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Weekend Boxset: Copa Libertadores Final 2020

We're finally past the half way point in the Premier League and this week we look at some of the sides that have surprised us, one way or another. There's also a special treat on Saturday night: a Paulista Libertadores Final.

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

All times are UK (GMT)


Championship: Reading v Bournemouth
20.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
After an absolutely barnstorming start to the season, Reading lost their way in November (and December) but have managed to steady the ship since Christmas with their only reverse coming in the FA Cup against fellow Championship side Luton. Their great start, coupled with this mini-run, has seen them leapfrog today's visitors and keep pace with a very impressive Brentford side. A win today will keep the pressure on the three clubs above them, although I doubt runaway leaders Norwich will be too concerned. The issue for Reading is that they have shown they can beat the teams they should, but their current streak was preceded by back to back defeats against promotion rivals Norwich and Brentford respectively. With this in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bournemouth, sitting just one place and a couple of points behind their hosts, might be in with a chance. Well, think again: Jason Tindall’s side have lost three of their last five league games with the most recent a dire one-niller against troubled Derby. Either way, there is the potential for an entertaining game here - both sides have goals in them. In November’s reverse fixture, Bournemouth ran out 4-2 winners despite being two down at half-time. Reading win and a ton of goals. JB


Premier League: Everton v Newcastle United
12.30 on BT Sport 1
Around this time last year, this fixture provided one of the most spectacular turnarounds of any Premier League season. With Everton leading 2-0, Newcastle won a corner in the third of four added minutes at the end of the match. Florian Lejeune scored from an overhead kick and followed it a minute later with a scrambled equaliser, awarded by goal-line technology. Those were his only goals for the club, he's now on loan at Alaves. Ancelotti had taken charge of Everton just one month earlier but had already transformed the way they played. While it wasn't always successful, it was great to watch for a neutral. Having refined his squad over the summer, they led the early table but then hit a rough patch. Having got through that, they are now looking like a side that won't be throwing away many two goal leads, and you certainly can't see that happening against this Newcastle side. Newcastle are in free fall, on their worst run of defeats since John Carver's period in charge. They're not just losing, they're losing to teams that are losing, helping teams like Aston Villa and Leeds break out of their own mini-fugs, and giving Sheffield United their first win. One glimmer of hope for the Mags is the return of Allan Saint-Maximin, an exciting player who has been missing these last two months through injury but impressed coming off the bench against Leeds. GS

Premier League: Arsenal v Manchester United
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
By the time Arteta joined Arsenal in 2011, this fixture had already started to lose some of its pizza-throwing blood and thunder of the pre-oligarch era of the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, is steeped in the rivalry, having made his debut for United just a four weeks before Arsene Wenger took charge of the Gunners. United bounced back from defeat to Arsenal at Old Trafford at the start of November by going on a run of thirteen games without defeat, a run only broken by this week's loss to Sheffield United. For Arsenal, that victory lead to a run of seven without a win, leaving some pundits to see them as relegation contenders. The introduction of the Croydon De Bruyne, Emile Smith Rowe, and the freedom given to Bukayo Saka in recent games has seemingly transformed the Gunners into a side that looks like it belongs in the top half. For Arteta this marks a vital run in his season and his side's recovery to being a top six side. The way the fixtures have come out, Arsenal's next seven league games after this are against sides they took a total of just one point from in the first half of this season. GS

Copa Libertadores Final: Palmeiras v Santos
20.00 on BBC Red Button & iPlayer
Hats off to the BBC for showing the latter stages of the delayed 2020 tournament on their streaming service. This will be the first all Brazilian final since 2006. Abel Ferreira’s Palmeiras are the favourites to win after squeezing passed River Plate, 3-2 on aggregate. Manchester United fans may want to keep an eye on 18-year-old winger Gabriel Veron who being tracked by the Old Trafford club. The teenage winger is Brazilian but named after the great Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian. Santos beat the other Buenos Aires giants, River Plate, 3-0 on aggregate in their semi-final. Their success is surprising given that the club are destitute, suffering a recruitment ban and their president is being impeached. Tim Vickery reports that there is disharmony in the dressing room and there have been COVID outbreaks. Yet they endure and will seek to win their first Libertadores since Neymar led them to victory in 2011. The final will take place at the Maracana stadium of Rio. What a tragedy that this cathedral of football will not be full for such an occasion. TD


Premier League: Chelsea v Burnley
12.00 on BT Sport 1
I breezily predicted that new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel would spend his first game in the stands rather than the touchline, preferring a watching brief. But I was wrong, just a day after signing terms with the Blues, the former Dortmund and PSG boss was down in the trenches for the 0-0 draw with Wolves on Wednesday. Sadly, for him, his new charges couldn’t muster a goal despite enjoying roughly 123% possession. The German coach has a few more days on the training ground and will go again against a Burnley side who can promise him a warmer welcome to the Premier League. Sean Dyche’s team were a touch spawny with their comeback 3-2 against a wasteful Aston Villa side. That was the first time the Clarets had scored three in a game, in the league since they beat Bournemouth 3-0 back in February 2020. While they are unlikely to repeat the feat, Dyche is certainly capable of taking advantage of a team of superior players in transition. TD

Premier League: West Ham United v Liverpool
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
It is extremely hard to begrudge David Moyes success at West Ham. Since returning to the old Olympic Stadium in September 2019, the 57-year-old Scot has taken a ramshackle team from the clutches of relegation to the top four of the Premier League, albeit briefly. Man of the moment is 25-year-old Czechian international Tomáš Souček. The rangy box-to-box midfielder is not just effective at covering off his backline but is developing a knack of arriving just when the ball is ready to go in the net. He bagged a brace on Tuesday in the Hammers 3-2 win at Crystal Palace to add to his five goals this season. While it would be unwise to be overly optimistic in this of all seasons, European football next season would be a fitting reward for all the club’s good work. Up next is a Liverpool side who, up until Thursday night, were goalless in eight Premier League hours. However, some accommodating Spurs defending helped lift the champions out of their funk thereby reducing, if not eliminating, a chance for a famous victory for the East Londoners. TD

La Liga: Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao
20.00 on Premier Sports 1, LaLigaTV
What again? Yes, for the third time this month these sides meet, but if this game is like the other two, we're in for a treat. Both games finished 3-2: Messi securing three points for Barcelona in the league encounter, with goals either side of half time, and Inaki Williams grabbing an extra time winner for Athletic in the final of the Supercopa. After an awful start to the season, Barca seem to be back on track, currently on a run of four straight wins, something they haven't managed since the first lockdown, but with a ten point gap between them and top side Atletico Madrid, who have played a game less, it looks like for the first time since 2008, the Catalans will go two seasons without lifting the title. In the peculiar way football money works, Barcelona were this week, announced as the world's richest club in the Deloitte's Money League, but the debt-ridden giants don't have any money to make new signings this transfer window, with City's Eric Garcia and Liverpool's Gini Wijnaldum having to wait until their contracts expire in the summer before they can join. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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