The Fiver | Atlético, Chelsea and cramming square pegs into a variety of holes

By on February 23, 2021


The Fiver didn’t get where it is today by stealing catchphrases from characters in 1970s sitcoms about a man named Reginald Perrin who fakes his own death out of boredom. No, The Fiver got where it is today by showing a willingness to improvise and adapt in a bid to overcome adversity, much like Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid. While the Argentinian’s pitch-side attire remains as Johnny Cash as ever, he has in the past year completely changed his team’s approach to the game. Whether it’s changing his formation or slotting assorted square pegs into round, triangular or hexagonal holes, the man once renowned for the rigidity of his thinking about how the game should be played has surprised many with his flexibility in the face of necessity.

It is an approach that has worked to great effect for Atléti, who currently lead the Spanish title race by three points from bitter city rivals Real Madrid and face Chelsea in Big Cup on Tuesday night. For reasons not entirely unrelated to the fact The Fiver hasn’t been allowed to set foot in its local drinker for almost four months, this match is not being played in Madrid, but Bucharest instead. Or is it Budapest? Well, it’s definitely one of them and The Fiver can only hope whoever made the travel arrangements for each team was more inclined to check than we are.

“Chelsea have changed a lot under Thomas Tuchel, who pushes teams to play well,” cooed Simeone, a man who is not adverse to pushing, pulling, screaming at and gesticulating furiously in the direction of his own players if he thinks they’re not delivering the goods. “They are a powerful team with great players and they have made a good financial investment. Their attackers could play in any team in Europe.”

While that may be the case, several of Chelsea’s attackers can struggle to get a game in their own team and all eyes will be on their teamsheet an hour before kick-off to see if Callum Hudson-Odoi is selected and whereabouts Tuchel elects to play him. Taken off not too long after being brought on as a substitute wing-back at Southampton on Saturday, this very public indignity appears to have outraged some pundits and hacks far more than the actual player it was visited upon, and Tuchel has hinted Hudson-Odoi may well feature. Whether he starts or comes off the bench before possibly going back to the bench remains to be seen, but will at least provide a mildly intriguing warm-up to an already mouthwatering main event.


Join Ben Fisher for hot MBM coverage of Leeds 2-1 Southampton in the Premier League from 6pm GMT, before a Big Cup double-header at 8pm of Atlético Madrid 2-1 Chelsea and Lazio 0-2 Bayern Munich.


“I want to know which coach has always had blue sky and never cloudy or a bit dark. Perhaps only a coach who is always at a dominant club in a league. It shows how beautiful my career has been. Does it make me depressed? No. It’s a challenge. I work for the club, the players and the supporters. I always feel I have to give them so much. It hurts me and it’s a great challenge for me and I believe I can give it” – José Mourinho waxes lyrical on the troubles at Spurs.


In which David Squires gets down with the kidz.

Wack indeed. Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian


Fun and games in Central America dept: to Guatemala!