Weekend Boxset: In like a lion

A weekend of huge games across Europe, with a couple of the biggest derbies in England, a Cup quarter final from Scotland and yet another Clasico.

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

All times are GMT


Friday



Championship: Leeds United v West Bromwich Albion


19.45 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event


While feelings towards Leeds from most non-Leeds fans are ambivalent at best, it's hard to be unmoved by the sight of Marcelo Bielsa on his haunches, head bowed, alone in the corridor outside his team's dressing room after their midweek 1-0 defeat to QPR. If that image wasn't enough his post match comments proved just as moving: "When you see the glass is half empty you lose optimism and when you see the glass as half-full you lose self criticism. And we need to have coordination between self-criticism and optimism." We've said before in this newsletter that Leeds' eventual return to the Premier League was never going to be a 100+ points steam-rollering of the Championship. A win at QPR would have put them top, as it is they start the weekend in third, with their opponents four points behind. With that gap growing, West Brom can't afford another defeat to a promotion rival in consecutive weekends. That said, there's still a dozen games left in this promotion race and there will be plenty more emotions along the way. GS
 



Saturday



Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal


12.30 on BT Sport 1


At the start of last weekend Spurs were ten points clear of their (not as) local rivals but after two away defeats this week another reverse here would see the gap close to just one point. There's no shame in losing at Stamford Bridge - a tie that has seen passions run high in recent seasons - but it's all too easy to see Keiran Trippier's comical own-goal as a metaphor for their exit from the title race. Arsenal's problems on the road this season made them easy to dismiss as genuine contenders but they can draw strength from good recent performances from Ozil and Mkhitaryan, and the fact they will have plenty of recovery time before their relatively short trip to Rennes on Thursday. While Spurs have a Champions League trip to Dortmund on Tuesday, their 3-0 advantage from the first leg will mean they don't have to hold back here. Spurs haven't drawn a league match all season, but with the title now as good as out of reach, sharing the points here will suit them just fine. GS 
 



Bundesliga: Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich


17.30 on BT Sport 2


The mere fact that ‘Gladbach have been part of the title conversation at all this season is achievement enough. It’s no disgrace that Dieter Hecking’s side has gone off the boil with two defeats and no wins in three. In Allessandra Plea, Thorgan Hazard & Lars Stindl, ‘Gladbach have a fearsome front three and remember this is the team that beat Bayern Munich 3-0 earlier in the season. The champions have since recovered themselves and are three points away from leaders Borussia Dortmund. That said, there are questions being asked about the form of Robert Lewandowski and the squad is coping rather than conquering. The club supremos have been proudly announcing that they’ve made a stack of new signings that they can’t talk about right now. With the big game against Liverpool next week, coach Niko Kovac night feel obliged to rotate which could make this very interesting indeed. TD
 



La Liga Real Madrid v Barcelona


19.45 on Eleven Sports 1 and Premier Sports 1


Champions League draw shenanigans, notwithstanding, this is the final in a quadrilogy of Clasicos. Parts 2 and 3 were made up of the semi-final of the Copa del Rey. The second leg took place in the Bernabeu on Wednesday and it was something of a rout. Barca, inspired by Luis Suarez, Lio Messi & Ousmane Dembélé, ran out 3-0 winners and won the tie 4-1 on aggregate. Real took the second half but despite their obvious quality were unable to find the net. Madrid’s ultra promising forward Vinícius Júnior is going to be a superstar but right now he’s too busy trying to wank the ball in the net. Karim Benzema oozes class but has always been a beta in the Madrid forward line. Gareth Bale has been sent to Coventry. Let’s face it, they’re missing the big man in Turin. It’s going to take something special to overcome this Barca team that can really hum when it wants to and by George, it will want to. TD
 





Sunday



Scottish FA Cup Quarter-Final: Rangers v Aberdeen


13.30 on Premier 1


Rangers 5-0 win over Kilmarnock, while emphatic, has thrown a spotlight on the the dark side of the Glasgow club when Killie boss Steve Clarke was subjected to sectarian abuse by some Rangers fans. Clarke, who was on Rangers’ shortlist of managers in the Summer was called a “Fenian bastard” and the club are under pressure to get tougher on sectarian abuse. No doubt the Premier Sports microphones will be tightly focused on the home fans during this quarter final against a truly Jekyll & Hyde Aberdeen side. Derek McGuinness’ team have only won one game at home in their last 7 (seven) and that was in the last round of the cup against Queen of the South. However, the Dons have won their last 7 (seven) away games, including a 1-0 win at Rangers so hopes will be high for an eighth. If they do prevail then fingers crossed that whenever they draw, they come out of the hat second. TD
 



Premier League: Everton v Liverpool


16.15 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


There's been a general feeling of normal service resuming after Liverpool's dismantling of Watford in the midweek round of fixtures but you still sense they are overdue a commanding performance away from Anfield. Liverpool fans looking at the run-in will see City's fixtures between now and their crunch Easter ties against Spurs and United and assume their title rivals will fail to drop any points. Luckily for them this game is Liverpool's toughest away match of their remaining fixtures with all the other away games being against sides in the bottom half of the table. No matter what form either club are in, this fixture at Goodison has become notoriously hard to win - five out of the last six have been drawn. If Liverpool win well, there's no reason at all they can't hold on to top spot for the remainder of the season. If they win well. GS
 



Serie A: Napoli v Juventus  


19.30 on Premier 1


Cast adrift in the 22 point gap between the runaway leaders Juventus and Inter in third, Napoli are Serie A's only side that comes close to challenging the Old Lady's dominance. They got tantalisingly close last season but failed at the last, stumbling after they'd done the hard work of beating their title rivals on the pitch. With as many points between them as there are games remaining the importance of this game is more an indication of what next season will bring to both sides and the league itself. With an eighth consecutive title almost assured for Juve, Carlo Ancelotti - who sees his challenge as head coach of Napoli more like his time at Milan rather than his time at Bayern or Chelsea - will see this as an opportunity to motivate his side for the next campaign.  A home win will do nothing to stop Juve's procession to yet another scudetto but at least it will mean they don't do so unbeaten. GS
 



Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.



Terry (@terryduffelen) and Graham (@grahamsibley)



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