“This has been an unusual season, with the break for the World Cup adding to a rare sense of unpredictability. This looks to be the most open Champions League in years, with the only side clearly in form, Napoli, never having previously gotten this far in the competition. It’s almost certainly too early to say the presence of three Italian sides in the quarterfinals represents the return of Serie A as a major power, 13 years since the last Italian winner, but that only one Spanish side got through the group is indicative of the financial difficulties La Liga sides are enduring. Wider trends are one thing, the specific ties another. After Friday’s draw, we assess the four quarterfinal ties. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson
Rochdale AFC’s Crown Oil Arena
“In the days when clubs at the bottom of the Football League had to seek re-election, Rochdale often had to rely on their old pals to maintain their status. Since automatic promotion and relegation began, Rochdale have not faced the ignominy of relegation to the National League, but if their present situation does not improve, a club with over 100 years of Football League heritage could find itself playing in the non-league game. Rochdale are currently bottom of League Two and six points from safety and they are five behind 23rd-placed Hartlepool United. There’s nine games to go, five of which are away from home for the ‘The Dale’. …” Game of the People
“Whether Arsenal and their fans are actually disappointed to have exited the Europa League or not, it happened. Of course, Mikel Arteta’s team didn’t lose to Sporting Lisbon in the competition’s round of 16 this week, they drew 3-3 on aggregate. As a result, the tie was decided by that classic invention of the 1970s, the penalty shootout. Shootouts are one of those elements of football where fans might have a reasonable grasp of their team’s record, and can usually recall some infamous moments from elsewhere — John Terry slipping in the rain in Moscow 2008, perhaps — but other than that, it’s a fairly nebulous concept. …” The Athletic
“On February 15, news emerged that prosecutors were investigating payments made by Barcelona to a man who, at the time, was vice-president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee. Just over a month has passed since and Barca have been charged with corruption over their relationship with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who received €7.3million (£6.4m; $7.8m) from the club between 2001 and 2018. Both parties have denied wrongdoing. …” The Athletic
“Paul Mullin is a star courtesy of Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney and a brilliant documentary series that has transported Hollywood to north Wales. The 28-year-old centre-forward’s career had been low-key and he was something of a journeyman-in-waiting. Mullin graduated from Huddersfield Town’s academy but, after a brief spell on loan at sixth-tier Vauxhall Motors aged 20, left without playing a game for their senior side. He was picked up by Morecambe, then moved to Swindon Town, Tranmere Rovers and Cambridge United, where he finally made a name for himself. …” The Athletic (Video)
The 1939 FA Cup semi-final between Grimsby Town and Wolves carries on after the crowd had been on the pitch at Old Trafford.
“It’s hard to know what, in the year 2023, looks more far-fetched. That when Grimsby play Brighton on Sunday they will be attempting to reach the club’s third FA Cup semi-final, not the first; or that the previous runs to the last four, which included wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, had nothing to do with David or Goliath. Grimsby’s semi-final appearances in 1936 and 1939 were highlights of the greatest period in the club’s history. …” Guardian