All the ingredients point to a thriller. So a nailed-on nil-niller, then

It’s been a mixed week for Pep Guardiola, whose Manchester City could scarcely have been more imperious in victory against Chelsea last weekend but were forced to hand over the petro-bragging rights after their midweek Big Cup defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain. Having assembled his backroom team to join him in scrutinising replay after replay of The Leo Show, Pep still can’t figure out how Bernardo Silva managed to Rosenthal that sitter off the crossbar at 1-0 down, but has finally turned his attention to his team’s next big match against Liverpool.

One of those fixtures that is hyped so much by Sky Sports that it invariably disappoints, on the face of it Sunday’s big game should be a thriller. In the red corner: Liverpool, who have scored three or more in each of their past six games and in Mo Salah have a forward so in-form and fired up he forgot to tut disapprovingly and sulk upon being taken off while on a hat-trick at Porto. Meanwhile in the blue corner, we have the reigning champions, Manchester City, who despite not actually boasting a recognised centre-forward (unless you count Gabriel Jesus, which people don’t, for some reason), have still managed to score five or more goals on no fewer than four occasions already this season. With all the ingredients pointing to a thriller, The Fiver’s putting its 50p on an attritional nil-niller.

While his Manchester United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjær could recently be heard holding Jürgen Klopp responsible for the fact Manchester United no longer get as many penalties as he feels they deserve, on Friday Guardiola could be heard blaming the Liverpool manager for the fact that he is still in the game. “Jürgen’s teams helped me to be a better manager,” he said between puffs of air directed towards his opposite number’s nether regions. “He put me on another level, to think about it, to prove myself, to be a better manager. That is the reason why I am still in this business.”

While Klopp will be hoping his influence on Pep’s success doesn’t rub off too much on Sunday, the Liverpool manager spent Friday morning looking like Boris Johnson at a photo op as he stood bedraggled in torrential rain under a hard hat while performing the ceremonial turning of the first sod in the redevelopment of an Anfield stand. “You have to be brave, on the front foot, be cheeky in moments, really be your best version,” he cooed, presumably upon being asked to describe his digging technique. On the subject of Sunday’s game, Klopp was similarly complimentary about the champions. “For me, they’re the best team in Europe,” he said, presumably oblivious to his own unwitting and involuntary role in helping Pep make them so good.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Once again the club have said nothing to me. I’ve found out the president was here this morning, but not seen him. I have ears and eyes and I know a lot of things are leaked, I imagine they’re true, but once again I’ve not been told anything” – it’s still not getting better for Ronald Koeman at Barcelona after a swathe of media reports linking new names with his gig.

FIVER LETTERS
“If you are acquainted with Nuno Espírito Santo, tell him: Lucas Moura is much better than Dele Ali, Emerson Royal is better than Sergio Reguilón, anyone is better than Matt Doherty (even Serge Aurier). If you are acquainted with Daniel Levy, tell him: Ali has passed the best-before date, Reguilón is a good reserve, at 67, I can do what Doherty does for free” – Marcio Aquino.

“Re: yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs. Having, for some reason, not picked up on his career to date, has $exually Repressed Morris-Dancing Fiver always occupied a midfield berth? If so, is his idiom in a break-em-up-and-set-em-up role such as N’Golo Kanté, a maverick genius seeing space that isn’t even there (should have won many more caps) like Matt Le Tissier; a dogged ‘no pasarán’ such as Roy Keane; or a total waste of space like most of the incompetent sods I’ve been watching down at the Cottage for the past 50-odd years?” – Mark Dawson.

“The Fiver’s influence on Big Website is clearly bigger than we could ever imagine. Sadly, for the pedants among us, the answer to question No 1 is not exactly 1,057, but a rather unsatisfying [Snip – Thursday Quiz Spoilers Ed]” – Paul Vickers.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
North Carolina Courage have fired coach Paul Riley following allegations of sexual harrassment and misconduct were revealed. US Soccer is also suspending his licence, while the National Women’s Soccer League faces further scrutiny. “The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations,” said Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan. “The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse.”

Steven Gerrard has called for action after Rangers’ Glen Kamara was targeted during their defeat at Sparta Prague. Kamara was clearly targeted by some of the 10,000 fans in attendance, six months after being subjected to abuse by Slavia’s Ondrej Kudela. The stadium was originally meant to be shut following a separate racist charge against Sparta, after Monaco’s Aurelius Tchouameni was subjected to abuse. Uefa instead agreed to a proposal for it to go ahead in front of mainly schoolchildren with some accompanying adults, but booing was audible any time Kamara touched the ball. Sparta have responded by declaring: “Stop attacking our children! Our club will proudly defend our children – our future and our pride. Slandering children on the internet is extremely cowardly.”

Pini Zahavi, one of the game’s most influential agents, has been indicted for forgery, use of forgery, fraud and money laundering as part of an investigation into Mouscron.

Rapid Vienna face punishment after their fans got in a pwopah nawty mood during the Big Vase loss at West Ham. Missiles were launched, including a water cooler.

Ange, Ange: when will those clouds all disappear? The Queen’s Celtic are dusting themselves off after a right Big Vase hammering at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen.

And Jadon Sancho is lucky to be in the England squad, according to Gareth Southgate. “Does he deserve to be in on these performances over the last few weeks?” posed Southgate. “Well, probably not. But we feel we have invested in Jadon over a period of time. We believe he can get to a high level.”

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