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

Weekend Boxset: Up for the Cup!

Happy New Year! It’s good to back from our festive break, and even better to return for one of the highlights of the English football calendar - the FA Cup third round.

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

All times are UK


FA Cup third round: Swindon Town v Manchester City
20.00 on ITV
It’s perhaps unfair to label someone as a journeyman at the age of 24 but now at his seventh club, has Harry McKirdy found a place he can call home? From the youth set up at Aston Villa he was loaned out a number of times before making a permanent move to Carlisle in 2019, the following season he was at Port Vale and then last summer he signed a one year deal for Swindon. A string of League One and Two coaches have seen his ability but have also noted that he’s not been the easist player to work with, and his frustrations have let him down on the pitch and off it. On New Year’s Day he scored four against second-placed Northampton in a 5-2 win for Ben Garner’s side, taking his tally for the season to nine goals with four assists, though he’s also collected nine yellow cards along the way. Swindon may well have found a gem of a player capable of helping them get back up to League One. Even in the very likely event of his side’s comfortable defeat in this one, a test of his talent and temperament against Pep’s City on free-to-air national television could do wonders for both him and the club. GS


FA Cup third round: Millwall v Crystal Palace
12.45 on ITV
A fixture that evokes memories of the London Match back when ITV had EFL coverage and both teams were in the old first division back in the 90s. Since then, Palace have undergone a transformation, while not much has changed for Millwall. But make no mistake, the odds should be even in front of a full house at the Den as these two old south London rivals duke it out. Gary Rowett’s Lions are in patchy form, with their fans critical of what they see as overtly negative tactics which cost them the game against Bristol City last weekend. Palace are the current darlings of the Premier League with their fancy football even though they are not much better off than they were under Hodgson this time last season. Coach Patrick Vierra may be tempted to rest players. If so he should be careful. That said I wonder if this is the moment to give starts to the mercurial Michael Olise, usually an impact sub and Eberechi Eze who is returning from a long term injury. This may be the kind of opposition they may relish. TD

FA Cup third round: Hull City v Everton
17.30 on BBC One
There was a late Christmas present for Hull fans on New Year’s Eve when it was reported that a much rumoured sale of the club was about to go through. Acun Illicali - aka the Turkish Simon Cowell - announced on Turkish TV that his takeover was a done deal, ending 11 years of turbulent control by the Allam family. Having won promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking, Hull currently sit just four points above the relegation zone but, although losing a majority of their games, they haven’t been well-beaten (their last six defeats have all been by one goal) and may count themselves unfortunate not to be in a more comfortable position. Hull manager Grant McCann will have to wait for the takeover to be finalised before being able to strengthen his squad, but it may only take one or two key tweaks to get his side moving in the right direction again. With a need to restore confidence in the side, you would think that Everton can’t mess around with this one. Having won just one of their last 12, they need to put out the best team they can and win comfortably in 90 minutes (remember, there’s no replays this time, we’re going straight to extra time and penalties if required). GS

La Liga: Real Madrid v Valencia
20.00 on LaLigaTV
Just when it looked like Real Madrid were running away with La Liga, a draw at home to Cadiz and a defeat at Getafe have reeled Los Blancos back into within five points of second-placed Sevilla. The 1-0 loss was a testimony to an improving Getafe. But consider also that Covid struck the Real squad with four players (including Courtois and Vinicius Jnr) absent from the squad. Valencia fans have endured a fall from grace in recent years. Financial problems and an unpopular owner still blight the club. However, under new coach Jose Bordalas the team play with a renewed purpose. Their shithousery, characteristic of the coach’s approach to football, can make them annoying to watch but their direct style is very effective. Their unbeaten run of seven league games was brought to a halt by a late Espanyol winner last weekend. TD


FA Cup third round: West Ham United v Leeds United
14.15 on ITV
If reputation was anything to go by, Bielsa’s Leeds side should be sitting just outside of the Champions League places and David Moyes would be battling for his job as his West Ham side hover just above the relegation zone. A loss in this FA Cup third round tie would see Moyes rightfully dismissed before he condemns another member of the football aristocracy to the mire. Annoyingly, that isn’t the case at all. In fact, the opposite is true - although, I doubt Leeds are close to dismissing Bielsa just yet. One thing this tie should provide is goals - which is nice. West Ham are far from shy in front of goal, but bizarrely, considering where they are in the league, they’re also pretty poor at defending it. Kurt Zouma’s continued absence hasn’t helped here, and the fact he won’t play today gives Leeds a bit of an in. Leeds always seem to have a goal in them, so I wouldn’t rule out a bit of end to end action today. My head says the Hammers will go through; my heart says Leeds will tear them apart and Moyes will sob openly on camera… not that I’m bitter. JB

FA Cup third round: Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
17.15 on ITV
Arsenal have only been eliminated at this stage of the FA Cup once in the last 25 years. Of course that one time was at the City Ground in 2018 and marked Arsene Wenger’s last match in the competition. Eric Lichaj was the unlikely hero for Forest in that game; the American full back scoring twice in the first half to set up the 4-2 win. Lichaj, now 33, is currently without a club. He moved on to Hull in the summer after that famous win but was released at the end of 2019/20. A free agent, he signed for Turkish side Fatih Karagumruk. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury which, although not serious would sideline him for a while, and with the Super Lig’s strict foreign player quotas the club decided it was best to release him to free up a valuable slot. Arsenal will be wearing a special, not commericially available, all-white change kit for this game as part of the "No More Red" campaign - which looks to raise awareness of the issue of youth violence and knife crime, which claimed 30 lives in London alone in 2021. GS

Serie A: Inter v Lazio
19.45 on BT Sport 1
Thursday was the Epiphany public holiday in Italy, which should have seen a full day of Serie A action. Inter arrived at the stadium for their 11.30am kick off in Bologna, but the home team didn’t show up, having been quarantined by the local health authority. Similar farcical scenes happened last season with Napoli and Juventus, a match that was initially awarded to Juventus but was replayed on appeal. Given Simone Inzaghi’s side’s sensational current form, a 3-0 awarded win to them might be a kindness to Bologna. Lazio’s Epiphany game did go ahead and was a belting 3-3 draw with Empoli. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic starred again in a game in which his side were 2-0 down within ten minutes. He scored twice - including the injury time equaliser - and set up a goal for Ciro Immobile. The 26-year-old 6’3" Serbian midfielder is currently on the watchlist of a number of teams, most notably Manchester United amid rumours that he doesn’t get on with his coach Maurizio Sarri. Despite having their midweek game called off, Inter remain top of the table. This one may not be a straightforward home win though as their only defeat in Serie A this season was against Lazio in October. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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