Garish dolphin-festooned towels and factor 50 sunscreen – The Guardian


Chelsea entertain West Ham tonight in a Premier League match very few people realise is actually on. Very few people that is, except Maurizio Sarri, who was singularly unimpressed by the Premier League’s intransigence when Chelsea naively asked them to reschedule the game for earlier in the weekend, to give their players more time to recover ahead of their visit to the Czech Republic, where they’re slated to take on Slavia Prague in Euro Vase on Thursday night. “I am not able to understand the decision of the Premier League because we go to Prague as an English team,” he said, lighting six fresh Benson & Hedges off the still smouldering ends of the six he had just smoked down to the collective butt. “So I’m not able to understand why we have to play on Monday. It’s very strange.”

While it’s not very strange at all, in so far as Sky are understandably reluctant to sanction the rescheduling of matches they’ve paid gazillions of pounds for the right to broadcast in order to boost the chances of teams in tournaments beamed across the UK by rivals, you can understand Maurizio’s frustration. For all that, the Fiver has heard a sneak preview of today’s episode of Big Paper’s Football Weekly podcast, in which our pyramid-inverting, book-writing, cricket-playing, Mackem cousin Ha’way The Lads Wilson Fiver embarks on one of his more epic old-man-yells-at-cloud rants about how elite English clubs deserve no such special treatment because, by virtue of their status, they’ve amassed more than enough resources to recruit squads big enough to cope with the demands of having to play football matches; which more and more of them increasingly tend to find a major inconvenience around this time of year.

And besides, it’s only West Ham that Chelsea are playing, a team whose players couldn’t have looked more “on the beach” in their more recent outing against Everton if they’d marched out of the London Stadium tunnel wearing Bermuda shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, with garish dolphin-festooned towels slung over their shoulders while carrying buckets, spades and bottles of factor 50 sunscreen.

Currently in 11th place and in no danger whatsoever of relegation, a win tonight would leave West Ham in 11th place and in no danger whatsoever of relegation. If that doesn’t motivate their players to give their all in what promises to be a less than riveting Monday night encounter that’s unlikely to live in the memory of all those who realise it’s actually being played, then quite frankly the Fiver doesn’t know what will.


“I don’t care about the stadium. I care about the team we play. Everybody talks about the stadium like it’s something special. Everybody has a stadium. Everybody has supporters” – Kevin De Bruyne isn’t impressed ahead of his Big Cup visit to Tottenham’s spanking new des res.

Kevin De Bruyne has no time for your new stadium

Kevin De Bruyne has no time for your new stadium. Photograph: Javier García/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock


Max, Barry and the pod discuss the weekend action and look ahead to the Champions League quarter-finals in this week’s Football Weekly.


“Re Friday’s letters and David Speedie and 1,056 others looking for an easy kick at po’ Fiver’s ankles: While your average referee would indeed be doing well to keep down their lunch at the sight of Forres Mechanics’ notorious 70s throwback ‘chocolate brown and sweetcorn’ colour scheme, Lossiemouth were in action against Huntly, and (Fraser) Forbes is a Lossie player mentioned in a later tweet. As for the question of anything more quintessentially Scottish ever happening at a Scottish fitba game, Fort William v Nairn County was delayed for half an hour on Saturday to allow those in attendance to shovel deer faeces from the pitch. Even more quintessentially Scottish, once the game started Fort William lost by a boatload of goals” – Jimmy Shaker.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is Jimmy Shaker.


England captain Steph Houghton will sit out Tuesday’s friendly between England and Spain due to groin twang.

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune will miss the rest of the season after suffering “significant” knee knack in Saturday’s home defeat to Crystal Palace.

Divine ponytail Andy Carroll may have worn his last topknot in West Ham colours as he is undergoing an ankle operation which will rule him out for the rest of the season. Big Andy’s Hammers contract expires on 30 June.

Andy Carroll is out for the rest of the season

Andy Carroll is out for the rest of the season. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

“We had the chance to go to the final in our hands and we wasted it in the little minutes, so the feeling is not good,” sobbed Diogo Jota, Wolves’ forgotten hero of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final choke against Watford.

A cigarette lighter was launched at Rangers captain James Tavernier during his team’s 3-0 win at Motherwell on Sunday. Meanwhile, Hibernian fan Cameron Mack has been jailed for 100 days and been banned from football from 10 years for confronting Tavernier on 8 March at Easter Road.

Diego Costa was sent off 28 minutes into Atlético Madrid’s 2-0 defeat at Barcelona because he had said something very rude about the referee Jesús Gil Manzano’s mum. “If Costa really said what the referee claims he did, then he was correctly sent off, but we must be doing something wrong as we have had seven players sent off in 11 games,” groaned Atléti boss Diego Simeone.


Sergio Busquets gets his chat on with Sid Lowe.

Resurgent racism illustrates just how much work football still has to do, writes Sean Ingle.

Unbowed by racism, Moise Kean continues to show his huge talent, writes Paolo Bandini.

No prizes for guessing who’s winning the title in La Liga, writes Sid Lowe.

With seven weeks to play, half of the clubs in France are aiming for Europe – Adam White and Eric Devin take a look at Ligue 1.

Bayern demolished Dortmund at the weekend – Andy Brassell picks through the rubble.

Floating-brain-in-a-jar Jonathan Wilson analyses the Spurs v Manchester City tactical battle.

Ten – the name of Pearl Jam’s best album and also the number of talking points we’ve selected from the weekend action.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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