Weekend Boxset: Finally, the European finals



This weekend, season 2019/20 finally draws to a close (for the men's game at least) with the finals of the Champions League and the Europa League. Around the world, season 2020/21 is beginning and you can watch it from the comfort of your home.

Seven great matches to take you from Friday to Sunday. It's the first Sound of Football Weekend Boxset of 2020/21.

All times are BST

Friday

UEFA Europa League Final: Sevilla v Inter
20.00 on BT Sport 1
Here we are again, Sevilla in a Europa League Final, a trophy they've won five times since 2006. Inter themselves had a period of dominance in the competition's predecessor, the UEFA Cup, during the 90s but neither they or any other Italian side has made this final in this century. Indeed, since winning the Champions League in 2010 Inter have failed to get past the round of sixteen in either competition. Despite recent Europa League success, Sevilla will be the underdogs against Antonia Conte's ex-Premier League all-stars. Romelu Lukaku will be looking to add to his 33 goals - a career best - while Ashley Young will start having missed United's 2017 final through injury. For Sevilla boss, Julien Lopetegui, it's been a roller-coaster couple of years since he was sacked as Spain manager on the eve of the 2018 World Cup for announcing that he was to take over at Real Madrid. His brief time at Real proved disastrous but he has been given the chance to rebuild his career at Sevilla. Easily securing Champions League football for next season, his side are on an impressive run of 17 games unbeaten. If you can only watch one of the finals this weekend, you wouldn't do badly by making it this one. GS

Saturday

Scottish Premiership: Dundee United v Celtic
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
The Champions return to league action after having postponed their last two games. Celtic defender Boli Bolingol took a trip to Spain without telling his club. Upon his return he played in his team’s 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock, breaking quarantine rules and endangering the health of his fellow professionals. Then when it was revealed that eight Aberdeen players broke the rules by going for a night out after a game, the Scottish government threatened to shut down the league and insisted that both clubs delay their next two games, the second being against each other. Two of those Aberdeen players tested positive for Covid-19. With just four points Neil Lennon’s team are now playing catch-up. Moreover they had a midweek Champions League trip to Reykjavik, which they won 6-0, from which to recover. United have seven points and notched wins against Motherwell and a decent Ross County side. However, you would still think that a motivated Celtic side anxious to make up for lost time will be no match for them. TD

UEFA Women's Champions League Quarter Final: Arsenal v PSG
19.00 on BT Sport 1
As the men's competition draws to a close, the women's Champions League begins its final stages in the Basque cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian. This is Arsenal's first Champions League run since 2014 but they remain the only English side to reach the final, winning the competition back in 2007 when it was still the UEFA Women's Cup - Strictly's Alex Scott with the only goal across two legs against Swedish side Umea. PSG have made the final twice but have never won. With Christiane Endler, PSG have arguably the best goalkeeper in women's football right now. Endler shot to fame last summer with a series of heroic displays for Chile in the World Cup, including a Player of the Match performance in a 3-0 defeat to the USA. The winners of this tie will face the winners of Lyon v Bayern, which kicks off at the same time and will be won by Lyon. They always win everything. Perhaps the side Lyon will fear most is PSG. While they invariably come out on top, recent encounters have been extremely close. The recent French Cup Final being an excellent example, having to be decided on penalties. GS

MLS: Los Angeles v LA Galaxy
23.00 on Sky Sports Football
In the new normal, the MLS Is Back! tournament was a success: 51 games played inside the bubble of Disneyworld without a single infection being recorded. With similar success for the NWSL, the bubble model has also worked for the NBA and NHL. One sport that didn't follow that model was baseball, which chose to stick to travelling to empty stadiums, resulting in players becoming infected and matches being cancelled. With 2000 deaths being recorded in August in California alone, you'd be forgiven for wondering why MLS has chosen to leave its protective bubble and get back on to buses and planes to play matches. The season picks up where it left off five games in but has been shortened to just 18 more games, which will be regionalised to reduce travel. In a country the size of the USA, reduced travel is still extensive with both LA sides having to make +2000 mile round trips to Seattle and Portland. In football terms, its also bad news for Galaxy who, having failed to win any of their first five, now have to face some of the strongest teams in the competition. It's not all bad news for out-going LAFC club President Tom Penn. Having steered the the club to success he's now leaving for a new venture - providing PPE for MLS and other leagues. Every cloud, eh. GS

Sunday

J1 League: Nagoya Grampus v Kawasaki Frontale
10.00 on FreeSports
Traditionally a summer league, the J1 season was just one game in when sport locked down in Japan in February. For Kawasaki, the 2017 and 2018 champions, their 0-0 against lowly Sagan Tosu was a disappointing start to the season but they have been rampant since the restart winning ten games on the spin and scoring 34 goals. Nagoya, a side more used to sitting in the bottom half of the table, are enjoying a good restart as well; they sit fourth with a game in hand after their recent match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima was postponed after two of their players tested positive for Covid-19. A recent meeting between the sides in the J-League Cup ended 2-2, Kawasaki equalising twice through Kaoru Mitoma - a 23 year old midfielder breaking through during lockdown. Having never scored for the club, he's scored eight since the restart at a rate of one goal every 45 minutes on the pitch. But can he do it when they let more than 5000 fans back in? GS

Ligue 1: Monaco v Reims
12.00 on BT Sport 1
The French League was the only one of the top five leagues in Europe not to complete its season. Final places were decided on points per game, which was good news for Reims, who were the only side that hadn't faced either PSG or Marseille at home. The calculations meant they pipped Lyon to a Europa League spot by the finest of margins. Once the giants of French football, Reims appeared in two early European Cup finals but this will be their first European campaign since 1963. Though coming from the Champagne region, don't expect champagne football from Reims: their success last season was based on the meanest defence in the league but they were also amongst the lowest scorers. Thankfully for this game, the opposite was true of Monaco, so we should be in for an intriguing match. The principality of Monaco has managed Covid-19 pretty well for such a tightly packed community: the last recorded a death being in April. Although independent of France, they are following French guidelines of a limit of 5000 fans within the stadium - something Stade Louis II has already tested, hosting the Monaco Diamond League athletics event last weekend. Do you remember back in November when Bayern lost 5-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt? It was Niko Kovac's last game in charge of the perennial Bundesliga champions. He's now in charge at Monaco, until they decide to give the job back to Leonardo Jardim again - which given their recent track record of hiring and firing, won't be long. Bayern, of course, went on to better things... GS

UEFA Champions League Final: PSG v Bayern
20.00 on BT Sport 1
The Champions League holds its first ever Sportswashing Final and it’s a Qatar derby to boot. PSG are proudly owned by Qatar Sports Investments and have risen to become one of the best teams in Europe. Bayern, unlike their nouveau riche opponents, are very much a traditional club with a pedigree of success at this level. Coincidentally, the Bavarian giants also benefit from Qatar via a five year sponsorship deal from the state owned Qatar Airways. Also, according to Arab News Bayern “... is also linked to Qatar though Volkswagen subsidiary Audi, which has an 8.33% stake in the club. Qatar Holding LLC holds 14.6% of the shares in Volkswagen.” Bayern ultra groups are campaigning for the club to end their relationship with Qatar in view of reports of human rights abuses and the condition of their migrant labour force. Human rights organisation Fair/Square Projects state that as many as 3000 workers have died in the construction of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. There is also the matter of its laws against homosexuals and other religions plus the imprisonment of Qataris who speak out against the regime and treatment of women. But why should we concern ourselves with such matters? Let’s just sit back with a cold beer and enjoy what will be a cracking game between two of the best teams in the world. What better way to spend a Sunday evening. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry and Graham


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