You can be supercilious and sniffy about the league's knockout competition, Tin Pot, if you want, but last season's final surely put paid to the notion that it's a second-rate competition nobody cares about. Birmingham City gleefully won it, and have since proved that winning a cup is much much much much much more important than worrying about getting relegated, as you can make a good fist of getting straight back up anyway, even if you don't have any money, simply by telling your miserable manager to bog off with his big bottle of Mogadon and getting someone else in who tells the players to have a bit of a go instead. Arsenal, meanwhile, were the unlucky losers, and ever since they've been sitting in the corner, holding their knees and rocking gently and shivering and crying. They really have been crying quite a lot, actually. Do you think they're all right?
Anyway, this season's final offers a similar dynamic. Liverpool are the hot favourites, and really should win, but they aren't so consistent that they can afford to swagger about. "We have given ourselves a chance ... let's see how we get on ... we're not going to jump ahead of ourselves ... or take anything for granted ... a really difficult game for us ... it's just as huge a match for Cardiff as it is for us ... if we want to have any designs on winning the match we need to play to our full capacity." Kenny Dalglish there, setting his Right Noises CD to shuffle and letting technology do the work. Kenny's big decision, with Craig Bellamy champing at the bit, is whether to give the own-brand Mr Em, the sort-of-in-form Andy Carroll, a starting place instead. And if the big man does play, whether he should be soundtracked by an allegro moderato tuba bassline, for when he's pretending to close folk down, or a prestissimo vibraphone melody, for when he bundles it into touch with his shinbones.
Cardiff boss Malky Mackay has also been on the talk, and he too is making the correct sounds regarding his underdogs. "We're not tourists going up to London just to make up the numbers ... our focus is to win ... we are massive underdogs and nine times out of 10, the underdogs are beaten. But there is the other time as well." Refreshingly, Mackay has declined to prioritise promotion to the Premier League next season over glory now – he does want to get the club into the top flight, but only "within the next few seasons" – almost as though he's realised that most fans are heartily sick of such self-serving nonsense, and if they'd wanted to watch live accountancy they'd have supported Rangers. Mackay has one big call to make: whether to plunge captain Mark Hudson, out for the last six games with calf knack, back into the side. With a talented but flaky Liverpool looking to end a six-season barren spell, and a resolute Cardiff hoping to scratch an 85-year itch, this has the potential to be a modern classic, a ding-dong battle for our times. Or a facsimile copy of Manchester United versus Wigan Athletic in 2006.
"I think most of the Blackburn fans are behind me" - If that's not paranoia Steve Kean we don't know what is.
The Fiver is acutely aware that, no matter how bad things seem, they can always get worse. It's a lesson we learned while becoming the first teatime email to get a PhD in nadirs. We used to lament sleeping alone until Weird Uncle Fiver invited himself to an indefinite stay at Fiver Towers, armed with little more than a liberal approach to personal hygiene and the defiant insistence that fetid emissions are hilarious. So it is for Arsenal. The last 10 days have been a nightmare: they were put over Milan's knee in Big Cup and deservedly beaten by Sunderland despite having 101% of the possession. All they have left to fight for is the cherished tinfoil medal awarded to those who finish fourth. Yet those matches may seem like something from a golden age by Sunday night.
The concern for Arsenal is not that they will lose at home to Spurs this weekend – that happened last year – but that Spurs will hammer them. The game may be third v fourth, but Spurs are 10 points ahead and in a different mini-league. They have won three of the last four league meetings with Arsenal, having won three out of 33 before that. This is Spurs' best side for at least 25 years; it's Arsenal's worst for 17 years.
That 1994-95 season was the last time Spurs finished above Arsenal – and every other London club – in the league, and future former England manager Harry Redknapp is leering at a repeat. "That's the most important thing for me this year to honest, to be the top London club," said 'Onest 'Arry, who definitely hasn't spent every waking hour in the past fortnight dreaming of the England job, and every sleeping hour dreaming of it as well.
Arsenal will take hope from the fact that Spurs have been inexplicably cautious in their big away games this season, but if it turns into a slugfest – as the north London derby invariably has in recent times – all logic suggests Spurs will win. That said, Arsene Wenger was in bullish mood at his press conference. "We live in a world where everybody is positive when it goes well," he said, showing a masterful grasp of how happiness works, "but life is not only ups, it is ups and down, successful lives are how people respond when you are down. You can't complain. We are in a fantastic job and we have a big game in front of us – to feel sorry for ourselves would be criminal." He may have changed his mind by Sunday night, or if Weird Uncle Fiver ever comes to stay.
"While it's laudable that teenager AVB is studying his chemistry text (yesterday's Fiver), wouldn't it be more practical for him to spend time with a physics book? You know, figuring how much force to apply to Fernando Torres, who in turn would put a boot through a football, which might then cause the ball to accelerate and be propelled into the goal. At least that's the theory ..." – Mike Wilner.
"As McFiver, O'Fiver and comedy-effect-long-Welsh-village-named Fiver regularly get picked for their countries, and the Fiver failed to make Stuart Pearce's squad announced yesterday, can we assume that contrary to popular opinion English football actually has a great depth of talent?" – Alistair Drummond.
After being turned down by Alan Curbishley, Walter Smith, Dave Jones and The Fiver, Wolves owner Steve Morgan reckons he has nothing to be embarrassed about after giving Mick McCarthy's old job to Mick McCarthy's old assistant Terry Connors until the end of the season.
Having spent a few years alongside Michel Salgado, Blackeye Rovers defender Christopher Samba will continue his quest to play with every member of the early-noughties Real Madrid side by joining Roberto Carlos at Russian plaything Anzhi Makhachkala.
Former striker Fernando Torres has been left out of the Spain squad to face Venezuela. "Torres isn't doing well, and we've decided that in this case he won't come," Vicente del Bosque droned. "It hurts me to leave him out but I cannot be unfair and hold back those who have been pushing to get in."
Rangers director Andrew Ellis has apologised to fans for his role in bringing Craig Whyte to the club. All better then!
Europe's top clubs are to boycott talks with Fifa over changes to the international calendar. "We have had discussions with Uefa and we are close to finding a final agreement but talks with Fifa have been disappointing and we have decided not to attend Fifa meetings until further notice," huffed a spokesman for the European Clubs Association.
AVB is confident Sideshow Dave and Slapstick's Gary Cahill can form a rock-solid defensive partnership.
This week's Joy of Six on Rumbelows/Milk/Coca-Cola/League/Worthington Cup shocks contains an upset that brought tears to the eyes of QPR fans everywhere. Actually, two shocks that brought tears to the eyes of QPR fans everywhere.
Drugs, hairy Brazilians and a Scheisse week for Bayern feature in AC Jimbo's pun-tastic Euro paper review.
Weep into your beer, cry on the shoulder of the old lady next to you on the bus and display some
heartfelt (wo)man-love for Ryan Giggs on the eve (well, eve before the eve) of his 900th Manchester United appearance.
Win! Win! Win! a club shirt of your choice by sending a question (a good one, mind) to You are the Ref, this week starring Steven Pienaar and a cheeky free-kick tactic.
Want your very own copy of our free tea-timely(ish) email sent direct to your inbox? Has your regular copy stopped arriving? Click here to sign up