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The Fiver | Could this be the year for a long-awaited European breakthrough?

The Fiver

Wed 13 Apr 2022 16.01 BST

BAYERN BYE

In the last 10 years of the old European Cup, before the establishment of Big Cup in 1992, seven clubs won the trophy for the first time in their existence: Hamburg, Juventus, Steaua Bucharest, Porto, PSV, Red Star and Barcelona. The following five years, when Big Cup was still a champions-only affair, another two newbies won the biggest prize of all: Marseille and Borussia Dortmund. But since Big Cup went real big, throwing the doors open to all and sundry (providing they’re big), only one more club has broken through, and they had to meet the oligarch at the crossroads to do it.

It’s not been for the want of trying, though, and plenty of clubs searching for that elusive first victory have made it as far as the final. Valencia and Atlético Madrid have taken repeated tilts, the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals to Big Cup’s Super Bowl. Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco and Arsenal enlivened the noughties, and the latter might even have won their final had Jens Lehmann not been running around in the Hyperactive Toddler + Sunny D x Jordan Pickford style. And the last three finals have also featured clubs trying to land their maiden Big Cup, it says on a list, although The Fiver is yet to see conclusive proof that any of Spurs, PSG and Manchester City actually turned up on the day. We remain sceptical.

But perhaps this could be the year for another long-awaited breakthrough. The draw opened up nicely on Tuesday night, as tiny Villarreal rammed Bayern TV’s words – “It’s a very manageable draw [laughs, tee hee, guffaw, now for a feast]” – back down their entitled gullet, while Real Madrid saw off Chelsea in a classic that Christian Pulisic could have won from six yards out, three times over. Admittedly, Madrid have won Big Cup on 13 occasions, but the state of that defence gives Atlético or City a much better chance of making it to the final, which any romantic worth their salt will hope also features the Yellow Submarine. Only the second first-time winner in the last quarter of a century would then be guaranteed! Yay! On the other hand, when it’s Real Madrid and Liverpool again, we’ll promise to try and whip up some excitement, but you’ll know The Fiver’s heart won’t be totally in it.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Barry Glendenning from 8pm, BST for hot MBM coverage of Atlético Madrid 1-1 Manchester City (agg 1-2) in Big Cup, while Scott Murray takes the helm of Liverpool 2-1 Benfica (agg 5-2).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I wish to apologise for my comments made in the post-match press conference last night. I am sorry for the offence that they have caused … I am an advocate for the women’s game and passionate about developing opportunities for women and girls to flourish” – Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels offers a copy-paste apology after sending jaws to the floor with his claim that female footballers are prone to conceding goals in quick succession because they are “more emotional than men”, following the 5-0 defeat to England. Hmm … perhaps there’s something else to blame.

Kenny Shiels, earlier. A lot, lot earlier, judging by those comments. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Getty Images

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back out on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here, so get buying.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

Checking in with the Fun and Games in Spain Dept.

Football coach sent off after stopping counter-attack on the pitch – video

MOVING THE GOALPOSTS

The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! It’s a weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football called Moving the Goalposts. You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up here. The latest edition has been sent whistling into inboxes but you can get a taste here.

FIVER LETTERS

“‘The Fiver’s colleague, Phillipp Lahm’ (yesterday’s Still Want More?)? I’m sorry, in what world is an urbane, educated, multilingual, serial winner a ‘colleague’ of yours? [Well, this way – Fiver Ed.] I’d suggest that the only similarity between you is that you are both human beings, but even that is highly debatable” – Joe Mercer.

“You pleased me greatly when you described Arjen Robben’s 3hr 14min marathon as a ‘very decent time’ (Monday’s Quote of the Day). That’s my best time for the London Marathon (out of six finishes) and no one ever said that to me. Felt pretty decent on the day” – Jon Buss.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Rollover.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Because everything is reduced to bemoaning officials these days, Tommy T has got the funk on with Szymon Marciniak, having found the Polish referee laughing with Carlo Ancelotti after Madrid’s dramatic recovery. “I think this is [the] very, very wrong time to do this at the end of 120 minutes of fight, when you give every last drop, to go [and see that],” he sobbed. “I think this is very, very bad timing.”

Bayern’s Julian Nagelsmann is readying himself to face the music. “I don’t really know what is coming towards me,” he sighed. “But when we lose and are eliminated then that is bound to happen. I am not afraid. There are far worse things than that.” His wardrobe, for example.

Might never happen. Photograph: David Ramos/EPA

West Ham’s Kurt Zouma could be done for the season after ankle-knack was revealed by a CAT scan.

It might be Tin Pot, but Brendan Rodgers still has his eyes on a first European semi-final … if Leicester can prevail in Eindhoven. “We are a club unlike PSV, because I’ve read that they have qualified for 48 European competitions on the trot which shows you the history they have in European competitions,” he tooted.

And Tottenham Women head coach Rehanne Skinner has signed a new deal to keep her at the club until 2024.

STILL WANT MORE?

“Stop the war and return to peace. That is all we want. This match can help us.” Nick Ames joined Ukrainians in the Warsaw crowd as Dynamo Kyiv played their first game since the Russian invasion.

Fans at the game. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Was Bayern Munich’s Big Cup defeat to Villarreal a surprise? Yes and no, argues Andy Brassell.

Homegrown talents led the way on a night that was like a Viking funeral for Chelsea, writes Barney Ronay.

While Sid Lowe was left awestruck as Real Madrid somehow found a way to secure an epic victory.

Blair in midfield, Nixon up front – this week’s Knowledge features footballers named after politicians.

Grimsby Town chairman Jason Stockwood on what he’s learned from 10 months of football club ownership.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

‘I CROSS THE ROAD, JUST TO HIDE …’

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