Let’s take a look at some of the big stories that have happened over the last week from across the different sports;
All-English finals…almost, but not really
This week saw Manchester City owners take a step closer to their dream or lifting a Champions League trophy. When Sheikh Mansour’s City Football Group took over Manchester City in 2008, they came with a huge bank account, promises of the best players and managers, Premier League titles and European glory. So far, they have delivered on all, except for the latter.
Now they have made the final after a heroic performance from Ruben Diaz and his mates. Manchester City will play Chelsea, who have been magnificent since Thomas Tuchel took over at the club. The two met in the FA Cup semi-final last month, in which Chelsea won by a goal.
The Europa league has been a breeze for Man Utd, who got to the final comfortably, slamming eight goals past Roma over the two legs. Arsenal had a chance to join them, but showed the world they are no longer a top team. Managing only four shots on target over the two legs, they were eliminated by Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine (Villarreal’s nickname) has so far lost none of their games in the competition, winning 12 and drawing twice. In the end, the 2-1 aggregate victory over Arsenal was unfair on the Spanish side. They now have a chance of being the second team in history to win Europe’s second best club competition, without losing a single game – Galatasaray did it in 2000, when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup. Most rewarding part of Villarreal’s victory was that the manager of the Spaniards is Unai Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal so that current manager Mikel Arteta could take the job.
You are no better than the ESL
I, like many, hated the idea of the ESL, and loved that it was scrapped. It eliminated competition, and created a money grabbing scheme for the best teams in Europe, plus Arsenal and Spurs. Yet, it is disappointing to see that UEFA are not seeing the same backlash in regards to their restructured version of the Champions League. I love football, but more games do not make it better. In fact, a lot of the games by the end of the season have been less of a spectacle as many of the best players are being rested, or are injured.
Most disappointing about the restructure is the introduction of a Europa Conference League. A competition that will be played alongside the Europa League. In the future, the winner of the Carabao Cup will qualify from England, or the team that finishes 7th in the league. The latter is more likely, as Manchester City will win the Carabao Cup for the rest of eternity. Currently, the team qualifying could be one of Everton, West Ham, Liverpool or Spurs.
From La Liga, 7th place will qualify for next year’s competition, as Barcelona won the Copa del Rey. Although the cup finals in Italy and Germany haven’t been played, they are contested by teams who will qualify for the Champions League, so 7th place in the league for those two nations will qualify as well. More importantly, the new competition is designed to give smaller nations more chances in Europe to take a small slice of the money. However, a lot of those smaller nations – ranked lower than 15th in the UEFA coefficients – cannot have any direct qualifiers for the Europa League.
I think the best way to explain this competitions status is by revealing the location for the finals in comparison to the others…
2021 – Istanbul Ataturk Stadium, capacity of just over 76,000.
2022 – Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, capacity of around 68,000.
2021 – Gdansk Stadium, Poland, capacity of 43,000 plus.
2022 – Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, Seville, Spain, capacity of just under 44,000.
Europa Conference League:
2022 – National Arena, Tirana, Albania, capacity of 22,500.
Way to make them feel special, UEFA! Might as well play the final down the park, with jumpers for goal posts.
All roads lead to Rome
Not long after leaving Spurs (15 days to be exact), Jose Mourinho has agreed to manage Roma next season. The Italian side have had a sub-standard season, and currently lie in 7th – hellooooo Europa Conference League – and the board have announced that current manager, Paulo Fonseco will leave. Mourinho has talked about ambition, and how he wants to build a winning project over the upcoming years, which is likely two at most, as that’s all he seems to last these days.
He has never made it to a fourth season with any club, and has been sacked – aka left by “mutual consent” – from his his last four roles. It clearly took him a while to realise that once he doesn’t like his job, he can blame the players, and sulk, until he is fired. Most of these departures seem to happen with a couple of years left on his contract, which gives him a nice compensation package to go with it. Clearly he is The “moan my way to the bank” One.
There seems to be a glitch in the game
Russel Westbrook managed to put up computer game numbers vs Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. The Wizards guard managed 14 points, 21 rebounds and 24 assists in a high scoring win. The rebounds in particular was incredible as Westbrook is one of the shorter players in the league, at 6ft 3in.
Russell Westbrook is actually averaging a triple-double for the season and should be in the mix for MVP, which for some reason he is not. He has 34 triple-doubles this season, and is only one behind the NBA all-time record, held by Oscar Robertson (181). Absolutely fantastic!
“Whoever came out with this s*** should be fired”
The play-in tournament has had mixed reviews from a lot of players who deem it pointless, and you have to kind of agree with them.
The play-in tournament is a knockout tournament contested by the teams that rank 7-10 in the Eastern and Western NBA Conferences. The tournament will determine who will make up the 7th and 8th seeds in the post-season. The teams that finish 7th and 8th will play a one-off game, winner is given the 7th seed. Loser plays the winner of the game between teams ranked 9th and 10th. Then, the winner of that match is ranked 8th. Guess the old way of playing all season and giving the 7th and 8th seed to the teams that finish 7th and 8th was not good enough.
Some of the strongest critics of the tournament have been Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, and star player Luka Doncic. Lebron James expressed his feeling a little stronger – check heading. Funnily enough, both Doncic and Cuban had no problem with it at the start of the season.
It is a bit pointless to play 73 games in a shortened NBA season to then not let the teams that have finished 7th and 8th to be the 7th and 8th seeds.
Euroleague Final-Four are set for the finals
Europe’s premier basketball competition will take place at the Lanxess Arena, in Cologne. The tournament will be held from May 28-30, and contested by Barcelona (Spain), Anadolu Efes (Turkey), CSKA Moscow (Russia) and Ax Armani Exchange Milan (Italy).
Barcelona will play Milan, and Efes take on CSKA in a one-off game. The latter is a repeat of the final in 2019 – 2020 finals got cancelled – in which CSKA won 91-83. The winners of the two matches will play the final on the 30th, while the losers go to the third-place playoff.
Think it’s time to stop for a while
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been continuing despite the turmoil India has been going through. As the Indian public are ravaged by Covid – because of mismanagement – the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) created a bubble and soldiered on. However, after two Kolkata Knight Riders players tested positive, their game was postponed immediately. A day later, more players started testing positive, as expected, forcing the BCCI to stop.
The IPL has been criticised by many for playing in the first place, and some of the players left early, worried that they wouldn’t be able to return home at all. However, the competition provided some form of entertainment for a nation that has been devastated. Now, they don’t even have that.
Maybe we should try it…
After seeing how positive the reaction to the ESL was, golf has decided to give it a go. Yes, it was equally successful.
On a serious note, Rory McIllroy has come out strongly against the creation of such an event. In addition, the PGA Tour bosses have said it will ban players that join, as it is not allowed according to the rules, and I believe them. Golf seems to have a rule in place for everything.
It is reported that a Saudi group – yep, the Saudis again – have contacted a group of the world’s best, and offered them $30m plus, up front, if they sign up. For that kind of money, you’ll probably need to play a round every day, until you die.
Hope you enjoyed the round-up of the week. Hopefully, these will be a common occurrence from now on…