Weekend Boxset: Hampden awaits

This weekend could see the the first champions crowned amongst the big leagues of Europe. There's also the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

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

All times are BST (GMT+1)


Friday



Bundesliga: Nürnberg v Schalke


19.30 on BT Sport 3


When I saw Nürnberg lose 1-0 at home to Rasenballsport in early March it looked like Der Club was taking relegation with good grace. However, after having beaten Augsburg 3-0 and drawing 1-1 with Stuttgart, this most traditional of traditionsvereine in Germany have not given up yet. Up next is another relegation candidate, Schalke. That’s right, last season’s runners-up are fifth from bottom and just five points from the relegation play-off spot. The great revolution led by Sporting Director Christian Heidel and coach, Domenico Todesco is over with both out of the door. In caretaker charge is Huub Stevens, the architect of the Gelsenkirchen club’s UEFA Cup win in ‘97 (which will forever be in the shadow of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League win the same year). So far, Stevens greatest achievement in his third stint at the club is a steadfast refusal to shake the hand of an ARD interviewer after the 2-0 loss to Bremen in the Cup. Defeat at the Max Morlock Stadion and he may find such courtesies harder to come by. Will Schalke get relegated? No. Should we have fun watching them suffer? Hell, yes! TD
 



Saturday



Scottish FA Cup Semi-final: Hearts v Inverness Caledonian Thistle


12.15 on BBC Scotland / Premier 1


While ICT find themselves in the semi-finals without having had to yet face a Premiership side, they have seen off the two leading sides in the Championship, their main rivals in the race to promotion back to the top flight. Automatic promotion looks beyond them but they are comfortably positioned to take a play-off place, which given their run in this competition they can go into with confidence. Having secured their place amongst the top sides for the Premiership clausura, Hearts have taken their foot of the gas a little in recent weeks, losing three of their last four. For both sides this is only their second semi-final in the past decade and on those previous occasions they went on to lift the Cup - Hearts in 2012, ICT in 2015. GS
 



Championship: Leeds United v Sheffield Wednesday


17.30 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event


Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa’s standing is such that he is now getting memed by Game of Thrones actors. Among his other achievements since arriving has been his part in the revival of Patrick Bamford. After missing 21 games this season with two knee injuries, the former England youth international has still managed to squeeze off nine goals in 19 appearances. Two of which came in his team’s vital win at Preston on Tuesday to put them back into the top two. Their biggest rivals for second place are Sheffield United who couldn’t overcome a stubborn Birmingham side on Wednesday and regain second place. It is the other Sheffield club that stand in Marcelo Bielsa’s way this weekend. The Wednesday lost their first game since Steve Bruce took over as boss in February and that was last Saturday at home to the Villa. They bounced back against Forest on Tuesday and are in fine fettle. They may have to do without Barry Bannan who missed the Forest game with a hamstring injury. The Scottish midfielder has been a key component of the team’s revival under Bruce. TD
 



La Liga: Sevilla v Real Betis


19.45 on Eleven Sports 1 / Premier 1


The derby of Seville has featured some razor sharp finishing in recent fixtures. Before Betis 1-0 home win in September they were victorious at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán by 5 goals to 3 and prior to that we were treated with a 2-2 draw. I've mentioned in previous newsletters that Betis lack the swashbuckle from last season that was both captivating and suicidal. However, despite their mediocre position in ninth pace, Quique Setién’s team have a good chance of returning to the Europa League, next season. Meanwhile, fifth placed Sevilla have a chance of another season in the Champions League come September if they can overhaul Getafe in fourth. So there is more that just bragging rights at stake. However, nether set of players require more motivation than the glory of winning a derby that has been fiercely contested since 1928. TD
 





Sunday



Scottish FA Cup Semi-final: Aberdeen v Celtic


14.00 on Premier 1


Having taken over from the departing Brendan Rodgers at the end of February, until the end of the season at least, Neil Lennon has kept Celtic on track for another domestic treble. The first points he dropped on his return to the club were in a goalless draw against today's opponents at Parkhead last month. Despite Celtic dominating possession in that game Derek McInnis's side restricted the home side's chances to earn their point. If this game is just as cagey you might miss the start of the next match if you stick around for the penalties. It took a shoot-out  that went to five rounds of sudden death when these sides met in the 1990 final after it finished 0-0. That was the last time Aberdeen won the Cup and it denied Celtic the chance of winning the trophy for three consecutive seasons, one record that still eludes the great side but having won in 2017 and 2018 they can take another step closer here to filling that particular blank. The last team to win three Cups in a row? Aberdeen, under Alex Ferguson in the early 1980s. GS
 



Premier League: Liverpool v Chelsea


16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


Two landmarks in human endeavour have emerged over the past week: the capturing of an image of a 40 billion kilometer wide black hole, 55 million light years away from Earth, and the goal Eden Hazard scored against West Ham. In the deep recesses of Prof. Brian Cox’s mind there no doubt lives an equation that can explain quite how the tricky Belgian managed to bend and distort the fabric of spacetime to score ‘that goal’. I doubt many of us will be able to grasp it, much like that massive hole in the sky. This week, Chelsea will take their starlet to Anfield in the hope that he can inspire a victory against the league leaders, Liverpool. The visitors will be full of confidence as they ride on a wave of three straight wins, but they face a home side in such fine form, it will take something cosmic to knock them off their current trajectory. The goals are coming from all corners of this Liverpool side, and while Chelsea have been impressive against Cardiff, Brighton and West Ham of late, the reds have been imperious against Bayern, Tottenham and Porto. The stakes are high in this one: a step towards the title for Liverpool and Champions League qualification for the Chelsea. JB
 



Ligue 1: Lille v Paris Saint Germain


20.00 on BT Sport 1


With Juventus likely to lift the Scudetto on Saturday, PSG won't be the first of the champions of the Big Five leagues, but sealing it at the home of their nearest challengers should prove satisfying enough for the Qatari-owned supergiants. The big story in this match though is the return of Lille, who look to be back to near their best. After a disastrous (though thankfully brief) period under the aforementioned Marcelo Bielsa, Lille managed to escape the relegation play-off last season by just one point. Monaco fans will be hoping for a similar recovery themselves next campaign. As is common amongst the chasing pack in France, it will be hard for Lille to maintain any kind of challenge next season as it looks like they will be without top scorer, Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian has supposedly caught Bayern's attention so much they are willing to part with €80 million for his services, eclipsing rivals bids from Arsenal and United. GS
 



Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.



Terry (@terryduffelen), Graham (@grahamsibley) and Jan (@janbilton)



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