Weekend Boxset: Not the FA Cup 5th round



With the season compressed there's no room for the FA Cup which would traditionally be played this weekend. Instead we have some cracking league action instead.

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

All times are GMT

Friday

Championship: Blackburn Rovers v Preston North End
19.45 on Sky Sports Football

A Lancashire derby between two clubs seeking to recover past glories. There is some cautious optimism for a Rovers return to the Premier League this season. The team has some bright young talent upfront in the form of 17 goal Adam Armstrong (23) and Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliott (17). However, the defeat to QPR last Saturday left the club's fans frustrated with Tony Mowbray and his players as they passed up the chance to enter the top six. North End had to say goodbye to their top central defender Ben Davies who left for Liverpool during the winter transfer window. Not an ideal situation for coach Alex Neill as his team struggles to emerge from mid-table mediocrity but the 25-year-old was out of contract at the end of the season and the half a million quid transfer fee will come in handy. Preston spent some time in the promotion places last season but couldn't make it stick. If they want to crack on they'll need to give a little more support for Scott Sinclair and his eight goals. TD


Saturday

Premier League: Leicester City v Liverpool
12.30 on BT Sport 1

Brendan Rodgers only win against Liverpool was on the last day of the 2011/12 season when Danny Graham scored the only goal in the game, late on at Swansea's Liberty Stadium. Having lost the Cup final the week before and falied to get into the Champions League places, Liverpool parted company with Kenny Dalglish and hired Rodgers just a couple of weeks after. Rodgers' three seasons in charge of Liverpool were trophyless but he took them closer to winning the title than anyone else had in 20 years. His record against Liverpool since he became Leicester manager in 2019 is three defeats from three - much like most other managers in that timeframe - but this is now a Liverpool side that is vulnerable. A win for the third-placed Foxes would open up a six point gap between themselves and Liverpool in fourth, and while a title challenge might be overly optimistic, holding a Champions League spot seems a very acheivable goal. Both side's position in that top four is under threat from Chelsea and the Tuchel bounce they're currently enjoying. GS


Premier League: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event

For the last 20 years or so we've become used to the League Cup being held at the end of February but this year we'll have to wait until the end of April, hopefully at a time when at least some fans might be allowed to attend. In the meantime we have a dress rehearsal for the event with the finalist facing off in the Premier League. Spurs went top of the table after they beat City in November but since then have only managed two league wins against sides outside of the relegation zone. In that same time CIty have gone on a 14 game unbeaten run, taking 38 points from a possible 42 and look well on course to secure a second domestic treble in three seasons. With Spurs having conceded five goals in their FA Cup match against Everton in midweek, it's hard to imagine them turning it around and causing an upset here - even with a fit again Harry Kane. That said, Pep v Jose always has the capacity to surprise and while that probably won't happen here, don't bet against the narrative of these two managers taking another twist at Wembley in couple of months time. GS


Premier League: Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa
20.00 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event

Whisper it quietly but Brighton are the second best team in the country right now: the only other Premier League side unbeaten in their last five league games is Manchester City, who were the last team to beat the Seagulls when they met at the Etihad in mid-January. I know that doesn't sound like a long time ago but there has been a lot of football played in between. Their 1-1 with Burnley last weekend chalked up Brighton's 10th draw of the campaign. While they probabaly won't match Villa's own jointly held record of 17 draws in a Premier League season (from 2011/12), the amount of points dropped means they're still firmly sat in the bottom half while Villa, who have lost the same number of games as Brighton, can entertain hopes of European football next season. Villa aren't finding wins as easily as they seemed in the early stages of the season but the integration of summer signings like Matty Cash, Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martinez and Ross Barclay has transformed a side that needed a goalline technology malfunction to stay up last season. This should be an intriguing and entertaining match with two English coaches who have put in the hard yards to get their place as Premier League managers - albeit through very different routes. GS


Sunday

Scottish Premiership: St Johnstone v Celtic
12.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event

Normally, Celtic at home is one of the biggest games of the season for any club. However, for the Saints, there is a bigger game in the offing in the shape of the League Cup Final on 28 February. Callum Davidson's team beat Hibs 3-0 in the semi-final at Hampden last month and will return there to face Livingstone. Until then, with the club sitting eighth in the table and probably free from the threat of relegation, the players can focus on the glory of upsetting a wounded giant. The disappointment from the fans at the way Celtic effectively surrendered their title to Rangers is palpable. Coach Neil Lennon is on thin ice and at one point the bookies stopped taking bets on his replacement. However, Lennon endures, and his team are enjoying a mini-revival after three wins on the bounce. The latest, a 4-0 humping of St Mirren was sweet revenge for the 2-1 reverse at Parkhead late last month. If the home side are to cause an upset, they will need to find a way to contain Odsonne Édouard. The 23-year-old French striker is bang in form with 12 goals in only 19 games this season. TD


Bundesliga: Wolfsburg v Borussia Moenchengladbach
17.00 on BT Sport 2

Following the public debagging of their chief backer, Volkswagen, Wolfsburg had to go through a period of reinvention from "Check us out, we can afford Kevin de Bruyne" to "I hear Yannick Gerhardt's pretty decent" (he is). But it's worked out pretty well in the end. Coach Oliver Glasner is now in his second year after joining from LASK and has assembled a tidy outfit, challenging for the Champions League. Star player is Wout Weghorst: the Dutch centre forward is up near the top of the Bundesliga goalscoring charts and is catching the eye of some top clubs in countries where they wouldn't know how to start pronouncing his name. I banged on about Gladbach in the last boxset and about how good they were. Sadly, for them, my praise went straight to their heads and they lost the Rheinderby to lowly Koln 2-1. That result will not have gone down well and their fans will be demanding a response. TD


Serie A: Inter v Lazio
19.45 on Premier Sports 1

While Milan hold on to their lead in the table, these two are the form sides in Serie A right now. Lazio are on a run of six straight wins including victories over their rivals for a Champions League place, Roma and Atalanta, and are only currently being denied fourth spot by having scored fewer goals than the other team from the Eternal City. Ciro Immobile's winner for Lazio against Cagliari last weekend moved him on to 14 goals for the season level with Inter's Romelu Lukaku and just two behind Serie A top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo. Inter have found a new source of goals though in the shape of Achraf Hakimi. The 22 year old Morrocan attacking fullback joined Inter from Real in the summer having been on loan at Dortmund for the last two seasons where he is sorely missed by BVB fans. Blessed with tremendous skill and lightning pace, he also scores spectacular goals, usually involving him picking up the ball somewhere around the half-way line. With Juventus away at Napoli on Saturday evening, the order of the chasing pack could look very different after this weekend. GS


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry and Graham
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