THE GERMAN CUP IS BACK, BABY!
Who fancies a bit of romance? Don’t worry, The Fiver isn’t suggesting a bit of Va-Va-Zoom to enliven Tuesday night. We’re talking about romance of the fußball variety. On Tuesday night, FC Saarbrücken have the chance to become the first fourth-tier team to ever reach the German Cup final. So far, so feelgood. There are a couple of catches, though. The first is that they have to beat an excellent Bayer Leverkusen side; the second is that they will be playing their first game in more than three months, so their match fitness could leave a soupçon to be desired.
The Regionalliga Südwest ended early because of Covid-19, with Saarbrücken winning the title – and promotion – on points per game. Their last match was a 1-0 defeat against Astoria Walldorf on 7 March, back in the days when we were all OK to shake hands and make out with trolley handles. While Leverkusen have had five Bundesliga games since their own spring break, Saarbrücken have had to make do with 11 v 11s in training. Even the traditional advantage of playing at home might not be in Saarbrücken’s favour, given the recent spurt of away wins in the Bundesliga. The game will be played behind closed doors, and there have even been some chilling rumours that it will take place without a virtual crowd.
The lack of real attendees really is sad, as this was supposed to be a celebration of a cup run that is already career-defining for many of Saarbrücken’s players. They have put out two Bundesliga sides, Köln and Fortuna Düsseldorf, as well as Karlsruhe and Jahn Regensburg from the second tier. It’s a charming story, even if the lack of data on average positions in Regionalliga Südwest has made it exasperatingly difficult for The Fiver to determine whether Saarbrücken play a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1. Two of the victories came from last-minute goals – and they were the easy ones. The others came via penalty shoot-outs, most recently against Düsseldorf in the quarter-final.
The winner of this game will play either Bayern Munich or Bayern Munich in the final, so it feels like a second-placed play-off. There is some good news for Saarbrücken, mind: they’re not as pathologically negative as The Fiver, for a start, and THEY’RE IN THE BLOODY GERMAN BLOODY CUP SEMI-BLOODY-FINAL. Leverkusen will also without the Kai Havertz, who is knacked. And Saarbrücken have already landed four beauties on Goliath’s confused noggin, so why not a fifth? When they beat Düsseldorf they were described by their vice-president Dieter Ferner as the “biggest sensation since the birth of Christ”. He’ll need to produce one hell of a simile if they beat Leverkusen.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If I didn’t opt out of the football world this year, I don’t know if I would have been alive now” – former Accrington striker Billy Kee tells Ben Fisher about his decision to leave football for bricklaying at the age of 29.
The latest Football Weekly is right here. Also: news. Yes, the pod is going thrice-weekly!
“Dear Fiver. ‘He played a game against Brighton. Got sent off (for kicking Mark Lawrenson in the face). Took a $hit in Lawrenson’s kit bag. And went home.’ This story shows how they don’t make them like Robin Friday any more. Do Fiver readers know any more stories of such graceful player exits?” – Gerry Rickard.
“Re: international sides’ weird pre-tournament fixtures (Fiver letters passim). Just before the 2012 Olympics, I played against Belarus for the Amateur Football Alliance at Bedworth Town FC. It was a baking hot Saturday in the middle of July and we hadn’t played any football since the end of the season. We had a squad of 14, whereas they swapped their entire side at half-time. We held out for about five minutes and, although they beat us 10-1, they bagged a few towards the end of the game as we tired. Surreally, exactly a week later it didn’t take them much longer to open the scoring in their match against Brazil at Old Trafford, but they lost 3-1 to goals from Pato, Neymar and Oscar” – Dan Ashley.
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. I rarely listen to football with the sound on. I find I get a better class of commentator” – Nick Redfern.
“I’m only interested in the fake crowd noise at matches if, at Nasty Leeds games, we hear ‘Sky TV is effing ess’ and the commentator then has to apologise for any language heard” – Andrew Thornton.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Raheem Sterling has called for English football to finally address its lack of black representation in management and positions of power. “There’s Steven Gerrard, your Frank Lampards, you have your Sol Campbells and you have your Ashley Coles,” he said. “All had great careers, all played for England. At the same time, they’ve all respectfully done their coaching badges to coach at the highest level and the two that haven’t been given the right opportunities are the two black former players.”
Coventry and Rotherham are Championship-bound, while Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth are off to League One after clubs in the third and fourth tiers of English football voted to curtail their seasons.
Madrid mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida wants the Spanish capital to hold the Big Cup final – if Uefa moves it from Istanbul. “I want to declare the city hall’s absolute support for this final being held in Madrid,” he ch€€r€d.
Chelsea’s commitment to homegrown talent looks to have been swiftly parked as they bid to sign Kai Havertz as part of a fast-developing shopping spree.
Liverpool are hopeful of persuading Gini Wijnaldum to agree a new three-year contract, following hot on the heels of Adam Lallana’s extension.
Former Real Sociedad, Vissel Kobe and Real Oviedo manager Juanma Lillo is joining Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s No 2.
And Hoffenheim have given coach Alfred Schreuder the boot over differences in the way they believe the team should develop. “I regret this development but it is not unusual to have different opinions in your professional life,” sighed Schreuder.
STILL WANT MORE?
Ben Fisher continues our Premier League restart previews with all things Bournemouth. And here he is again with our Brighton-based missive, featuring their “brutal” run-in and clearly fictitious Argentina-born midfielder Alexis Mac Allister.
Everyone remembers the winners, but what about the teams that finished second? Take our quiz.
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‘WHAT’S A WONDER WALL, ANYWAY?’