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Weekend Boxset: Easter 2021



Club football returns with the Easter weekend - the point of the season that traditionally marks the start of the run-in. Titles, promotion and relegation are all to play for across Europe.

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


All times are UK (BST)

Good Friday

Championship: Barnsley v Reading
17.30 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
After their dramatic final day win at Brentford to avoid relegation at the end of last season, Barnsley have kicked on under new coach Valerien Ismail. Currently 5th in the table, a place, and two points above their opponents, a play-off spot is an achievable goal and would be a just reward for their patient work since being taken over by Chien Lee and his consortium in 2017. Keep an eye out for Daryl Dike. The 20-year-old US international striker has scored five in eleven games since joining the Tykes from Orlando City in January. Reading got off to a flyer back in September before having a bit of a lull and then rallying to their current position. Boss Veljko Paunovic announced earlier in the week that midfielder Jon Swift could be back from injury for this match. Should the Royals be promoted they will be missing young wing-back, Omar Richards, next season because he's moving to Bayern. Midfielder Michael Olise is also a target for the Bavarians and a host of other big clubs. Top scorer Lucas Joao is going through a barren spell. The 18 goal striker has only found the net once in the last eight games. TD


Saturday

Ligue 1: PSG v Lille
16.00 on BT Sport Extra 3
Win the title or not, it's likely that this Lille side will be torn apart in the summer as the cash rich giants of the Premier League look to find the next great thing. Players like Jonathan Bamba (linked to Tottenham), Timothy Weah (Arsenal) and Jonathan David (Liverpool) are all likely to be off before the new season, but Lille's success has been largely down to the experience of its central spine. Jose Fonte at 37 has only missed one game this season, only his 16-years-junior centre back partner Sven Botman (Manchester United) has had more onfield minutes. In front of them is Benjamin Andre, who at 30 is in the form of his career. Up front is the evergreen Burak Yilmaz who was excellent in the first half of the season before injury sidelined him for two months. Having been eased back into the side, the 35 year old played for almost all of Turkey's three World Cup qualifiers, scoring a hat-trick against the Netherlands. All signs point to a home win and the start of PSG's procession to yet another Ligue 1 title, but as we've mentioned before in the Boxset, PSG have picked up a bad habit of losing after Champions League games. With that distraction to come, and with three sides at their heels, even with a win here the run-in won't be an easy ride for Les Parisiens. GS


Premier League: Arsenal v Liverpool
20.00 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
Traditionally one of the biggest games on the Premier League calendar, this season's battle between the red giants of North London and Merseyside is, as it stands, a play-off for who gets to be in the UEFA Europa Conference League (memo to marketing: Are we still going with this name?). Both sides could easily miss out on qualifying for Europe all together next season through the league, but both still hold hope for qualifying for next season's Champions League by going all the way in this season's competitions. Liverpool's route to regaining Europe's biggest prize starts on Tuesday against Real Madrid, both of whom will see avoiding PSG, Bayern and CIty in the draw as an easier route to the final. Arsenal too have landed in what looks to be the less dangerous half of the Europa League draw, facing Slavia Prague on Thursday. With those games in mind and with plenty of players returning from a compressed international break, this may not be the all guns blazing high-scoring encounter it has been in recent years. 3-3 it is then. GS


Easter Sunday

A-League: Melbourne Victory v Sydney
10.05 on BT Sport 2
What happens when a very moveable object comes up against an equally stoppable force? Both of Australia’s biggest sides have fallen well short of expectations this season - or, in the case of Melbourne Victory, have barely even got anywhere near falling short in the first place. Grant Brebner’s tenure as Victory coach has been nothing short of a disaster as the 2018 champions look set for an inglorious last placed finish, finding new ways to define the word nadir in the process. Not that Sydney FC should be feeling smug - the Sky Blues have the lowest xG of any A League side and are in a battle to make the post-season finals. Shot shy Sydney are unlikely to find a more accommodating defence to increase their Goals For column, while for Victory, this match is as much as salvaging pride against a bitter rival. Recent form, including a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of noisy neighbours Melbourne City, suggests anything other than an away win will be a major surprise. GA


Bundesliga: Union Berlin v Hertha Berlin
17.00 on BT Sport 1
German football's club scene is back, eager to brush their national team's humiliation under the carpet. (btw isn't it time we thought about Germany playing pre-qualifiers?) Happily, there are only former German internationals in this game. Union are the surprise package of the season and if they play their cards right may enjoy the dubious distinction of entry into the inaugural UEFA Conference League. Hertha on the other hand have different league aspirations. Specifically staying in the first division. Pal Dardai has returned for his second spell as the coach and his influence is slowly taking effect. His team of talented misfits mustered a creditable 3-0 win to Bayer Leverkusen before the break. A result that lifted Hertha out of the bottom three and cost Bayer coach Peter Bosz his job. While there will be no fans, expect lots of pyrotechnics outside the Stadion An der Alten Försterei as the vociferously anti-lockdown, home fans make their presence felt in the street of Köpenick. TD


La Liga: Sevilla v Atlético Madrid
20.00 on LaLigaTV
If all you saw of Spanish football was what was going on in the Champions League you might look at the La Liga table and think that Diego Simeone was set fair to claim his second league title as Atleti head coach. In reality though, Barcelona - the side so comprehensively humped by PSG - are on an absolute tear right now domestically, having taken 48 points from the last possible 54. So while Atleti have lost only twice all season, their ten point lead over the Catalan side has been cut down to just four, with the sides to face each other on match day 35. Sevilla sit comfortably in fourth place in the table - the title is beyond them but they're in no danger of losing their Champions place. Julen Lopetegui's side look to have recovered from a rough fortnight last month that saw them lose twice in the league, and be elminated from Europe and the Copa del Rey. Three of their players saw action for Morocco in the international break, including top scorer Youssef En-Nesyri. A 23 year old €25 million pre-lockdown signing from Leganes, his two goals in Sevilla's Champions League elliminator against Dortmund took him to 19 goals for the season. GS


Easter Monday

League One: Peterborough United v Sunderland
15.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
Before diving deep into the stats, I must admit that I felt a degree of optimism about this fixture. And why not: the current Pizza Cup holders have not lost in their last twelve games and the wave of optimism washing over the club following the recent change of ownership is almost intoxifying. The good times really are coming for Sunderland, but they may have to wait another week. The Posh may have dropped points away from home against sides that they should have easily beaten, but their home form is quite literally second to none. What also makes this such an interesting tie is the fact that the home side are the division’s top scorers while the visitors boast the meanest defence and also the best away form. Quite what is going to happen in this game is anyone’s guess: a draw would seem a sensible prediction, but with both clubs having games in hand over leaders Hull, this fixture has something of a cup-tie feel about it. If Peterborough can silence the evergreen Aiden McGeady, they cut a vital supply line to (soon to be called up for the Euros) Charlie Wyke. However, the Californian Messi, Linden Gooch, is not alone in creating chances, and Wyke isn’t the only one with an eye for goal. While this may be more hope than prediction, I think Sunderland have just enough to edge past Peterborough. Probably one-nil. JB


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham, Jan and Gary (@gafootbl)

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