It’s the Europa League final today, although you wouldn’t know it reading just about all of the major English-language dailies. Fair enough; tonight’s pairing of Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao reads like an early Saturday Gol TV kick off, the kind of match most viewers watch the last ten minutes of before Barcelona v Whomever comes on.
And no wonder, too. Atletico Madrid are 44 points off top spot in Spain; Bilbao are 48 points adrift, nearly half Real Madrid’s total. The primary match narrative surrounds the nerds-only interest in Bilbao’s savant and shithouse mental coach Marcelo Bilbao, echoed by Jonathan Wilson in his column today for Fawks Sahcker:
The obsession with possession endures to the extent that [Bielsa] often plays a holding midfielder (Javi Martinez) at centerback, but he is prepared to use the aerial strength of Llorente and use crosses and long balls on occasion. The result is a side that plays some of the most thrilling and dynamic football in Europe. Athletic may have run out of steam in the league, but its two wins over Manchester United will not quickly be forgotten, either in Bilbao or Manchester.
Pete Jensen of the Independent does his darndest to big up the game, with the bold opening paragraph claim that “nothing about tonight’s Europa League final suggests it will be anything but dramatic.” Perhaps, but it’s hard to get misty eyed over the prospect of yet another middling Iberian club raising Big Vase on a Wednesday in early May (it’s gone to either Spain or Portugal for six of the last ten seasons).
One would look in hope to rumoured plans by Michel Platini to merge the Europa League into the Champions League into a 64 team competition, if one was confident such plans exist (outside of a single article from German paper Bild, there is little to corroborate the story). Fine. We know there’s no going back from the bloated mess of clubs clamouring to climb aboard the UEFA express, but there lives in all of us a tiny desire to see the old European Cup return, which was an actual ‘champions only’ competition, along with the Cup Winners’ Cup, and maybe the old, conciliatory UEFA Cup. Can it be it was all so simple then?
Toronto FC has high hopes for tonight’s Voyageur’s Cup match against the Impactzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Countdown here, preview here. Of course Winter thinks TFC won’t lose. And from the Montreal side of things.
Victor Montagliani: let’s get on with it.
Ben Massey with an interesting piece on how to improve U18 player develepment at the Whitecaps.
Blackburn sack Paul Hunt over leaked letter to Venky’s.
Yaya Toure decides to let the world know ahead of a must-win Manchester City match against QPR that he’d love to finish his career at Barcelona.
Mancini meanwhile says City have “two fingers on the trophy,” which doesn’t sound right in the best way possible.
Carroll for England? FFS.
Yet another drink-driving charge for assorted football personality.
Roberto Di Matteo defends not picking A side against Liverpool.
Roy Hodgson agonizes over John Terry, or something.
RvP to Juventus now. Pick one, please, English media (in morte summus).
Cesare Prandelli plays it mighty cool on Italy’s chances in the Euros.
Conte says Juventus scudetto win is “just the beginning,” fairly standard fare then.
Match-fixing investigation begins to reach the consequences stage.
Some more transfer bullshit.
Bits and bobs
So far the Daily Mail are the only paper with the lack of shame necessary to print this.
Requisite Michael Essien horror tackle GIF.
Not football related but darned good advice.
Miss our boss Vod?
And that, give or take, is the story so far…