Listening to much of the build-up to tonight's meeting between two of European football's slavering behemoths and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Barcelona were no behemoth at all. The picture being painted is of the Catalan club as a small fawn lying mewling and injured by the side of the road, while a sabre-toothed and froth-jawed City stalk in for the kill. "They don't fear us as before," wept Gerard Piqué, trembling like a sodden Bambi and tucking his fluffy tail between his legs. "City are one of the greatest teams in the world," squeaked Gerardo Martino as he dived for a hole in the skirting boards. "We are really up for this," growled Martin Demichelis, beating his chest with his huge meaty paws. "It's important that we stick to our game, that we go on the attack," roared a blood-spattered Pablo Zabaleta, the bones of several antelope still poking out from between his gigantic teeth.
And then, as there seems to have been constantly over the past few weeks, there was José Mourinho. "This Barcelona, this season, is showing that it is not the same as in previous years," opined the former Real Madrid manager. "This is the worst Barcelona of many, many years." So there you have it – it's not a question of who, but how many. Lump on a landslide. Book your flights to Lisbon.
The problem, though, is that being "the worst Barcelona of many, many years" is a little like being the least poisonous extremely poisonous snake. They may not be at the top of their game anymore, but one bite can still make bits of you explode and other bits shrivel up like a grape in a pizza oven. The snake, that is, not Barcelona, who for all their estimable qualities, are unlikely to cause much more than a nasty rash with their teeth and generally aren't in the business of swallowing whole livestock.
Anyway, the point is that we're seeing an inverse Lee Carsley Effect™ in action. The Lee Carsley Effect™, of course, is the phenomena that sees a player being so widely described as underrated that they become overrated and gets its name from the former Everton player who at one point was so universally recognised as underrated that he became one of the great defensive midfielders in world football. The inverse in this case sees Barcelona being labelled overrated to such an extent that they become … yes, you get the idea. City beware.
"Mid-Jan, I'm told they're not satisfied and that's that. They want to change the coaching staff. We talk about it, I always want to listen but don't agree with what's said. After that we play a cup game, which we win, we play a league game, we win, and we have the last game against West Ham, we lose. After that I get another message … I should really, really, really change staff" – former Swansea boss Michael Laudrup attempts to explain his side of the story before his recent sacking.
"Disappointed not to read anything about Fulham's new manager Felix Magath in yesterday's Fiver. Surely a manager who once built a hill at his side's training ground is worthy material. Or is the Fiver, like Darren Bent, presumably worried they might be required to run up the said hill if they speak out of turn?" – Chris Gilbertson [you call that a hill? This is a hill – Fiver Ed].
"In the link from yesterday's last line, what caught my eye is not so much the resemblance between your colleague & Huddersfield's (rather than U2's) Adam Clayton, but rather that the winner of the competition voting young Clayton as player of the month was none other than Reece Dinsdale off the television (and hooligan opus ID). I guess you could say (but probably won't), in winning such a prestigious honour, his chickens have come Home To Roost" – Derek McGee.
We keep trying to point out the utter futility of advertising an online dating service "for interesting people" in the Fiver to the naive folk who run Guardian Soulmates, but they still aren't having any of it. So here you go – sign up here to view profiles of the kind of erudite, sociable and friendly romantics who would never dream of going out with you.
Sources close to WWE have apparently laid the smackdown on reports that Vince McMahon wants to buy Newcastle, reports that may or may not have come out of this recent Knowledge column.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc says his team will have to compensate for a lack of height on set-pieces when they face Bayer Leverkusen in Big Cup tonight. "I think we lack a bit of height," parped Blanc out of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ear-shot. "We will not be able to fight them in the air because PSG players won't grow 10 centimetres taller overnight."
Steve Bruce has got a serious funk on about Hull being made to play their FA Cup fifth-round replay with Brighton next Monday, barely 48 hours after their Premier League trip to Cardiff. "I find that ridiculous, I have to tell you," he told us. "Surely we could play on the same night as [Big Cup], you would have thought. I think it is a Uefa rule, which reads nobody plays on the same night as [Big Cup]."
And former Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann has offered a £2,000 reward for the safe return of a bag he had stolen outside Selfridges in London yesterday.
In No2 of our stunning World Cup moments, Scott Murray tells the tale of Uruguay's win over Brazil in 1950.
How can Arsenal's tactics tame Pep Guardiola's Bayern? Jonathan Wilson tackles The Question.
Swansea boss Garry Monk stars as Ryan Gosling in Drive and Brody out of Homeland, in this week's Gallery.
Today's sport picture of the day is either a football nestling in the back of Brighton's net, or Iñigo Calderón being trapped in a giant peach.
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