Weekend Boxset: Rooney and Zlatan, showing how it's done

A mid-winter break of sorts looms in England and everyone is complaining about Cup replays. Surely it can't be because the title race is over and all we have to look forward to is the battle for second place. Speaking of which...

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

All times are GMT


Friday



Championship: Derby County v Stoke City


19.45 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event


Despite their league positions, these are two of the form teams of the Championship right now. Derby have had a great run since Christmas, considering their form before, which made the midweek defeat away to bottom side Luton all the more surprising. The match was goalless at the break but came alive in the second half with Wayne Rooney getting his first goal for the club in typical Rooney style. Luton fought back to take the lead but then came a mad minute and a half for 19 year old Derby full back Jayden Bogle. On 85 minutes he supplied the cross for Chris Martin's equaliser only then to put through his own net to cancel it out. Stoke were bottom of the table at Christmas but now have a healthy five point buffer between themselves and the relegation zone. Michael O'Neill's side are transformed since he took over in November, with players like Tyrese Campbell hitting the best form of his young career. In years past, one might even have entertained thoughts of one of these sides making a miraculous tilt for the play-offs, and while not impossible, it's extremely unlikely - which is just how miracles should be. GS
 



Saturday



A-League: Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory


10.45 on BT Sport 3


This is not a good time to be a Melbourne Victory supporter in the A-League. Australia’s biggest club are 8th in the table with an interim coach, about to face one of the division’s form teams and are playing their 4th game in 11 days, having lost 3-0 at home to bitter rivals Sydney FC. But sandwiched between a Sky Blue shellacking and a trip to Western Australia was an Asian Champions League win against Kashima Antlers. This was Victory’s first ever Champions League win away from home and it’s those type of results that could just prove the impetus for Carlos Salvachua’s charges to turn their season around. Still, it’s a big ask to get some tired legs firing against the Glory, even if Perth did stumble a little in a tepid goalless draw against Melbourne City last week (sorry for tipping that one, Boxset readers). If Victory lose here, finals football will become very remote, so we may be treated to the sight of Robbie Kruse, Andrew Nabbout and Ola Toivonen fully unleashed. That alone will be worth watching. GA
 



Premier League: Leicester City v Chelsea


12.30 on BT Sport 1


I think it’s fair to say that the form of both of these clubs has been decidedly mid-table of late. Leicester may have put four past relegation contenders West Ham but their previous two games saw defeats, at home to Southampton and away to Burnley. Hardly the form of Champions League qualifiers. Despite this, the Foxes sit in third, eight points above today’s visitors, Chelsea. There may be concerns about Jamie Vardy’s fitness, but Iheanacho scored in both cup games and Ayoze Pérez grabbed a brace in the destruction of The Irons.  For Chelsea, today’s fixture comes off the back of a frustrating 2-2 draw at home to a stubborn ten-man Arsenal and an embarrassing away defeat to the (dirty) Mags. Saturday’s FA Cup win at Hull gave most of the first team a rest, so it may be a different Chelsea who line up lunchtime Saturday. Given their form, this one is difficult to predict, but my money is on a draw. JB
 



Bundesliga: RB Leipzig v Borussia Mochengladbach


17.30 on BT Sport 2


“We are not on a par with Bayern or Dortmund,”  said Rasenballsport coach Julian Nagelsmann after their shock defeat to Eintracht last week. After being bigged up by me, a couple of weeks ago, the energy drink concern lost their wings after a lacklustre performance against a below-average Frankfurt team that invoked the ire of their coach and the curse of the Boxset. I suspect his remarks were intended to get a reaction and they will need one to overcome what is still a formidable opponent, despite their recent meagre away record. ‘Gladbach are just two points behind and still in the title race. Striker, Marcus Thuram has gone a bit quiet on the goal front, which is OK because Alassane Plea bagged a brace in his team's home win against struggling Mainz last weekend. The win was capped off by an absolute beaut by Florian Neuhaus. Leipzig are obviously the favorites but they’ll be made to work for their win. TD
 





Sunday



Serie A: Milan v Verona


14.00 on Premier Sports 1


The Rossoneri came bursting into 2020 like 2019 was something that happened to other people. Six games, no losses, five wins and into the next round of the Coppa Italia. And it’s all down to Zlatan who returns to Milan after his conquest of Los Angeles. You could also say that Ante Rebic has played a role after suddenly springing into life with three goals since the start of the year but no no: it’s all down to Zlatan. While a grateful city kneels in gratitude to Malmo’s least favourite son there have been casualties. Krzysztof Piatek signed from Genoa last season has moved to Hertha for a reported €27m. The 24-year-old Polish striker has scored, only 4 goals in 18 league games this campaign after having been super-prolific last season. Verona are pretty decent too and just two points behind their opponents. Atalanta in early December were the last team to beat them and Ivan Juric’s side are dreaming of Europa League nights. Let’s hope they don’t embarrass themselves in front of Zlatan. No one wants to see that. TD
 



Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City


16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event


This is something of a must win for Spurs who can realistically only achieve fourth place, albeit with a good wind behind them. Chelsea sit a lofty six points ahead of today’s hosts in the last Champions League spot but have a challenging set of fixtures ahead of them (see above for one fo them). This will offer Jose some hope of rescuing his side’s season, but they must overcome Pep’s City first. Christian Eriksen left for Italy during the week and was promptly replaced by pacey Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn who will wear the number twenty-three vacated by the Dane. City come into this one unbeaten in five but Spurs will present a much more difficult task than their previous opponents. They will also be tired after a tough League Cup semi-final match against United in which they fielded a very strong side. With Leicester breathing down their necks, City can’t afford to drop points today and may also find themselves frustrated by what will surely be a defensive approach by Jose. JB
 



La Liga: Barcelona v Levante


20.00 on LaLigaTV


For Sky subscribers who have enjoyed Spanish football on their screens again for the last two weekends, the free trial of LaLIgaTV is now over. Those who subscribe to LaLigaTV will be able to enjoy all the matches over the weekend - all bar one, that is. The biggest fixture of the weekend is of course the Madrid derby, unfortunately because of the arcane broadcasting laws football imposes in Britain, subscribers won't be able to see that one live as it kicks off on Saturday at 3pm. The Catalans will be hoping that Atleti can get one over on their city rivals to help them close the three point gap that has opened at the top of the table following Barcelona's 2-0 defeat against Valencia last weekend. Today against the other side from Valencia, they will need a similar performance to the one that saw them beat Leganes 5-0 in the Copa del Rey on Thursday to relieve the pressure on Queque Setien in just his third week in charge. GS
 



Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.



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



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