THAT RIVIERA OUCH?
When the referees and VAR operatives of Uefa betrayed their brazen anti-Tottenham agenda by correctly ruling out Harry Kane’s late qualification-clinching winner against Sporting, the matchday six showdown in Marseille suddenly assumed epic proportions. Spurs currently sit atop Group D, but it’s tight, and they need a point on the French Riviera if they’re to make it through to the knockout stage. Only problem being, they don’t have a good record in France, where they’ve never won a competitive fixture, so if history is any guide, and if being Spurs is any guide, this one on Tuesday evening is going right down to the wire.
Antonio Conte’s in-no-way-disproportionate reaction to the outrageously accurate chalking off of Kane’s goal means the Spurs boss is banished to the stands for the entire duration of this game. He’ll not be able to talk to his team in the dressing room beforehand, or during the half-time break. Indeed, unless Tottenham have managed to train his lid to surreptitiously scamper up and down stairs carrying notes, Conte will have no influence whatsoever on the match. “He is a very good coach and a massive part of the team but thankfully he has very good staff,” cheered Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, neatly bodyswerving the elephant in the room that argues, given Conte’s managerial record in Big Cup, his enforced absence could actually prove beneficial.
Spurs were dealt a further blow overnight at 1.30am, and then again at 4.30am, when two “very prolonged” firework displays were put on outside their team hotel. As noisy as they were pretty, the whizzes, whees and bangs reportedly woke up several of the players, who are now all knackered and cranky, albeit armed with a half-decent excuse should it all go n1pples up. Sub-optimal preparation – and that’s before we get to the fact Marseille have four former Gunners in their squad in Alexis Sánchez, Mattéo Guendouzi, Nuno Tavares and Sead Kolasinac. Yes, it almost writes itself, doesn’t it.
So then. Qualification dramatically snatched away by VAR … a banned manager … some hotel-based misery … several Arsenal-minded agents of doom … it’s all been set up, in so many different ways, for another farcical denouement of the kind only Tottenham seem to suffer. Oh dear. But please do bear in mind that The Fiver has form for talking through our hat. Tottenham fans can therefore thank us for tempting fate should their team somehow avoid the heartbreak that, if history is any guide, and if being Spurs is any guide, appears from this vantage point inevitable.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Daniel Harris is on deck for all of the evening’s Big Cup action at 8pm GMT, while Scott Murray will also have bespoke Marseille 2-2 Tottenham MBM updates.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“She would always tell the class, ‘Don’t be afraid of the English language, children. It won’t break. You have to stretch it’” – in a red-hot chat with Tom Kludt, geordie commentator Ray Hudson reveals how his old English teacher helped him become a “verbal gymnast” at the mic and explains his long trip to the USA! USA!! USA!!!
“I’m someone that is deeply in love with football, so much so that I even measure life events/references/history in World Cup years (yes you read that right). I particularly look forward to every World Cup with a lot of passion and devotion, from collecting every bit of printable material/calendar I can find, and watching every game possible. With that said, and with a heavy heart, I’m opting out of this World Cup entirely, because I simply cannot fathom how far the corruption and human rights abuses have taken hold of our beloved game. I realise this is an unorthodox decision, and am pondering how much me boycotting the World Cup will even matter, but I simply refuse to contribute to the Qatari and Fifa propaganda machine. I deeply applaud your efforts to continuously highlight the issues with this World Cup” – Shpetim Karandrea.
“I agree with the sentiments expressed, but there’s no need to take a Human Rights World Cup-induced complete break from football. Leagues One and Two, and non-league play on throughout November and December. And it’s round two of the FA Cup on 26 November too” – Tim Stephens.
“As a Port Talbot expat Cymruman, I was shocked to learn that 1958 was 74 years ago (yesterday’s Fiver). Apparently, I was a 10-year-old student at London University. No wonder I got terrible marks – I couldn’t even drown my sorrows with adult beverages or seek solace in the company of an adult girlfriend” – Keith Harries (and 1,056 others).
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winners of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Shpetim Karandrea.