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: Back for season 2021/22



Yes, the Boxset returns with the opening round of fixtures in the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga.

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


All times are BST

Friday

Premier League: Brentford v Arsenal
20.00 on Sky Sports Main Event & Premier League
Brentford's last game in the top flight was a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal back in 1947. The Bees have spent the majority of the intervening year in the third tier of English football but since the arrival of betting analyst Matthew Benham just over a decade ago, the trajectory of the club has been continually upward. A large part of that success has been built on shrewd manoeuvres in the transfer market. After selling Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa in 2020, they picked up Ivan Toney from Peterborough, who went on to be the top scorer in the Championship last season. Toney is set to start here having recovered from a minor injury that saw him miss their final pre-season match against Valencia. Shrewd moves in the transfer market are not something you readily associate with Arsenal in recent years and it's been a quiet transfer window so far for them. David Luiz has gone, and both Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard have returned to Real. Ben White joins from Brighton having only narrowly missed out on a place in Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 squad, while other signings come under the category of "hot prospects". It looks like another season of consolidation for Mikel Arteta but without the distraction of European football for the first time for 25 years, and a calendar of fewer than 50 games ahead, a return to European competition must be the minimum objective. GS
 

Saturday

Premier League: Manchester United v Leeds United
12.30 on BT Sport 1
A match with echoes of a bygone era. This was once a blue-ribbon fixture with consequences for the title. While Leeds are no longer contenders, their presence back in the Premier League is welcome for those of us who wish to evoke happier times. And with fans returning, so too is the sense of occasion. Man U have had an emotional summer, finally securing the services of Jadon Sancho. The ex-Dortmund player was England's best forward last season and his under usage during Euro 2020 was one of the few missteps by England boss, Gareth Southgate. Also signing for the reds is Raphaël Varane: a World Cup and Champions League winner from cash strapped Real Madrid. The French defender oozes class and, if he partners up well with H Maguire, United are going to have a big say in the title race. Leeds meanwhile have yet to make any big signings, unless of course you count the season long extension to Marcelo Bielsa's contract. However, we can expect his team to cover all blades of grass and get up in their opponent's grill. The home side could be in for a long afternoon. TD
 

Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund v Eintracht Frankfurt
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
The Bundesliga kicks off a new season with nine coaching changes, including at Dortmund and Frankfurt. Eintracht were brilliant last season but pipped to a Champions League spot by BVB. Sadly for them the coach, Adi Hutter moved on to replace the new Dortmund coach, Marco Rose at Mönchengladbach. Also gone is the Sporting Director, Fredi Bobic. But of immediate concern is Andre Silva. The third-best striker in the Bundesliga is now at Leipzig. Replacing him is Rafael Borré, signed from River Plate for £15 million. The Columbian was anonymous in his team's 2-0 loss to Waldhoff Mannheim in the DFB Pokal last Sunday. Incoming coach Oliver Glasner, previously at Wolfsburg, brings a different energy. The cup defeat has already put him under pressure and I don't think is a good fit. Borussia are expecting great things under Rose but have also lost a big player in Jadon Sancho. Donyell Malen from PSV is his direct replacement. Erling Håland is still there and bagged a hat trick against Wehen Wiesbaden in the cup. The Norwegian will be looking at how those Mannheim forwards eviscerated the Eintracht center halves and will fancy his chances. TD
 

Championship: Swansea City v Sheffield United
20.00 on Sky Sports Football
Having missed out in the play-off final, if Swansea are to return to the top flight it will have to be the hard way as they begin this season without the benefit of the parachute payments they've enjoyed since their relegation from the Premier League in 2018. Whether that had any bearing on head coach Steve Cooper's decision to leave the club is anyone's guess but his replacement Russell Martin from MK Dons looks to be a good fit as a manager of Swansea. His preference for possession based play was in evidence in their opening game against Blackburn, in which they enjoyed 71% of the ball but ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline. For the Blades, the appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic looks like an excellent piece of business, having previously secured promotion from the Championship for both Fulham and Watford. Having lost their opener 1-0 to Birmingham, the Blades got their first win of the season in the EFL Cup match against Carlisle: Rhian Brewster getting his first goal for the club since his £23.5 million move from Liverpool. Having scored 10 goals in his 20 Championship games on loan at Swansea last season, he'll be looking to fill his boots this campaign. GS
 

Sunday

Premier League: Newcastle United v West Ham United
14.00 on Sky Sports Main Event & Premier League
If you're struck with a feeling of deja vu it's because these clubs faced each other in the opening round of fixtures last season. On that occasion, at the London Stadium, Newcastle ran out 2-0 winners in a game that offered hope to their fans of a good season ahead. It didn't happen. It's fair to say that Newcastle is a club going nowhere. In the four seasons since their return to the Premier League, they've finished on 44,45,44, and 45 points respectively. Andy Carroll may have gone but Steve Bruce is still there, as, of course, is Mike Ashley. Starting his 15th season in charge of the club, this week he announced that he was handing over the leadership of his retail empire to his soon to be son-in-law, but with the tribunal for the proposed Saudi takeover of the club now scheduled for early 2022, Newcastle fans will know that he's still going to be around for a while yet. For West Ham, it's all about whether or not they can match what they did last season. Having finished fifth, just two points shy of a Champions League place, West Ham's transfer activity has been modest - which could just be down to them waiting on Manchester United to decide what they want to do with Jesse Lingard, who made such an impact for the Hammers in his comeback season on loan with them. GS
 

Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
16.30 on Sky Sports Main Event & Premier League
I like Nuno Espirito Santo. A few years ago, I watched a documentary about the then newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers in which he came across very well and appeared to have a great connection with both the players and the owner, Jeff Shi (despite him watching every training session - weird!) Of course, a lot has happened since then, but, despite him transforming Wolves into Premier League regulars, he found himself cast adrift with rumours of unhappy players and boardroom bust-ups. Indeed, it was reported that he effectively talked himself out of the Palace job due to his unreasonable demands. Regardless, he now finds himself at the helm of a club in decline. Just looking at the previous managers must tell him a story: Potch, José, me - that must be hard to take even for the most confident coach. His task is made all the more difficult by wantaway striker, Harry Kane, who can clearly see the writing on the wall. Some will tell you the fact that Kane could be facing his future employers in this fixture is the big story, but I think it’s all about the start of what will become a challenging season for Spurs. Given how long the Kane to City saga has gone on, I suspect he will finally head north too late in the window for Daniel Levy to find a meaningful replacement. City may miss Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne to injury and a few of their stars will be resting following international duty; however, we should see the £100 million Jack Grealish take to the field. Will the price tag be justified? Well, it’s up to Jack to pull his socks up and show us. JB
 

La Liga: Barcelona v Real Sociedad
19.00 on LaLigaTV
In addition to all the off-field narrative, this is set to be a cracking game of football. Barca kick off their first match in their post-Messi epoch. The messianic figure's departure is still sending shockwaves through the football world. Not just because he left but also because his employers were utterly powerless to prevent it. Now there are question marks around the future of new signings, including Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay. But there's still plenty of quality in that Barca team. Not least of which is passing maestro, Pedri. One of the stars of Euro 2020, the 18-year-old is being compared with Xavi and it's easy to see why. On his young shoulders lies [lay?] the burden of leading the Catalans to their new future, assuming they don't have to flog him to PSG next summer. Another player whose reputation was enhanced by the Euros was Alexander Isak of Real Sociedad. The Swedish striker was half expected to move on. But the 21-year-old is back leading the line in one of La Liga's more entertaining sides. Sociedad have made the most of the recent changes in income distribution in La Liga and were well worth their fifth place last season. TD
 

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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