Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Acast, Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

Weekend Boxset: Wrong side of the M1



The return of European competitions is football's spring and tells us the the run-ins are just around the corner.

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


All times are UK (GMT)

Friday

Championship: Derby County v Nottingham Forest
19.45 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
Another appearance in the Boxset for Wayne Rooney's Derby County having last weekend lost narrowly to promotion chasing Watford. They recovered from that with a midweek win over Huddersfield, which lifted them above the Terriers in the table. They can do the same to their "sort-of-local-we-were-both-managed-by-Brian-Clough" rivals with a win here but that won't be easy with Forest also in their best form of an admittedly poor season. Forest enjoyed a good run after Chris Hughton was appointed at the start of October but hit a rough patch in the next month that saw them lose six out of seven and slip back into danger. Now having lost just two of their last dozen games, their trajectory, like that of Derby's, is upwards. There's a long way to go of course but they certainly look in better shape then the teams lower down - sadly for Rotherham, they can't play Derby every week. GS


Saturday

Premier League: Manchester City v West Ham United
12.30 on BT Sport 1
In modern Backgammon tournaments, two points are awarded at the end on each game. One for the winner and the other for the player who makes the fewest mistakes. Right now, Manchester City are winning both points. The net effect for the neutral is that, while their football is almost flawless, it's risk-averse and frankly a bit dull. The occasional blunder such as the one they made in the last minute against Gladbach on Wednesday, which almost cost them a goal, does not make up for the crushing functionality in my opinion. Not that City fans should care. The Premier League title is almost certainly there's and the team has a sufficient PR rating to win the European Cup at last. Saying all that, even the grandmaster can be undone by a lucky double and there's been no luck to David Moyes' West Ham who are a tidy outfit. His latest masterstroke being the drafting of Jesse Lingard from his old club Manchester United. Old Trafford's forgotten man has three goals in four since traveling south. TD


La Liga: Sevilla v Barcelona
15.15 on LaLigaTV
According to Football Twitter, La Liga is a farmers league. This is off the back of some disappointing performances and results in the Champions League. Two of the clubs accused of bashing the Spanish UEFA coefficient face off in this crucial league clash. Despite their defeat to Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla are in rude Liga health with six wins in as many games. The last time they played Barca was earlier this month in the cup. They won 2-0 with goals from Jules Kounde and the evergreen Ivan Rakitic. For Barcelona, this season is more about staying in the top four and avoiding the catastrophe of non-qualification for the Champs League. The Catalans were knocked back by a 1-1 draw with Cadiz last weekend. Lio Messi scored in that game which was also his record-breaking 506th league appearance. He scored twice in their 3-0 win against Elche on Wednesday. Now more than ever his teammates are in need of the goat. TD


Bundesliga: RB Leipzig v Borussia Moenchengladbach
17.30 on BT Sport 1
With Bayern faltering against Frankfurt last week, Leipzig did what other title challengers, in similar circumstances have failed to do, and that is take advantage. Their 3-0 win against Hertha was as emphatic as the scoreline suggests and people are now talking about an actual title race. Rasenballsport coach Julian Nagelsmann was linked, during the week, in the English press with a potential vacancy at Tottenham. I reckon he fancies working in England but can do better with all due disrespect. Yet another victim of the curse of the boxset, Gladbach have suffered recent defeats to Kõln and Mainz. The Foals were absolute pony against Manchester City; spectators at their own football match. They were the physical representation of a Keir Starmer policy speech. Coach Marco Rose put "transition" on his PowerPoint but auto-correct changed it to "transit van". He could have subbed the backline with four stuffed chesterfields and it wouldn't have made a difference. It'll be a miracle if the Dortmund-bound coach can get anything out of these players. But they need performance, at least, otherwise, their season is going straight down the toilet. TD


Sunday

Premier League: Crystal Palace v Fulham
12.00 on BBC One
A game that will no doubt attract attention more for who will join Palace's talisman Wilf Zaha, should he be fit enough to play, in not taking the knee before kick-off as a symbolic gesture against racial inequality. It's an important step: if we're at the position where not taking a knee has more of an impact in bringing the message across than doing so, then certainly the time is right. More than ten years have now passed since Roy Hodgson led Fulham to the Europa League final. Going into his 150th game in charge of Palace - the longest run any Palace manager has enjoyed in the 28 years since the end of Steve Coppell's first spell - and with Palace looking set to enjoy a ninth consecutive season in the top flight, some Palace fans might feel they should be pushing for their own run in Europe rather than just another campaign in the higher reaches of the bottom half. Roy's contract is up in the summer and while the temptation will be to replace him, the prudent choice will always be to stick with what you have. On this day two years ago, Fulham appointed their third manager of the season, Scott Parker. Sticking by Parker has given Fulham a fighting chance of staying up, with just three points separating them from Newcastle in 17th. GS


Premier League: Chelsea v Manchester United
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
While the axiom is that there are no easy games in the Premier League, if you had to choose a run of opponents to start of your management career in England, then seven games against sides in the bottom half (and an out of sorts Tottenham) wouldn't be a bad pick. Having enjoyed that unbeaten start, Chelsea are now in a run of games that will see whether or not Thomas Tuchel really can make a difference. They've started as well as they could this week with a win over La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid in the Champions League - Oliver Giroud's VAR awarded overhead kick the only goal in the game. What was even more impressive than the Frenchman's aerobatics, was that despite a couple of early scares, they restriced Simeone's side to zero shots on goal. Before they face Atleti in the second leg, they have Liverpool, Everton and Leeds to get past, as well today's opponents. Get through that lot unbeaten and people really will start to take notice. GS


Ligue 1: Marseille v Lyon
20.00 on BT Sport 1
The Choc des Olympiques may not have the shine it once did in the days before Qatar's billions washed into PSG, but former Marseille head coach Rudi Garcia returns to the Stade Velodrome with his Lyon side very much involved in a genuine four-way title race. Marseille continue to watch that race from afar under caretaker Nasser Larguet. The interim manager has a least managed to stem the run of defeats but discipline now seems their biggest issue with his side picking up four straight red cards in their last four games - including two in the space of four minutes against Bordeaux. To be fair, the referees are handing out les cartons rouges like sweets in Ligue 1 right now - 68 so far, compared to 32 in the Premier League. Rumours are that former Chile and Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is being lined up to replace Andre Villas Boas, who resigned last month. The 60 year old, currently managing Atletico Mineiro, has a wealth of experience but has only managed in Europe for one season with Sevilla, after Unai Emery left. GS


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry and Graham

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