Everyone loves a good bit of drama in football, which is why pre-season friendlies can be a bit of a chore.
With nothing at stake, where’s the drama? Well, trust in football to always add a bit of needle to any situation, even pre-season! And what better than when things get physical? A good scrap and/or scuffle is always fun, and no one really gets hurt do they?
With most of the friendlies out of the way we can now look back at six pre-season scraps you may have missed.
Tottenham vs Sevilla
We start with the Premier League’s best goon squad: Spurs. In a pre-season friendly with Sevilla, Son Heung-min stuck an elbow out to ward off a challenge from Gonzalo Montiel. This didn’t work, and Son’s elbow smashed Montiel in the face and bust his lip open.
Once he had been cleaned up, Montiel went to have words with Son, who shoved the Argentinian. Before Montiel could react, Cristian Romero and new goon-in-chief Richarlison were straight in there as a buffer. This brought Papu Gomez over, and though his shove did nothing, suddenly everyone was swarming and we had a full of scuffle with Richarlison agitating at the core.
This was a classic of the genre, with lots of gesturing and shoving and players having to be dragged away while noted hotheads (in his case Erik Lamela and later even Romero) went around being peacekeepers.
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Jack Grealish vs Guillermo Ochoa
Jack Grealish is a combustible chap and so when Jorge Sanchez took him down for what the former assumed would be a penalty but wasn’t, you can understand why he was angry.
Legendary curly-haired custodian Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa tried to help Grealish to his feet, but the Englishman was in no mood and threw the arm off. Ochoa gave Grealish a little shove and that was it. Grealish shoved Memo, Memo shoved Grealish, and then Ochoa’s team-mates swarmed in to protect their goalkeeper and hold the furious Grealish at bay.
Only Julian Alvarez was quick to arrive on the scene to help Grealish out, but in the end the amount of bodies between both men prevented this from developing into anything more than rage and shoves.
Scott McTominay vs Atlético Madrid
Scott McTominay is basically like Marv from Sin City: born into the wrong era. He’d have been a legend in the 1980s, beating opponents up as an old-school “enforcer” type. He’s probably Vinnie Jones’ favourite player.
Anyway, against the historically chilled out Atlético Madrid, McTominay challenged Jan Oblak in the air and flattened him. It was a fair tackle but Oblak didn’t think so and kicked out at the Scot. Never one to back down, McTominay stood his ground as Atleti players swarmed and shoved him while United players surged in to back their man.
We ended up with a massive scrum of players jostling by the goalpost that eventually broke apart, but McTominay and Atleti’s own enforcer Geoffrey Kondogbia still wanted more. They were kept apart though, and the ref booked McTominay and Oblak, closing the matter.
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Barcelona vs Real Madrid is one of the biggest games in football, and no stranger to scraps and scuffles. This pre-season the Blaugrana were dominating Los Blancos but when Vinicius Jr. escaped Ronald Araujo’s pocket for once, his run caused panic in the Barca back-line and he was hacked down by Jordi Alba.
Obviously there were confrontations, but when Rodrygo shoved Busquets then ran away, that sparked it off. Busquets went for the youngster, but was held back by Eden Hazard (remember him?) and Vinicius himself.
Then everyone poured in, including the heavyweight agitator Antonio Rudiger who was instantly removed and held at bay by Barcelona’s powerhouse Araujo, preventing the scuffle from turning into a proper fight.
Busquets and Vinicius then made up, Eder Militao hurt himself somehow, Rodrygo avoided any comeuppance and the game went on.
Matteo Guendouzi vs Joaquin
Matteo Guendouzi is a legendary wind-up merchant in addition to being a good footballer. So while Marseille were playing Real Betis he had been in the ear of iconic winger Joaquin all game, winding him up.
So when Joaquin set-up a late Betis equaliser, he went over to give Guendouzi some back. Well the youngster didn’t like that and after Andres Guardado pulled his hair, he lost his temper and a scuffle broke out.
As always there were enough peacemakers to stop any real violence, but we saw an endless parade of Betis players looking to stick up for Joaquin by picking a fight with Guendouzi until the ref just blew the final whistle.
The Battle of Benidorm
Sometimes we’re really spoiled to a match full of multiple scuffles. When Wolves played Levante in Benidorm, we got such a game. A heavy challenge angered Yerson Mosquera and he and a huge scrap broke out between both sides, a kind of moving melee, at the end of which Mosquera and Enis Bardhi were sent off. And after a few more attempts to fight, they finally left the field.
Then just before half-time Daniel Podence was hacked down and reacted with sheer aggression. A second big brawl! Again they had to be separated and the referee was clearly not in the mood for this nonsense issuing two more reds: to Podence and Roger Marti.
Perhaps the most bizarre part of the night though was that the referee allowed the second-half to restart as an 11 vs 11 match with a warning that any more violence would lead to a cancellation. As per that threat, there were no more reds and Levante won 2-1.