Bearing in mind all the excitement that West Ham and Crystal Palace have served up over the years, the Fiver was surprised to learn today that the Premier League is still accepting admissions from London. Thanks Nottingham Forest! Thanks Wales! Owing to victories over Cardiff and Swansea, and Forest’s devotion to the sitcom format, Fulham and Brentford will contest the Championship playoff final at Wembley. It’s in the calendar, there’s no avoiding it.
The west London clubs are local rivals of long standing, separated from each other by just four and a half miles or a three-day car journey. As if the satisfaction of belching fumes of despondence all over their neighbours’ optimism is not motivation enough, the Londoners go into Tuesday’s clash knowing that victory will earn them in the region of £160m. You don’t need to be infatuated with Brentford’s number whizzes to know that sort of money could buy at least two semi-detached pads in west London, and you’re probably not still employed by Fulham if your first thought is to put that sum towards six André-Frank Zambo Anguisssas.
As for who is going to get their hands on the prize, don’t ask the Fiver. The teams finished the regular season level on points and, although Brentford prevailed in their two face-offs so far this term, any prediction that relies even slightly on reasoned modelling of the interaction between Pontus Jansson and Aleksandar Mitrovic simply has too many variables to be considered sound. But it’s definitely a good thing for fun lovers that Fulham’s top scorer has regained his fitness in time for a hugely tense clash.
“I think Fulham have the experience, they were a Premier League club last year [before they waved goodbye with a 4-0 home defeat by Newcastle], they got the parachute money and have been in the playoff final before” said Brentford manager Thomas Frank. “They have to go to the Premier League as soon as possible. We have been building something over years.”
Yes, they have. And Fulham boss Scott Parker thinks that means the pressure is on Brentford. “Brentford are being talked about because of how well they have gone about their work and probably because they had some big opportunities to see the season out,” ventured Parker, praising his opponents before politely reminding them of how they bottled previous attempts to secure promotion. This one is coming nicely to the boil.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“When I started working with Brazil, Tite [the coach] sent me to watch Firmino at Burnley and he was incredible. You see him play [on TV] and think: ‘Yeah, he’s very good.’ But at the ground? Wow. He does so much. I left there enamoured. The ball’s on the other side and you see him move, the generosity with which he links teammates, how he never lost the ball – that’s incredibly hard in the Premier League. If you say ‘I want 40 goals,’ maybe he’s not that striker but if you want someone complete, who generates spaces, goes outside, inside, buah! Brilliant” – Sylvinho, formerly of Arsenal and Barcelona and now a coach, talks to Sid Lowe.
“London (however you chose to pronounce it) does NOT have a football team [please see Pro Evo – Fiver Ed]. Sure, there will be six teams in the Premier League from London, but none carrying the name of England’s capital city. When looking at the major European leagues, there is at least one team named for their capital city. Are our teams not proud to be from London, but prefer to be anonymous in case they fail against their capital city peers?” – Raymond Dyer.
“Can I be the first of 1,057 readers to reference the observer effect in response to yesterday’s news that deliberately coughing at opponents or referees will be deemed worthy of a yellow or red card. While I appreciate the need to be proactive, I also can’t help thinking that this plants the seed of the idea, and that deliberate coughing will be more prevalent that if no one had mentioned it in the first place. However, I do recognise that this is designed to minimise the spread of infection and deadly serious, as opposed to the fake sneeze intended to distract a school playground penalty taker, which was always funny” – Ed Taylor.
The latest Football Weekly will be in this general area, for your listening pleasure.
BITS AND BOBS
Porto’s Iker Casillas has retired from football. “Iker Casillas belongs to the heart of Real Madrid and will be so forever,” sniffed a territorial club statement. “Real Madrid wants to convey to him and his family the affection of our club, which is the club of his life.”
Eze’s good, Eze’s good, Eberechi’s good. As such, QPR have rejected an offer for their attacker from Crystal Palace, thought to be worth around £12m.
In an incredible turn-up for the books, Fifa has rejected the accusation that its president, Gianni Infantino, is guilty of the criminality for which he is being investigated. “There is something a little grotesque and unfair in all this,” said a Fifa suit.”
Alexis Sánchez is poised to join his old pals, Romelu Lukaku and Ashley Young, at Inter – a move that will allow Manchester United to complete a deal for Jadon Sancho, who has now agreed personal terms.
Leicester have made a £45m offer to loan and then buy Francisco Trincão, Barcelona’s young attacker. Atalanta are also thought to be interested, but the gleam of Brendan Rodgers is expected to be too much.
Dover Athletic expect to become insolvent by the end of the month, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
STILL WANT MORE?
Harvey Barnes’s loan spells at MK Dons, Barnsley and West Brom have been the making of a Leicester player who may soon be on some shopping lists, writes Paul Doyle.
In the wake of coronavirus, the football industry needs to wake up to the climate emergency, writes Tim Walters.
“I knew I’d be balling at Bayern,” says the American defender Chris Richard, a young man unaware of 1970s slang. He speaks to Ryan Baldi.
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