MONDAY'S BIG STORIES
Baking With Thomas Tuchel
We tend to think of the Champions League as the reward for the end of a team-building project. If Manchester City had won on Saturday, for example, it would have been the culmination of Pep Guardiola's years in charge, long-awaited and hard-earned, a massive silver cherry on an already impressive cake.
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But they didn't. Instead, Chelsea did, and since Chelsea are only five minutes into their latest reinvention, that rather complicates things. It's clear Thomas Tuchel is a clever man. But this violates all known laws of baking.
How to read this victory, then? The first impression is, of course, slight terror. Post-Lampard Chelsea may not have been monstrous in the league but the discipline and clarity of thought they showed in Europe would have been impressive from a team together for years. From a team together for a few months, it's pretty scary.
So too the fact that you can see obvious places for improvement. Tuchel doesn't want seven more signings but "two or three could be very, very good". With all due sympathy to Timo Werner, who does lots of good things at an extremely useful speed, we're assuming this includes a striker. Romelu Lukaku making a full I Told You So return to the London would be the funniest option, however it goes, so the Warm-Up is fully onboard. Not that our opinion matters.
Then comes anticipation. Working on the assumption that the return of Virgil van Dijk and a slightly more normal calendar means that Liverpool can be good again, and that City aren't going to melt down, next season brings the tantalising promise of a three-way title race. And we haven't had one of those for years.
Logically, it's a bit odd that the Champions League — a knock-out tournament — sits above the league title in the general hierarchy of competitions. A good odd, don't get us wrong: football is about occasion and risk and upset and floodlights and the astonishing tension of an entire year of effort coming to rest on ninety tiny minutes. But it does make it all delightfully unscientific.
When Chelsea signed Werner and Havertz, and replaced Lampard with Tuchel, they did so for two reasons. First to build a team capable of winning the biggest trophies, and then to win the biggest trophies. But the glorious weirdness of knockout football means they've been able to start with the second part first. Unlike baking a cake, in which the laws of gravity must be obeyed at all times, in football you actually can start with a big, silver, shiny cherry, then work downwards from there.
To lose one co-host may be regarded as unfortunate. To lose both, well, that probably means there's some kind of global pandemic going on.
The Copa América, which is due to start in two weeks, has nowhere to go. Colombia was removed as host 10 days ago, in the face of widespread protests over the country's handling of the pandemic. Now Argentina are out as well, due to what CONMEBOL call "the present circumstances" and we can all presume to mean "the pandemic".
So, er, what now? Finding another host within South America could well be tricky, as almost the entire continent is suffering badly. Chile and Paraguay have both been mooted, and Chile is at least doing pretty well with its vaccination programme. But even if they can find some theoretically Covid-secure way of holding it: two weeks isn't long.
Of course, the USA is right there, covered in massive stadiums and presumably quite well equipped to host an event like this at a moment's notice. But it's not in South America. And the USA isn't in the tournament. And it has its own ongoing Covid issues. And, and, and… and there's only so much panicked jury-rigging that you can do before it starts to look like the sensible option is not to hold the thing at all.
And that, we're guessing, would be expensive. Anyway, if you've got a bio-secure network of stadiums and a bit of experience in last-minute events management, why not give CONMEBOL a call? We're guessing they're taking all calls at the moment.
Young Hearts Run Free
Wake up! Wake up! The Euros start today! The Euros start today.
Don't worry. We're just being hilarious. The under-21 Euros restart today, after a respectful break of two months to acknowledge England's early exit and the departure of Aidy Boothroyd from his job. A nice touch, and that's from a tournaments all at once fan.
Anyway, if you're looking to get yourself in the mood for the Euros and the prospect of international friendlies doesn't do it for you, this is what you're after. Obviously U21 is, first and foremost, an educational endeavour, and the results today matter far less than the results two, five, ten years down the line.
But on the other hand, all footballers hate losing, even the young ones. And we're into the knockouts now and it's looking extremely tasty. We're saying that the big games today will be France against the Netherlands, then Portugal against Italy. That last one in particular: Francisco Trincao is an absolute delight. As Aidy Boothroyd will not need reminding.
IN OTHER NEWS
One of the Warm-Up's favourite genres of goal is the swat, a shot from distance that has no right to move that fast. Short backlift, but the thing just takes off. Like this, from Crystal Dunn.
Plenty of excellent Champions League final content out there, not least on this very website, but we enjoyed this by Rory Smith on man of the match, and man of the season, N'Golo Kanté.
With metronomic, almost eerie regularity, City built attacks only to find out that at the key moment, Kanté was there, in just the right place to win a tackle, at just the right angle to block a pass, at just the right time to interrupt the plan. At time, it felt as if someone had passed Kanté a script. He did not wait for instruction from the side. He just went to where the danger was, and eliminated it.
49 years ago today, Johan Cruyff and Ajax won their second of three consecutive European Cups by demolishing Inter 2-0. Cruyff scored both goals, obviously. And as you can see from the video below (at about 1:05), he already had his turn working years before the World Cup made it famous.
Along with the two Euros U21 games already mentioned, we've got Denmark vs. Germany and defending champions Spain against England's conquerors Croatia. And it's the League Two playoff final: Morecambe vs. Newport County.
Ben Snowball, the cherry on the Warm-Up cake, will be here tomorrow.
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