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: Who is Arnold Clark?



Can Newcastle win a fourth game in a row? Can Spurs avoid losing a fourth game in a row? And what’s the story behind women’s international football’s newest tournament?

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


All times are GMT


Friday

Serie A: Juventus v Torino
19.45 on BT Sport 2
A few week’s ago, optimistic Torino fans could hold hopes of making a push for the European places, sat as they were just four points shy of Lazio in sixth and with a game in hand. Alas, since then, things have not been going so great and that gap has grown to 10 points. That dip in form is unlikely to recover here. Torino’s last away victory in the Derby della Mole was in 1995 and they’ve only won this tie on their home turf once in the years since. Torino’s good results have been largely without their main source of goals for the past few seasons, Andrea Belotti, who has been suffering with a torn hamstring and has only be able to last 90 minutes once this season. Having returned to action as a second half sub in last week’s defeat to at home to Venezia, noises coming from the Torino camp are that he will start this game. At 28, Belotti should be at the peak of his powers and with his contract running down this summer, plenty of clubs will be interested in signing him. Meanwhile, Juve’s good run goes on. After an awful start to their season, they are now unbeaten since November. Danilo’s injury time equaliser in their dogfight for fourth place with Atalanta last Sunday showed that Allegri’s side are still capable of doing what Juventus always do. GS


Saturday

Premier League: West Ham United v Newcastle United
12.45 on BT Sport 1
The unsavoury affair with Kurt Zouma and his cat has taken the shine off West Ham’s fantastic season so far. Moreover, the ever pragmatic coach David Moyes watched his team give up quite a few shots and chances against Leicester last week that may cause him concern. Indeed, were it not for a controversial (ish) late equaliser the Hammers would have gone down to their third defeat in four games. This is not the form of a Champions League hopeful. That said they have Jarrod Bowen who is among the best forwards in the Premier League right now with five-goal in the last five games. How effective he’ll be against an increasingly confident Newcastle defense is less clear. The Dirty Mags’ new signings and renewed purpose under Eddie Howe has lifted them out of the bottom three. Their approach is pretty basic: hit the ball long to Wood and rely on Fraser and Saint-Maximum to pick up the second ball. But it’s sound and paying dividends. We’re still waiting for Bruno Guimarães to start. No doubt the classy deep-lying midfielder will add more options for the coach once the Brazilian’s feet are under the table. Tripper is a huge miss. The England full-back offers poise, professionalism and takes a mean free-kick. He fractured his metatarsal in the win against Villa and may be out for a few weeks. TD


Premier League: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
The opening weekend of the season seems a long time ago now. Nuno Espirito Santo celebrated his first game in charge of the club with a hard fought home win over the champions. Son Heung-min grabbing the winner. The match itself was more about the narrative surrounding Harry Kane. According to sources close to Kane, he had been given a gentlemen’s agreement from Daniel Levy that nothing would stand in the way of his leaving Spurs, with an eye-watering new deal for him and £150 million for the club. Of course we know what happened next. Locked in his six year contract, Kane stayed at the club. Spurs’ great start came to end, they fired Nuno and hired Conte. City meanwhile, used the money they were going to splurge on Kane to grab Jack Grealish, and are now well on their way to retaining their title. After an impressive start in charge, life has become much tougher for Antonio Conte. This week he admitted that Spurs came out of the January transfer window worse off than when they went into it. Having lost their last three games, fourth place is looking increasingly unachievable. The prospect of facing another season without Champions League football could further lessen Levy’s willingness to open up the coffers for future transfers. That is something that could soon see Conte and Kane again looking at their options. GS


Ligue 1: Nantes v Paris Saint Germain
20.00 on BT Sports 3
PSG go into this game following on from a memorable performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday. Once again Kylian Mbappe was the man of the hour and a half with his superb late strike to ruin all Madrid’s hard work not trying to score any goals. After a disappointing Euros, the 23-year-old Parisian, who will be out of contract in the summer, is having a blinder this campaign with twelve goals and ten assists. His contribution has settled any domestic nerves with PSG sitting thirteen points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table. If their opponents could show a bit more consistency they might be a little closer to European football next season themselves. Ninth place Nantes are part of a group of seven other clubs who are within striking distance of a Conference League spot. Recent defeats to Strasbourg and Nice have set them back. But Les Canaris are a tough proposition: semi-finalists in the Cup, and they beat PSG in March last season. The scorers in that 2-1 win were Moses Simon and Randal Kolo Muani. Both players are still at the club and posting good numbers this season. They’ll be hoping for some post-Champions League fatigue in their opponents to exploit and secure an unexpected three points. TD


Sunday

Scottish Premiership: Dundee United v Rangers
12.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
After the disappointment of losing the led in the Premiership in a very one-sided Old Firm match at the start of the month, Gio van Bronckhorst’s side have bounced back with two comfortable home wins against Hibs and Hearts. But as impressive as those wins were, they won’t be talked about for nearly as long as their Europa League victory on Thursday. The Scottish champions ran riot against a largely clueless Borusssia Dortmund in the Westfalen, allowing them to take a two goal advantage into next week’s home second leg. A decade ago Dundee United were regular qualifiers for the Europa League and were winning the Scottish Cup. Then in January 2015 they sold two of their best players, Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong, to Celtic. From then they suffered a slump that would see them relegated the next season, for only the second time since the top flight halved in size in the mid-70s. They spent four seasons in the Championship and returned to the top flight after the curtailed season of 2019/20 (which in fairness, they’d almost won anyway). The Terrors go into this one in fourth place,topping a group of half of the teams in Scotland’s top flight that straddle the breakline, and are separated by just three points. Having missed out joining the top teams for last season’s close by just a point, they know that everything counts in their chase for a European adventure of their own. GS


Arnold Clark Cup: England v Spain
15.15 on ITV
Welcome to the inaugural (though hopefully not the last) Arnold Clark Cup. The FA-organised, four-team tournament could become a regular part of the fixture calendar in the February Women’s international break alongside the Algarve Cup, the SheBelieves Cup and the Tournoi de France (all of which are in full swing right now). Of them all, I’d say this one has the most competitive field with all four countries currently in the top ten of FIFA’s rankings, making it an excellent warm-up for this summer’s Euros in England. With a squad drawn largely from the all-conquering Barcelona side, Spain are the most improving side in world football right now and should be one of the favourites to become European Champions. A late equaliser from Germany’s Lea Schüller, brought an end to Spain’s run of sixteen straight wins - a run that started with a win over England in the aforementioned SheBelieves Cup in early 2020. That equaliser also happened to be the first goal they had conceded since the beginning of that run. Spain’s goal came from their captain and current World Player of the Year Alexia Putellas. The Lionesses also drew their opener 1-1. Having bossed the first half against Canada, they were unable to press home their advantage and the Olympic champions (under former Phil Neville assistant Bev Priestman) recovered well in the second half and equalised with a splendid curling Janine Beckie effort. In case you’re wondering, Arnold Clark is a national car dealership who have signed a multi-year deal to sponsor the tournament. GS


La Liga: Athletic Bilboa v Real Sociedad
20.00 on LaLigaTV
The 150th league Euskal Derbia convenes in front of a full San Mames since August 2019. Both of these proud Basque clubs have enjoyed the upper hand, down the years, but surely Sociedad’s win over Athletic in the Copa del Rey Final last April means eternal bragging rights to the White and Blues. It was club captain, Mikel Oyarzabal’s, penalty that settled that final and he scored and assisted in last week’s 2-0 win at Granada. He scored again, from the spot, last night in Sociedad’s Europa League Play-off at Leipzig that finished 2-2. The left-winger is returning to the kind of early-season form that helped his team to the top of the table before he missed five games through injury. Athletic are still in this season’s Copa del Rey and have a tricky second leg semi-final with Valencia to negotiate before losing to Betis in the Final. Los Leones’ preparation for this match was less than ideal. They fought back well from 2-0 down at Mallorca, in the second half, to level but it was all for naught, succumbing to a late own goal from ’keeper Unai Simón. Sociedad have an injury concern. Striker Alexander Isak has a sprained ankle and may not be fit for this match. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry and Graham

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