An old superclub - Bayern Munich - will face a new superclub - Paris Saint-Germain - in the Champions League final.
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
FC Hollywood roll on
Lyon return empty-handed with prospect of losing key players
You can’t say that Bayern Munich didn’t give Lyon a sporting chance. Two of them, in fact. Memphis Depay ran through and clear after four minutes, but faced with the sight of Manuel Neuer, could only hit the side netting. Then after 17 minutes, Toko Ekambi wriggled free in the Bayern box: he hit the post.
And then barely a minute after that, with the post still faintly quivering, Bayern’s Serge Gnabry cut in from the right flank, moved his left foot through the ball at tremendous velocity, and sent the thing screaming into the net. 1-0. And lo! a great sigh went up around Europe.
Bayern were worthy winners in the end, though Lyon, being a sensible and well-organised football team, didn’t fall to pieces in the fashion of Barcelona. But those early exchanges, along with a couple of later opportunities, suggest that the final might be an interesting game. Kylian Mbappé won’t be as forgiving as Memphis. Neymar can’t keep missing forever.
Of course, that may not matter in the end. This Bayern team may play with a terrifyingly high line, but that’s balanced by their dangerously high concentration of players that can do ridiculous things, either alone or in combination, just because they feel like it. It turns out that this is a pretty good way to win football matches.
The Warm-Up doesn’t want to jinx anything, but this final could be an absolute belter. And we’re due one. It’s been a good few years. Bayern by the odd goal in five.
Get your diaries ready
By the time you’re reading this, the Premier League fixture list will already be in the wild. Hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, right? Poor David Moyes.
Anyway, you’ve doubtless noted that the calendar is, well, this is a family column, so let’s say rather busy. And this is before the television companies start moving things around. Poor winter break, we hardly knew you.
A few predictions.One, there’s going to be some very interesting international squads, as huge swathes of players mysteriously come down with tight hamstrings, tweaked groins, and the sudden pressing need to have a sit down and a bit of a breather.Two, there is going to be almost no time for actual coaching. Teams will be bouncing from one fixture to the next; winding up and warming down. Better hope your team already has a system and knows what they’re doing!And three, the owners and decision makers of Premier League clubs will all recognise the unusual circumstances and will exercise patience and restraint when it comes to such matters as managerial sackings, panic buys, and so forth. Yep. We’re pretty sure that’ll happen.
Barcelona are acting. Barcelona are acting fast. The dust hasn’t even settled from that 8-2 defenestration, and they’ve already sacked Quique Setien and Eric Abidal, and have now announced their new head coach. Come on down, Ronald Koeman!
We can probably assume Barcelona are hoping to get the exciting coach that has won three Eredivisie titles with Ajax and PSV, and more recently revitalised the Dutch national team. Not the bloke who got sacked by Everton and played Dominic Calvert-Lewin as a wing-back.
Previous Warm-Up’s have taken a good look at Barcelona’s mess and Koeman’s prospects, so all we’ll add here is that this is probably the end of the fast bit of the process. The crash bang wallop is done. The rest of the business — shifting a load of 30-plus footballers on massive contracts; replacing them with younger, hungrier, cheaper models; persuading Lionel Messi to stay — is going to be slow, dead slow, and a good chunk of it might not get done at all.
And if this short, intense announcement video were a film trailer, you’d wouldn’t assume that it was going to have a happy ending. For anybody.
IN OTHER NEWS
A very good morning to Oxford United. Giving the people what they want; giving the people what they deserve.
IN THE RETRO CHANNELS
This modern trend of appointing club legends as managers may not always work out, but it does make life a lot easier for the social media people. Here’s new Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman’s top ten goals for Barcelona, as chosen by Barcelona. Fair to say he didn’t do tap-ins. And while you won’t be surprised by no. 1, no. 3 is an absolute delight.
The women’s Champions League quarter-finals are coming up this week, and the Guardian’s been running an excellent series of previews. Here’s their look at Lyon, defending champions and ante-post favourites.
Not an awful lot, if we’re being honest. A handful of qualifiers for next season’s Europa League, and the first leg of the Spanish second division’s promotion play-off. That’s Eiche vs. Girona. Choose your fighter.
Assuming Ronald Koeman hasn’t pulled off an audacious swoop, Tom Adams will be with you tomorrow.
Ansu Fati, Ferran, Eric Garcia lead Spain squad full of fresh faces