviving cast, it’s a book of many voices, most of which are raised at the idea that Clough ruled by fear. His players, all of whom would have despaired at their manager at some point, are adamant that he was far more subtle than people believe
This is a lovely read, a welcome addition to the Clough pantheon and if you can get halfway through it without wanting to start a new game of Football Manager, you’re a better man than I.
FROM OUR VAULT
The transfer window creaks open in little over a month and that means only one thing; waves of bullshit crashing ceaselessly over social media as thousands of hitherto unknown scouts make their presence known. Adam Clery wrote about this for us in March and now seems as good a time as any to give it a second airing.
BEST NON-FOOTBALL THING
Bovril with three dashes of tabasco sauce. It doesn’t destroy the man flu. Nothing destroys man flu. But it valiantly holds it at bay. You can thank me later.
If you’d like to recommend something for next Monday’s briefing, (particularly a non-football thing, we always struggle for those) get in touch by emailing [email protected]