THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES

Lyon go rolling on

Champions League
Lampard: I have the support of Abramovich
18 HOURS AGO

The classic blunders are as follows. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. And never, never, never get a player sent off against Lyon Féminin, then let Wendie Renard jump untroubled from the free-kick that follows.

Poor PSG. Knocked out of two Champions Leagues in a week.

That takes Lyon through to their fifth final in a row: they’ve won all the last four. But it was a tight, nervous game, even after the goal. Lyon’s numerical advantage didn’t last long, thanks to Nikita Parris’s peculiar decision to kick the goalkeeper while on a yellow card. By the end of the game Lyon were hanging on. Maybe even wobbling. Just a little bit.

So, no Ada Hegerberg, no Nikita Parris … if Wolfsburg are going to stop the five-in-a-row, this Sunday seems like a decent opportunity. On the other hand, Lyon have knocked Wolfsburg out of the competition in each of the last four seasons, twice in the final and twice in the quarters. It’s one thing being able to stop them. It’s quite another to do it.

Chelsea are making moves

Look everybody, it’s Ben Chilwell. And he’s holding a Chelsea shirt. Let’s add him to the list, then, along with Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner (both confirmed), Thiago Silva (imminent), and Kai Havertz (strongly rumoured). Getting on for half a new team, there. Chelsea are taking that 33 (!) point gap to Liverpool seriously.

But Eddie Newton’s third law states that for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction — and Chelsea’s refit will have consequences. For a start, we can wave goodbye to Operation Play The Kids, which looks to have been given just a single season. On the off-chance you’re reading, Roman and Frank, this is more than a little disappointing. We’ve all seen Operation Play The Expensive Grown-Ups before.

Also getting worried: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Spending big money isn’t the only way to improve a football team, of course, but it’s certainly one of them. Since finishing level on points with United, Chelsea have been shovelling cash into the transfer market like coals into a steam train, getting hotter and quicker and louder. United, meanwhile, have been making a complete Ed Woodward of this move for Jadon Sancho.

Solskjaer doesn’t seem like a man to go full Mourinho at his board, but as it stands, if even some of Chelsea’s purchasing pays off, he’s going to have to do a lot of very good coaching next season. That’s why they hired him, right? Coaching, and suchlike? Oh good.

The Messi saga is getting, er, messier

If you’re anything like the Warm-Up, you’ve spent the last few days or so waiting for the headline “Messi Signs New Deal, Loves Barcelona For Ever, Will Never Be Leaving, I.D.S.T.”. And in defiance of all common sense, it keeps not coming.

Maybe today will be the day. Until then, we’ve learned that Messi wants to go to Manchester City; that he wants to go to Inter or City; that he will be offered the chance to go to City and then to New York … oh, and that he’s asked FIFA very nicely for the right form? Suppose he can’t just pop down the post office, what with the pandemic and all.

There was even some brief excitement in the Argentinean press about quotes from the man himself choosing City — well, mostly choosing Guardiola — though they turned out to be fake. Probably. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up. There are weeks where decades happen.

In amongst all the confusion, a group of Barcelona fans decided to go and find out what was happening for themselves. Down to the Camp Nou and through the gates pottered some fans, a few passing tourists, a lad on a bike, and a camera crew. One halfhearted swipe from a security guard, and they were through. The car park was theirs.

IN OTHER NEWS

As the Warm-Up has always said: if you’re going to commit a defensive error and get your side knocked out of the Champions League, make it a good one. Like this, from Hatem Abd Elhamed, who watches the ball very closely all the way through his half and into the net, but never looks in any danger of actually kicking the thing.

HAT TIP

Here’s Sid Lowe, writing for the Guardian, on the devastation that Lionel Messi delivered to Barcelona along with his transfer request.

After 20 seasons at Barcelona, 17 in the first team, after 34 trophies and 634 goals, it almost certainly comes to an end. It is damaging news for Barcelona and for La Liga, already confronted by a troubling reality. Yet even that is not really the point. Players don’t talk about retirement the way that people don’t talk about death, Jorge Valdano says, but this is a fate worse than that. Not for the rest of football of course – there will be excitement at seeing him elsewhere, the electricity of expectation – but for Barcelona fans. It will feel wrong.

And some bonus Messi content comes from Simon Kuper in the Financial Times: how FC Barcelona became FC Messi. So if he leaves, they become FC Nobody? Seems like a problem for the brand.

RETRO CORNER

Of course, Barcelona aren’t the only team that Messi’s had to put on his back and carry around. Here’s that time he scored a hat trick as Argentina beat Brazil 4-3. A pity Neymar got rid of that haircut, really.

COMING UP

A frankly overwhelming number of Europa League qualifiers. 45! 45 of them! We’ve chucked a dart and picked out Motherwell vs. Glentoran. Going to be a thriller.

Tom Adams will be here tomorrow to take you through all 45 (!!!) games in excruciating detail.

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