Weekend Boxset: Enjoy the silence



At the start of this week it seemed that the days of empty stadiums in England were numbered but the announcement that 40% of the country will be in the top tier and therefore still behind closed doors means that we'll have a few more weeks of fake crowd noise to come.

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

All times are GMT

Friday

FA Cup Second Round: Tranmere Rovers v Brackley Town
19.55 on BBC Two
When this fixture came out of the hat it had the potential for an upset. Tranmere had just sacked their manager Mike Jackson after just three months in the job and were struggling for form. A run of wins for caretaker manager Ian Dawes sees new manager Keith Hill take charge of a side that has risen up into the top half, just four points off the automatic promotion places. Hill looks like a solid appointment for Tranmere, looking to return to League One having been relegated by points per game in the truncated season. Hill’s speciality is League Two promotion, in his four season at that level with Rochdale he got them promoted twice and made the play-offs in the other seasons. Brackley themselves felt the hand of PPG last season, though with lesser consequences. They missed out on a third consecutive third place finish in the National League North by just 0.05 of a point. Hardly relegation but it was enough to mean they had to play an extra round in another unsuccessful play-off run. The 2018 FA Trophy winners, Brackley will hope that it's third time lucky for them getting to the third round of the Cup - on both previous occasions of reaching this stage they have been knocked out by teams from the North West: Macclesfield in 2014 and Blackpool in 2017. GS


Saturday

Championship: Reading v Bristol City
12.30 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
The Championship manager of the month award can sit heavy on those who win it. When Veljko Paunovic picked his up at the start of October, Reading were in the middle of a hot streak that would see them win seven wins of their opening eight games. It really looked like the appointment of the former Chicago Fire head coach had been a stroke of genius for the club but from the end of October they lost four games in a row, conceding thirteen goals. That run ended midweek with a draw against a resilient Millwall. Just looking at results can be misleading and proof that Paunovic’s run of results was more than just beginners luck is evident in the form of front-man Lucas Joao. An acquisition from Sheffield Wednesday in 2019, the 27 year old Portuguese striker has always shown ability but has lacked consistency. This season he’s scored in eight of his twelve appearance so far and provided three assists. He’ll have his work cut out in this one though: The Robins are back in good form themselves, having had their own winless run in October, they haven’t conceded in their last three games. Both sides sit close to the top of the table but are surrounded by sides benefiting from Premier League parachute payments. At least one of these sides is likely to fall away, this match might tell us which one will go first. GS


Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund v Koln
14.30 on BT Sport 3
It's Erling Håland's world folks and we're just living in it. The 20-year-old Norwegian striker has scored more goals than he's played games for Borussia Dortmund. He notched four against Hertha before the international break and another two against Brugge during the week. His record is enough to keep the Köln defenders awake at night. Håland's team is playing catch-up on Bayern Munich after narrowly losing der Klassiker two weeks ago but the gap is only one point after the champion's unexpected draw against Werder last matchday. The only team worse than Köln in the Bundesliga is Schalke which isn't saying much. I'd like to say they’ve been unlucky but they were second best against Union Berlin in their last fixture. Coach Markus Gisdol did well to shepherd the team out of the relegation zone last season but they are without a win for 18 games. The German newspaper, Bild, are reporting that if he's not turned things around by the time the break clause in his contract comes up in December, he's for the chop. TD


Serie A: Atalanta v Verona
19.45 on Premier Sports 1
It’s master vs apprentice as Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta face his protege Ivan Juric’s Hellas Verona. Having played under his mentor for Crotone, Juric was given his first assistant coach job at Inter during Gasperini’s disastrous period there, and the pair teamed up again at Palermo. After a quiet period for them, Atalanta roared back into more familiar form this week, beating Liverpool at Anfield. Verona come into this after two unlucky results and unfortunately for them, Italians are firm believers that bad luck comes in threes - non c'è due senza tre. They lost to high-flying Sassuolo last weekend in a game that saw them hit the woodwork fout times. They followed that in midweek with a controversial exit from the Coppa Italia against Cagliari. Only Juventus have conceded fewer goals than Verona this season a stat made all the more impressive by the fact they have the second highest xGA (expected goals against). GS


Sunday

Premier League: Southampton v Manchester United
14.00 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
If it can be said that Sir Alex Ferguson had a bogey ground it was probably The Dell. For a period during United’s pomp in the 90s, Southampton would regularly beat them, including probably Ferguson’s most infamous Premier League defeat in 1996 where he made his side change kit during half time. The fixture also had the added narrative back then of Ferguson’s failure to tempt Matt Le Tissier to Old Trafford as the natural replacement Eric Cantona. All that seemed to change once Southampton moved to St Mary’s in 2001; their 1-0 win in 2003 from a last minute James Beattie goal being their only win in the fixture since then. While Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have been in great form sinnce their home defeat to Spurs, United have saved their best performances away from Old Trafford, and having won their midweek Champions League game within the first 20 minutes, shouldn’t be disadvantaged by tired legs. GS


Premier League: Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
With an extra couple of days to prepare, it’ll be Frank Lampard who’ll be the happier of the two managers going into this fixture. Indeed, they’ll need every minute of that time having seen Rennes make them work hard for their win midweek in the Champions League. Not that they were undeserving; had they converted some of their many chances they wouldn’t have needed Giroud’s spectacular last minute header to guarantee their place in the last sixteen. Chelsea can also take comfort from that fact that they are in a fine run of form with Rennes marking their sixth consecutive victory. Will it be seven? Well, one thing’s for certain: José will not be happy about Frank’s Chelsea side doing the double over him in his inaugural season at Spurs. Quite how that will play out on the field is anyone’s guess, but an over-eager, attack minded Chelsea could fall foul of a more than capable Tottenham counter-attack. On the other hand, should Jose put his (considerable) ego ahead of a more practical approach, he could find his side torn apart by a Chelsea side who aren’t at all shy in front of goal. My guess is that Mourinho is far too wise to allow the latter. It’s also time he gave Gareth Bale a start. The Welshman has been gradually introduced since his arrival - is this his chance to shine? JB


La Liga: Real Sociedad v Villarreal
20.00 on LaLigaTV
It's early days, I know, but let's get excited about the top of the table in Spain. While the traditional giants struggle with a combination of fixture congestion in the time of COVID and long overdue transitional periods, the Football Gods have chosen to reward well run clubs that normally live in the shadow of the titans. According to Spanish football expert, Colin Millar, Sociedad have 16 academy graduates in their first-team squad, more than any other club. Their coach Imanol Aguacil also came through the youth teams. The recruitment of David Silva and Nacho Monreal adds valuable experience to their ranks and they've even managed to unlock the mystery wrapped up in an enigma, that is Adnan Janujaz. Their opponents, Villareal, are just four points behind and another surprise package. Leading the line for the Yellow Submarines are the dual-threat of last season's league top scorer Gerard Moreno and goal machine, if injury-prone, Paco Alcacer who have scored 10 between them.

Alternative viewing: Napoli v Roma, 19.45 on Freesports. While no fans will be present, the eyes of the football world will turn to the San Paolo, one of the great cathedrals of the game, as they mourn the passing of the great Diego Maradona.TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry , Graham and Jan


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