Sucking the joy back out of the League Cup; and Uefa's FFP

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STOP FOOTBALL? No, after last night the Fiver wants to gorge on great juicy red hunks of it, straight off the bone. Just on the rare side of medium rare if you can manage it. A dash of horseradish. Perhaps a dab of Dijon. A little Gentleman's Relish? Don't mind if we do. Cardiff v Crystal Palace was a sizziling thrill-a-minute romp, succulently soundtracked by 20,000 raucous Welshfolk and a chunky portion of Norwood Junction's finest. A League Cup semi-final, second leg on a windswept January night, soaked in grizzled determination, marinated in passion, pockmarked with desperate defending, caked in guts, sprinkled with quality and rounded off with a nerve-shreddingly inept display of penalty-taking. In short, it was just the sort of game that, while thoroughly satisfying in its own right, piques the appetite for more, more, MORE.

Instead, shuffling guiltily into view, comes this evening's second semi-final second leg, between two teams who, in all fairness, would struggle to find less enthusiasm for a competition should they be asked to enter the world paint-drying and grass-growing spectating duathlon sponsored by the Abject Misery Foundation of Ennuiville, North Dakota. "It won't be easy but we are quietly confident," yawned Manchester City's Adam Johnson, examining a speck of dirt under his fingernail. "We know this is a big game and a tough game," monotoned Steven Gerrard, flicking listlessly from Dave to Challenge TV and back again.

The teams may be bigger, but it's a tie that's very hard to get excited about, the Brad Pitt-featuring Hollywood blockbuster that gets the Oscar plaudits, while Tyrannosaur in south Wales gets overlooked. Still, Kenny Dalglish assures us that, despite the 1-0 first-leg advantage for his side, it won't be a cakewalk for the Reds. "It's not going to be a game that's going to be anything other than really difficult for us," he roared, pouring cold water on any idea that the game might be "slightly tricky", "irritatingly awkward", "a whole big jolly barrel of belly laughs" or "about as pleasant as a chilled porridge enema".

Speaking of which, Carlos Tevez is considering whether to appeal to the Premier League against the disciplinary action that has so far cost him 46.5m 20p pieces. Quite how he would construct a case to win back £6m of loyalty bonuses after going awol in Argentina would be interesting to see.

Follow Manchester City's Fiver-baiting 4-3 win over Liverpool (4-4 on aggregate) in Paul Doyle's Carling Cup semi-final minute-by-minute report from 7.45pm. You can also follow Barcelona 4-1 Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey with Rob Bagchi from 9pm.

And if you're really quick, you could even catch the end of Libya v Zambia in the Africa Cup of Nations, also with Paul Doyle.


"Very much support arsenal-but to be honest Wenger needs to coach another team now and Arsenal needs another Coach for +ve change to happen!!! Otherwise the team and the coach seem to be stuck with each other for no good ....!" – Even the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, reckons it's time for a change at the Emirates Stadium.


The acronym Uefa uses for its financial fair play initiative is FFP but European football's governing body could be forgiven for thinking FFS this morning as it revealed the cumulative losses of about 650 top-flight clubs across the continent stood at £1.33bn in 2010, a 33% increase on the £1bn registered the previous season.

Uefa's general secretary, Gianni Infantini, said the scale of the debts was a "last wake-up call" for a game which, he inferred, had been happily slapping the snooze button for far too long. "This red trend has to be inverted very, very quickly to save European football," he said.

Infantini went on to say that the findings of the club licensing benchmarking report will take on "an increasing significance" with the financial fair play rules starting to be measured from this season and implemented for European competitions in 2013-14. Clubs who overspend in this initial two-year monitoring period can face the sanction of being excluded from Uefa competitions from the 2014-15 season.

Andrea Traverso, the head of the FFP project, once again outlined that the rules allow clubs to make a total loss of £4.2m in the first assessment period, or up to £37m if a wealthy owner makes a one-off donation to wipe out losses. Thirteen clubs it did not name, including several from England, would have failed its break-even tests on their 2010 accounts.

The biggest culprits were among the richest: of the more than 200 clubs playing in the Champions League and Europa League in the monitoring period, 65% outspent their earnings and three out of every four clubs with annual revenues exceeding £42m also recorded a loss.

The knocker-up had done his morning's work but it remains to be seen how many clubs will turn over and go back to sleep.


"After Liverpool's Suarez-gate, and Man City's Balotelli-stamping-on-Parker-gate is it time we started calling tonight's game: El-lacking-in-Clasico?"

"Ben Jones and 1,056 others think that to suggest Wenger has used 27.77 substitutes per match is an affront to the principles of rounding decimals and averages (yesterday's Fiver Letters)? Well far be it from me to tell the Fiver how to do its job (like lewd and large north-west funnyman Bob Mankini does to referees) but it would have been funnier had it been Ben Jones and 1,056.67 others. Or indeed Ben Jones and 1,056.66 others if you wanted to cause affront to the principles of rounding decimals and averages again" - Kevin O'Reilly

"Surely Ben Jones should be using maths to work out Arsenal Wenger's career subs average, rather than its soccerball-following cousin, math. Please don't let the Fiver become the Nickel by stealth" - Simon Stokes (and 1,056.66 others)

Send your letters to And if you've nothing better to do you can also tweet the Fiver.


Recovered from his recent health scare, the former Portugal and Benfica striker Eusebio today celebrated his 70th birthday. "I never thought I would make it to 70," he tootled. "My health is impeccable now. I am happy because I did some exams two weeks ago and my doctor told me that I could even have a glass of wine now and then, as long as I don't abuse it."

Chelsea have told Genk that they need to talk about Kevin (de Bruyne).

While Chelsea were busy doing that, QPR owner Tony Fernandes put out a statement on behalf of both teams asking fans to stay calm at Saturday's derby. "Let's make Saturday's match a celebration of football," he parped.

The future of the Olympic Stadium has been thrown into fresh doubt, as West Ham consider the possibility that if they drag this out long enough the entire world will lose the will to live and they can go right ahead and move in for free.


Which footballers have been idolised by the supporters of a club they never played for? Find out with the Knowledge.

The FA's clampdown on frivolity has denied Mario Balotelli a fair hearing over his alleged stamp on Scott Parker, reckons Paul Wilson.

Jonathan Wilson is even more distressed about Ghana losing John Mensah than he was when the player left Sunderland.


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