SELF-ISOLATION AND CLOSED DOORS

Coronavirus. Coronavirus! It’s not the easiest subject from which The Fiver has tried to extract some of its alleged, once-popular trademark whimsy. Then again, we’ve been set up with plenty of open goals over the years, too, and we’ve missed nearly all of those as well. So it’s not as though you’re going to notice much difference. What we will say is, hats off to the socially responsible Pepe Reina, Frédéric Guilbert, Björn Engels, Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett, who diligently self-isolated on Monday, operating independently in exclusion zones miles apart from each other, thus ensuring nobody in the Aston Villa defence had any chance of catching anything. Sadly, this had the unfortunate knock-on effect of ensuring none of them were able to catch Harvey Barnes or Jamie Vardy either, but in times of national emergency you have to make sacrifices. What did you do in the war, daddy? Keep calm and etc.

Relegation now looks increasingly likely at Villa Park, though our insider mole tells us they’re well stocked on bog roll, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Elsewhere, news is similarly mixed. Wolves are due to play the first leg of their Big Vase last-16 tie at Olympiakos on Thursday behind closed doors, while Manchester United will do the same with their trip to LASK. Next week’s Barcelona-Napoli Big Cup tie will also be played in conditions that make your average Scottish League Two gathering look like the 1950 World Cup final, while La Liga and Ligue 1 will be similarly spectator-lite for the next fortnight and beyond. In addition, Wednesday’s big Bundesliga derby between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne will be a turnstiles-shut affair as well. Hmm, all that news isn’t particularly mixed, is it? It’s doom and gloom squared, on the end of a shiny stick.

Even more seriously, Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis has announced that “the recent virus has visited me”, four days after taking in Forest’s home capitulation to Millwall. Happily, he goes on to say that he “feels good” as he takes “all the necessary measures and I discipline to the doctors instructions. I strongly advise all my fellow citizens to do the same. I wish all a quick recovery.” Whether or not this signals a spread of suspensions and closed-door matches across the UK is moot right now, though as things stand the Premier League will carry on as normal. The Fiver wonders whether a few of its officials will secretly be hoping Manchester City drop points against Arsenal and/or Burnley later this week, in the hope of getting at least something definitely decided sooner rather than later, when everything really spirals out of control. Maybe, maybe not. Though we’re pretty sure a few folk on Merseyside will be keeping their fingers crossed for exactly that.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Scott Murray from 8pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of RB Leipzig 2-1 Tottenham (agg: 3-1), while Simon Burnton will be on hand for Valencia 2-2 Atalanta (agg: 3-6).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

10.36pm, 9 March: “I announce that I withdraw the club’s purchase … the club and its financial resources were exploited in a wrong and immoral manner” – Tahnoon Nimer, Charlton’s new main shareholder announces he’s taking his ball home with him.

11.32pm, 9 March: “The board and senior management team are determined that Charlton Athletic be run in a sensible, responsible and sustainable manner but this is being made very difficult by the majority shareholder’s actions and his failure to provide either the necessary satisfaction to the EFL or the funds that he has consistently promised to invest. To date, not a single penny of the promised funds has been provided” – Matt Southall, Charlton’s executive chairman. Another fine mess at Charlton, explained here by Proper Journalism’s David Conn.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

David Squires on … British football’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. You can also get your own copy here.



Here you go. Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

The latest Football Weekly podcast is right here. Meanwhile, tickets are also on sale for the next live show in London.

Football Weekly

Manchester derby, José slams Ndombele and Serie A latest

FIVER LETTERS

“John Edwards (yesterday’s Fiver letters) was surprised there was only one home win in the 12 games played in the National League on Saturday. Can’t speak for the other 10 but Stockport, who drew 1-1 at home to Barnet, were on the receiving end of some ‘contentious’ penalty decisions. In the video highlights you can marvel at all three: the one given to Barnet 37 seconds into the coverage, and the ones not given to Stockport at 1m47s and 4m6s. Watch and weep, those who complain about VAR” – Brian Ross.

“I refereed my eight-year-old grandson’s match this weekend, as the normal referee was indisposed and a few of the dads had been on the lash the night before, at the age of 66, with a cup coffee in my hand, never deviating out of the centre circle and never having to resort to VAR. The only barracking I received was from my grandson’s teammate’s parents, who complained I was not biased enough in their favour. Don’t know what all the fuss is about from amateur league referees about intimidation” – Patrick Fuller.

“I do love Sky’s Monday Night Football. Old footballers and managers of the past being lightly pressed into rehashing stories yet again from their career. Then, to cap it off, they’re cajoled into naming a best XI from people they just happen to have worked with that is less a team and more a bizarre lineup of attacking stars crowbarred in that clearly wouldn’t work as a team. Apropos of nothing, here is Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Rest of the World XI. Ah well, as the great Dara Ó Briain once said: ‘Nostalgia is heroin for old people’” – Noble Francis.

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Noble Francis.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

It’s José Mourinho’s turn to riff on the Tottenham ‘To Dare is to Do’ motto before their Big Cup return at RB Leipzig. “I read it every day because it’s written everywhere,” he tooted. “You know more or less my principles, my philosophy, what I love and hate. I feel connection with [it]. We win or we leave everything we have on that pitch.”

It’s Big Cup, do-do-do-do-do-doooooooo.



It’s Big Cup, do-do-do-do-do-doooooooo. Photograph: Jens Meyer/AP

Jordan Henderson is fit for Liverpool’s crucial Big Cup last-16 second leg tie at home to Atlético. “We expect a really ‘experienced’ performance from Atlético, let me say that,” cooed Jürgen Klopp.

Jude Bellingham’s parents have been given the tour by Manchester United suits after Birmingham City’s 16-year-old was granted permission to talk to interested clubs.

Augsburg are now in the hands of head coach Heiko Herrlich after giving Martin Schmidt the boot. “He is a true expert,” cheered club suit Stefan Reuter. “That is why we think we will succeed.”

And Jersey Bulls FC are closing in on a perfect season after winning their first 27 Combined Counties League Division One games. “People love their football down here,” cheered full-back and son of Marco, Jules Gabbiadini. “We have been averaging 700-800 people, which for this level is crazy.”

STILL WANT MORE?

How a shirt number is being used to oppose homophobia in Brazil. By Tom Sanderson.

Reclaiming the 24.



Reclaiming the 24. Photograph: Dhavid Normando/AFP via Getty Images

Coming to a Premier League ground near you soon: Marcelo Bielsa’s Nasty Leeds. By Jonathan Liew.

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

ON WE GO

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