With just two games left of this season, Southampton are running out of time to stage their annual 9-0 drubbing: a wonderful festival of fun that sits nicely alongside Monty Python and The Fiver as one of this country’s finest comedic traditions, oozing in both slapstick and classic British self-deprecation. As it happens, with Liverpool four points adrift of Manchester City (and crucially, just seven behind on goal difference) in one of the most engaging title races in years, a 9-0 thrashing from the Merseyside Reds would suit both Jürgen Klopp and supporters of The Narrative very nicely. Indeed, it would mean that if $tevie Mbe’s Aston Villa beat Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut on Sunday, Liverpool would ride to the title with just a draw at home to Wolves.
Small margins – lots of ifs, buts and maybeeeeeeeeeeees – but they all count. And while most of us are approaching this week with all the excitement of Robert Smith at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, there are some, particularly with Sky Sports microphones in hand, that are working themselves into assorted frenzies. However, the chances of Liverpool scoring nine and keeping a clean sheet at Southampton have been significantly reduced with the news that both Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk will miss the trip south due to various minor-knacks.
“They are both OK,” sighed Klopp, his voice barely audible over a nearby orchestra of tiny violins. “The target for both would be that they could be involved again at the weekend. Properly involved. On the bench and on for a few minutes or start – we will see with that because that would be perfect for the [Madrid] game. If not, we take each day afterwards. It is very positive and we have no doubt about the [Big Cup] final but we are pretty realistic about the Wolves game. But [Southampton], not.”
And so, the plucky Reds will have to make do with Joël Matip, arguably one of the best centre-backs in the league this year, and £36m Ibrahima Konaté in defence, with an attack that must somehow be fashioned from Sadio Mané, Luis Díaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino. If Liverpool can pull off the unthinkable and if City ‘do a Madrid’ at home to Villa, perhaps there will even be proper celebrations. Or maybe everyone will sit glumly on their phones, sipping on a can of full-fat fizzy pop, waiting for the next morning’s video analysis meeting and the next season’s chase towards a century of points. Hurrah!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I want people to know the real me … I asked myself if I should wait until I’ve retired to come out. No other player in the professional game here is out. However, I knew that would lead to a long time of lying and not being able to be myself or lead the life that I want to. I am hoping that by coming out I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant” – Blackpool striker Jake Daniels on his decision to end decades of silence within men’s football by becoming the first player in the UK to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.
“I sat down with Jamie Vardy and he had a coffee. It was such an awkward moment” – Wayne Rooney gives evidence at the “Wagatha Christie” trial and reveals that England’s Euro 2016 camp was such a hotbed of paranoia that Mr Roy asked him to have a word with his fellow England forward about “issues regarding his wife”. Nope, it didn’t help.
“A moment of kudos and congratulations for Jake Daniels. It’s not often that footballers will do something that could genuinely improve the lives of other people – probably people they’ll never meet – so he deserves all the praise coming his way. Sorry – no jokes or witticisms, but it’s The Fiver” – Jim Hearson (and others).
“Yesterday’s Quote of the Day accused James Milner of dadding the millennials about screen time, but James Milner (born 1986) is a millennial. I don’t want to accuse The Fiver of being behind the times, but as one boomer to another …” – Chris Boys.
“It’s finally happened. Arsenal are now officially the Spursiest team in north London. They’re now more Spursy than Spurs! Unless …” – Paul Southgate.
“I was a bit concerned when I saw the picture of Chelsea’s Ji So-yun with the lid of the FA Cup on her head (yesterday’s Still Want More?). After winning our local tin pot, one of my mates planted the lid on my bald scalp thinking it would be humorous for post-match celebratory photos, as in countless FA Cup photos down the ages. But all those figurines that adorn the top of the cups are usually screwed in from above, meaning the metal protrusion below penetrated my skin. I was the only one knacked after the match” – Andy Morrison.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Andy Morrison.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Spain’s chief of police is wary of “serious problems” as Seville braces for 150,000 Pope’s Newc O’Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt fans for Wednesday’s Big Vase final, along with 35C temperatures. “It’s too many people with too much alcohol, the majority without tickets and lots of construction sites around the city, a recipe that could lead to serious problems,” fear-mongered Juan Carlos Castro Estévez.
As you would expect, Granit Xhaka has gone in late on his teammates after Arsenal’s Big Cup-damaging 2-0 defeat at Newcastle. “We didn’t deserve to be on the pitch … if you’re not ready or you’re nervous, stay on the bench, stay at home,” he yelped, two feet clearly off the ground. “We need people to have the balls to come here and play.”
Jordan Nobbs will miss Euro 2022 after knee-knack ruled her out of England’s provisional squad. Georgia Stanway is in the 28 and she’s also done one from Manchester City to Bayern Munich.
And Luton’s Nathan Jones isn’t happy with Huddersfield supporters getting all up in his grille as they ran on to celebrate the playoff semi-final win. “The fans were an absolute disgrace … [but] we won’t complain because football fans are like that,” he didn’t complain.
STILL WANT MORE?
Thank you, Jake Daniels: Barney Ronay praises the Blackpool teenager for coming out and says we should now just let him play.
Allan McGregor gets his chat on with Ewan Murray about the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers’ Big Vase final and how victory would bring him the most important medal of the lot.