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The Toe Poke

Stay away from that trapdoor

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Planet Ollywood

Up and down the land neutrals wail and cry at the thought of Ian Holloway's award-winning banter having to squirm and squelch for column inches in the Championship. If the league was decided on quality of quips alone, Olly would be conducting his own title party while Fergie would be contemplating life in the lower reaches of the Conference North.

Blackpool's departure was as gloriously frantic as their arrival, the lunching equivalent of settling down for a picnic in an enclosure filled with horny bulls. The Tangerines smeared more goal pie over keepers' faces than any of the bottom eight in the league and yet they are forced to bid us a teary farewell, destined never to return. Like all good affairs it was brief, intense and passionate, and ended before our strings became dangerously well attached.

At one stage it looked like they might achieve the impossible, but Ian Evatt put paid to that fairytale notion with the kind of kamikaze defending we've come to know and cherish this campaign. Like the illuminations that adorn the seafront in their town, Blackpool lit up the Premier League for a while, until someone realised all the bulbs had been bought on the cheap from a second-hand car salesman and were about to burst into flames.

Olly's afforded us gem after gem this season and even in the grip of despair he managed to offer up some abuse towards the plump lass with a microphone who signalled the end of their glorious Premier League adventure: "The fat lady has finished singing and I do not like the tune." Fare thee well Blackpool, you shall be missed.

I guess that's why they call it the Blues

Has there ever been a more popular descent through the trapdoor than Birmingham's? They may have been lauded by all and sundry for sparking Arsenal's mid-season meltdown, but their relegation was toasted by not one but three sets of local rivals, as well as a small, distraught contingent in north London who are only now emerging from behind the sofa. Mind you, I'll wager Blues will probably be in Europe longer than the Gunners next season.

What should have been Birmingham's finest ever campaign ended in disaster, a potential financial catastrophe worse than Ireland's and inevitably, the loss of some jobs. First on my list would be the lad they employed to listen to the radio and inform the bench accordingly. He dropped a gonad upon news of Wolves' second goal, allowing Blues to play with one up front for a full five minutes before they realised they needed a winner.

At least it was McLeish in charge and not 'Arry, who was so paralysed with fear at the prospect of starting his Europa League campaign in a few hours' time he politely enquired what Big Eck was doing sending Roger Johnson up front. To be fair, he wasn't the only one who lost his marbles during the confusing 'goals scored' climax - even Stephen Hawking would have struggled to keep up, which, in the end, Birmingham couldn't.

On a Wigan a prayer

The biggest winners on Salvation Sunday were Wigan Athletic. If their first two games of the season confirmed them as relegation fodder, when they shipped ten goals losing to Blackpool and Chelsea, Roberto Martinez chose a fine time to eke out their first back-to-back wins of the campaign as Stoke were vanquished and they secured their seventh season in the top flight. No wonder Dave Whelan looked like he'd popped about 12 Viagra's during the post-match celebrations.

Down the road at Wolves, Mick McCarthy's men looked like they'd been dodging traffic on the M6 all morning, given their horribly nervous start. Blackburn did what their owners do to poultry, and took Wanderers apart bit by bit. But rather than get his swear dictionary out at half time Mick cajoled and caressed, rubbed and massaged, and somehow preserved Premier League status for another year.

The joy of redemption clearly went to Mick's head, as he allowed himself to be doused in champagne by a gleeful George Elokobi during a post-match interview. "If it was anyone but Elokobi, I'd do 'em," grumbled Mick, who then even lifted the defender's shirt and offered him a compliment on his washboard stomach. Do not adjust your sets, for normal service will resume shortly.

That's yer Ancelotti

Has Avram Grant's unceremonious dumping in a drafty corridor at Wigan started a new Premier League trend to axe managers the instant that games are over? What's next, irate chairman marching onto the touchline when the board goes up for injury time and brandishing a manager's P45 with the help of two buglers and a despatch rider to help cart him into the wilderness? You could argue Avram deserved his immediate bump off given his startling ineptitude this season, but surely not Carlo and his delectable, twitchy eyebrow.

Whenever I see Roman Abramovich at a game he looks like a grinning simpleton on day release, not a man worth more money than Portugal, but by crikey is the man ruthless. Not content with a Double last season, Carlo has been cut loose like a murderous pirate discovered knee deep in the family jewels aboard the QE2. My guess is that he is an unhinged fan of The Apprentice, given how fond he is of chucking out the "you're fired" line usually reserved for Donald Trump and Alan Sugar. Still, I'm sure Carlo's infamous eyebrow will flicker into life again when he learns his compensation package is over £6 million.

So, who can sate Roman's insatiable appetite for the Champions League? Claudio Ranieri was the first to be given the finger, Jose Mourinho matched Roman in the ego stakes but he was made to walk the plank and Scolari lasted about five minutes. Ironically, the person who took him closest to the Holy Grail was Avram and he's now a free agent. Anyone else smell a job swap?

Michael Owen is a dodgy dossier

A final, long celebration for champions Manchester United, who had cause to rejoice on twin fronts as they lifted the Premier League trophy and finally freed themselves of two of the Premier League's most expensive hanger-oners, Michaels Owen and Hargreaves.

While Sir Alex gave his headmaster's speech with floppy head prefect Edwin Van der Sar, little Michael could be seen tippexing his famous dodgy dossier of achievements, adding his academic fourth goal in the 'vital strikes that prove I've still got it' column and adding a new front cover, his face superimposed on Nemanja Vidic's body, trophy aloft. Enjoy life as Twitter cheerleader at Norwich, Michael.

Meanwhile, poor Owen Hargreaves looks ready-made for charitable Newcastle United, who happily hired a crocked Stephen Ireland after all.

It's lucky Edwin played for so many years because he won't make any corn as an after dinner speaker. Old Trafford in the glow of league title number 19 is the definition of an easy crowd, but Edwin's mournful monotone nearly scuppered the whole party, despite trotting out the usual 'best club in the world' line and 'it will always have a warm place in my trousers' ... I mean heart.

So, it's on to the Champions League final at Wembley, with the little pea, floppy Edwin and the world's best player Park Ji-Sung to see if all this hyperbole can actually topple Barcelona. The five words that best sum it up for me? 'Andres Iniesta versus Darren Fletcher'.

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