TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
How will we get to Wembley?
Ask Liverpool fans next season where they were when they took a giant stride towards the quadruple and they'll likely respond, "not at Wembley, pal."
FSG target Bellingham and may retain ownership of Liverpool - Paper Round
The FA has doubled down on the ridiculous decision to host a semi-final on a weekend when the city is off limits to fans of the two clubs, the latest in a spree of decisions that defy common sense in our beautiful sport. Don't drag two sets of supporters down the country when there are no trains. Etc.
On the sliding scale of morality, this isn't obviously as big an issue as some others. But it's still pretty miserable. A spate of cancellations mean there are no direct trains between Liverpool and Manchester City on the weekend of the FA Cup semi-finals, making it virtually impossible for fans to make the trip from their respective cities on a single day. [Insert hilarious joke about how it would have been easy for Man Utd fans to make it to London and back on the same day]
We know the FA doesn't set the train timetables, but they were reportedly informed of the issues months ago and were insisting late on Monday night that the game would not be moved. Now we would have sympathy with the FA if the match involved a minnow, a side unlikely to have their day in the Wembley sun without the semi-finals being shoehorned into the national stadium. But these are the two best teams in the land. Their fans are sick of Wembley. They don't need a weekend of replacement buses when there's a perfectly decent stadium down the road, Old Trafford, that could swoop in for hosting duties. The FA can lose one match, even if it means revising their semi-final contract. Just pay off that arch that flashes up in fancy colours another time.
Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool fans’ group, and City’s 1894 Group issued a joint statement that read: "For all involved, it’s not a case of 'We’re on our way to Wembley' but 'How will we get to Wembley?' Over the Easter weekend, when the game is scheduled, there are no direct trains to London from either Liverpool or Manchester.
"We are asking both clubs, the FA and Wembley to reconsider where this game is played and, for once, to put the fans at the forefront of their thinking."
Meanwhile, Kevin Parker of Man City's official supporters' club fame, added: "Nobody is surprised. The FA will have known this was going to be a problem and yet have done nothing about it. They could have made arrangements to play this game at Old Trafford. However, for them it is just about money, not the supporters of City or Liverpool."
It's like being dragged on a Stag-do to eastern Europe, when all you really want was an evening with your mates in a pub. A local pub. And there's an easy fix. Come on, FA. Sort it out.
LVG on bull****
On the subject of our sliding scale of morality, Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal has not minced his words around the looming World Cup in Qatar. As you're undoubtedly aware, Qatar's human rights record has come in for vicious scrutiny, with Amnesty International labelling it a "World Cup of shame".
"I have already mentioned it in previous press conferences. I think it's ridiculous that the World Cup is there," he told reporters on Monday.
“We are playing in a country that FIFA says they want to develop football there. That's bull****, but it doesn't matter. It's about money, about commercial interests. That matters in FIFA. Why do you think I'm not on any committee at FIFA or UEFA with my expertise? Because I have always opposed these kinds of organisations. I can say that in Qatar later, but that won't help the world get rid of this problem."
Expect minor protests this week during another contender for least exciting international break of all time. But will anyone really take a leap and not actually compete in Qatar?
Football's coming home
Alright not the actual trophy. But we'll have the ball.
Euro 2028 looks destined for the shores of the United Kingdom and Ireland after no rivals emerged to host the tournament. A formal decision is expected to be made on April 7.
Meanwhile, the 2030 World Cup is proving to be a more competitive affair. Our favourite is a four-way bid between Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, imagine the party, but there's competition from Morocco and European mash-up bids of Spain/Portugal and Romania/Greece/Bulgaria/Serbia - while there is rumoured interest from elsewhere around the globe.
IN THE CHANNELS
Not everyone in football is terrible. This could work out at €2 per goal if Bayern really turn it on.
There was a time, before the bald magician and normal one, when football was played on uneven surfaces in the mud and rain. Here's a throwback to one of those games, the 1988 FA Cup quarter-final between, you guessed it, Manchester City and Liverpool. It was a belter. If you support Liverpool, that is.
Erik ten Hag might as well be Pochettino v2. A manager with a track record of developing young talent alongside talent spotters, who overachieved in Europe but has little to show for it by way of major trophies. Yet again, there are mitigating factors. Nobody really believes that Ajax could win the Champions League, but it means that questions are still out on whether Ten Hag can cut it at the very highest level, and whether he would be able to deal with pressure and tomfoolery at Old Trafford.
It's all a bit harsh on Ralf Rangnick, who is definitely still keen on a permanent gig, but here's our very own Alexander Netherton looking at who could replace the godfather of gegenpressing at Old Trafford.
The Women’s Champions League quarter-finals get underway with Bayern Munich v PSG (17:45) and Real Madrid v Barcelona (20:00).
Marcus Foley has already said he wouldn't move the FA Cup semi-final if he was in charge, which tells you everything you need to know about the guy. He's here to apologise tomorrow.
The Emirates FA Cup
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