Weekend Boxset: Bragging rights



Seven great matches to take you from Friday to Sunday. It's the Sound of Football Weekend Boxset.

All times are GMT


Friday



Ligue 1: St Étienne v Marseille


19.45 on BT Sport ESPN


This fixture is as French as Alain Delon, sat in a Citroen DS, offering Catherine Deneuve a Gitanes. While the nouveau riche PSG have won almost everything in France in the last five years, these two sides are the traditional powers of the French game, with St Etienne still leading the all-time table of league title wins with 10. The glory days of the team from the Loire were the sixties and seventies but they have become decidedly average since that time with just a solitary Coupe de Ligue win providing their only silverware since the early eighties. Second in Ligue 1, Marseille are great fun to watch at the moment with excellent attacking players like Florian Thauvin (who Bayern are considering as a replacement to Franck Ribery) and of course Dimitri Payet, who spent four seasons at St Etienne and has played more games for them than any of his other clubs. Mid-table St Etienne have strengthened defensively in the transfer window with the addition of Neven Subotic from Dortmund and Mathieu Debuchy from Arsenal - who scored in a debut win against Amiens. This game will provide the new boys with a much sterner test. 
 



Saturday



Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal


12.30 on BT Sport 1


Within the space of a few days in July 2013, Henrikh Mkhitarian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both joined Borussia Dortmund and went on to play three seasons together, contributing 77 goals and 44 assists in the Bundesliga. Their excellent performances in their home debut against Everton last weekend will have done a lot to calm concerns at Arsenal after a January that saw Alexis Sanchez leave and away defeats to Swansea and Bournemouth. While Arsenal's away form in the league could be described as average at best, one place that holds few fears for them is Wembley. The Gunners are on a run of nine games unbeaten at Wembley stretching back across their three recent FA Cup triumphs; however despite pre-season concerns about settling in to the national stadium, Spurs themselves are on a run of twelve without defeat there following the midweek FA Cup replay win over Newport. Both sides have key European fixtures next week with Spurs facing Juventus in Turin on Tuesday, while on Thursday in the Europa League, Arsenal are away to Ostersunds (63.2°N) and will be pleased to have an extra two days recovery from this crunch match.
 



La Liga: Leganes v Eibar


17.30 on Sky Sports Football


Two clubs with very real ambitions of snatching a Europa League place this season. Both clubs are tiny and seriously punching above their weight: between them they have just four full seasons of top flight football and if you combined the capacities of their home grounds it would total less than 20,000.  Leganes lost ground in the table last week with a goalless draw against Getafe in the South Madrid Derby (yes, there is such a thing) but have a game in hand over all their mid-table rivals (though to be fair, that game is against the most famous of sides from Madrid). Eibar sit just one place behind Sevilla who they trounced 5-1 last weekend. An impressive result even taking into account that Sevilla had rotated their squad in preparation for their midweek Copa del Rey semi final win against Leganes. There are plenty twists left in the mid-table of La Liga this season, this match could provide one of them.
 



Serie A: Napoli v Lazio


19.45 on BT Sport 2


Two defeats in a row has effectively ended Lazio's faint hopes of challenging for the title this season and reduced matters in Italy to a two horse race. Napoli still resolutely hold on to top spot by a solitary point but the gap between Juventus and Lazio in 3rd is now a yawning 13 points. While the title may be beyond Lazio's reach they will still have to work hard to hold on to a Champions League spot with Inter and Roma both still well in the chase. Napoli could be without top scorer Dries Mertens who went off late in their 2-0 win at Benevento last week with an ankle injury. While it's not thought to be that serious he may sit the game out to make certain he's fully recovered for their home Europa League tie against RB Leipzig - one of the most intriguing fixtures of the round. Lazio also play on Thursday travelling to Romania to play Steaua Bucharest.
 




Don't forget to download this week's Sound Of Football Podcast. The contentious incidents at the climax of this weekend's fixture between Liverpool and Spurs highlighted again the problems involved when the laws of the game, or their interpretation, differ from how players, coaches and fans expect them to work. This week Graham, Terry and Jan discuss the controversy surrounding the incidents in the match and the furore in the press conferences and social media that followed.

Never miss a podcast by subscribing via iTunes or through your podcatcher of choice.
 



Sunday



Championship: Aston Villa v Birmingham City


12.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event


If Saturday's action at Wembley whetted your appetite for fractious lunchtime local derbies you're in luck because here's another one. Few people will understand the importance of this fixture more than Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce having led his Birmingham City side to their only two wins at Villa Park in the last 30 years. Bruce got Birmingham promoted to the Premier League twice in his six year stint as manager, and is well placed to get Villa back to the top flight having reduced Derby's hold on second place to just one point. The reverse fixture in October was Steve Cotterill's first game in charge of Birmingham after stepping up from assistant manager following Harry Redknapp's sacking. Birmingham are in far better shape than they were then and are slowly climbing out of trouble. That game in October ended 0-0 and if other recent meetings between these sides can be used as a guide, this game should also be low scoring. 
 



Scottish FA Cup 5th round: Ayr United v Rangers


14.30 on Sky Sports Football


Quarter finalists last season, Ayr are the only Scottish League One side in the last 16. The Honest Men survived a scare in their second round match against Banks O'Dee when they were 2-1 down after 25 minutes having conceded two penalties. They went on to win 6-2, and had another comfortable victory in the next round against division rivals Arbroath. While another quarter final place would prove money-spinning for the club, Ayr fans will be all too aware that both times they've made it that far in the competition in recent seasons they've also been relegated. Relegation isn't an issue this season but promotion certainly is and closing the gap between themselves and the leaders Raith Rovers might be more of a priority. For Rangers, the Cup offers their last realistic chance of silverware this season, though with the leading Premiership sides having avoided each other in this round's draw, further progress could prove tricky. 
 



Premier League: Southampton v Liverpool


16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


One can only think the fixture computer was have a joke with Liverpool when it decided they should go to their favourite shop just days after the transfer window slammed shut. Liverpool could start with six former Saints  - Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Van Dijk, Clyne, Lallana and Lovren - though in reality two of those will probably start on the bench and Clyne is still out with a back injury. Both sides can feel aggrieved about decisions that haven't gone their way in recent games, as a result, a lot of attention will be focused on the referee and this time it's Martin Atkinson. The good news for Liverpool is that he's only awarded one penalty all season, the bad news is only Craig Pawson gets his red card out more regularly.
 



Whatever you watch, have a great weekend



Graham (@grahamsibley)



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