Fulham are down
It’s all over. It feels a bit weird. And that’s probably because it’s a Premier League first.
For the first time since 1992 all three (four went down it 1994-95) clubs have been relegated with three games remaining. There’ll be no great escapes, no final-day drama, no… well, excitement, as we head into the final fortnight of Premier League action.
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At least there’s a top-four race to watch because otherwise there would be nothing to really entice PL legacy fans, and while that race continues tonight with a Leicester side hoping to face David May, Bebe, Massimo Taibi or whoever Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may field during Manchester United’s ridiculous week, at the other end of the table you have a signed and sealed mixture of relief and despair – depending on which side of the dreaded dotted line you are.
For Fulham, West Brom, and even Sheffield United, the planning will already be under way as to how they secure a swift return to the top tier. And while Big Sam will likely join Chris Wilder out the managerial door, you get the impression Scott Parker will be given a second shot at securing promotion, which would bring with it a second chance (not counting the not-even-half season in 2018-19) to stay up in the Premier League.
That’s a long way off though, however the fact Norwich and Watford both bounced right back – while Bournemouth could do likewise via the play-offs – is proof these relegated clubs have a parachute-payment advantage over their Championship rivals next season.
Even Wembley off the cards?
The real miracle of Istanbul will be the city actually getting to host the final, but now even Wembley appears off the cards for the Champions League showdown between Chelsea and Manchester City.
With the government and UEFA locked in talks regarding the location of this season’s final, the prospects of the match remaining Istanbul look slim to zilch given the country is on the UK’s ‘red list’.
Wembley had been put forward as the obvious candidate to host the event in England, but now there’s reportedly a stand-off as Prime Minister Boris Johnson refuses to ease restrictions for 2,000 “VIP guests” – multiple papers are reporting this morning.
UEFA are said to want 2,000 VIPs, media and staff exempt from the UK’s quarantine restrictions, and with the government looking unwilling to budge it could be Hello Portugal once more for the Champions League final.
Portugal stepped in to host last year’s fast-track knock-out stage, and the country could step up once more given it features on the UK’s ‘green list’ – allowing fans from England to travel for the match, while assumedly they are more lax on the old VIP thing too.
Juve’s Serie A threat
One of the biggest stories out there is thanks to some quotes given to a radio station called Kiss Kiss. Yes, yes, that explains the headline, for how often do we get to read the phrase “told Naples radio station Kiss Kiss” in a sports story?
It’s all because Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina spoke to said station and dished out a very real threat:
The rules are clear. If Juventus is still part of the Super League when it enters next season, it can’t participate in Serie A
"I am sorry,” he added. “I saw some worried fans this morning, but everybody must respect the rules.”
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The European Super League back-trackers look safe within their own domestic leagues. The Premier League’s punishment is pending, potentially non-existent, for ‘the six’, but over in Italy Gravina is standing firm with the threat of exclusion for Serie A’s sole ESL remainer.
Now what follows is a staring contest, and for the ESL haters watching from the sidelines will be supporting Gravina in the bid to avoid blinking first. Juve are very kindly looking to boycott the Champions League by virtue of their own performances, and so it will be fascinating if Andrea Agnelli’s stubbornness means they’re dropped from the Serie A too - for the second time in 15 years.
One more year of El Matador at Manchester United, so enjoy this throwback to 2007, when a then 19-year-old Edinson Cavani made his Serie A debut off the bench for Palermo, and scored this…
IN THE CHANNELS
If you’re wondering why random Premier League players are trending this morning it’ll be because the eternal team of the year debate was amplified when Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville named their teams last night.
Turns out Emi Martinez and Mo Salah don’t play football.
Ferguson recovered, slowly, but he leans forward when I ask how long it was before he felt normal again? I wasn’t allowed a glass of wine for nine months, he says with a lovely old growl. It was tough.
Take some time out to read Sir Alex Ferguson’s interview in the Guardian with Donald McRae, where he talks about the brain haemorrhage that almost killed him, as well as his upbringing, Steven Gerrard, that 1999 final and the rollercoaster ride of managing Manchester United.
Manchester United host Leicester in a very pandemic kick-off of 6pm here in England. That feels a bit odd, and then you’ve got Southampton taking on Crystal Palace a little later. Could we, er, swap those round? Too late? Oh, goodie.
La Liga action continues tonight too with Barcelona heading to Levante. A chance for Barca to strike first in the league no one wants to win, and you can follow updates of all those games on here and the Eurosport app tonight!
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