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: On the buses



It’s quarter finals in the FA Cup. Can Big Six scalp-hunters Boro and Forest add Chelsea and Liverpool to their collections? There’s also what promises to be an intriguing Clasico.

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


All times are GMT

Friday

Premier League: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United
15.00 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
To say it’s been a roller-coaster start to Jesse Marsch’s career at Leeds is an understatement. The horror show in his first game at Elland Road was a humiliation for a man who is still trying to find his feet. The injury time winner against Norwich three days later, after having conceded a 91st minute equaliser may well be looked back upon as the moment when Leeds turned the corner. In fact, if such things happen at all, that moment was probably in the dressing room after the Villa match when the players had it out with each other, in Marsch’s absence. With the air now cleared and the reality of relegation established, Marsch was able to rally the team to a much needed win. Key players were Bamford who still can’t play a full 90 minutes and Rodrigo who scored the opening goal but was subbed with an injury. He may not be available for this match. It’s fair to say that the club’s revival is still in the balance. Perhaps Wolves fans can relate. They suffered an extremely difficult last season at the fag end of Nuno’s time there. But this season they’re much improved under Bruno Lage. A coach who had clearly done his homework on the Premier League before his arrival. That recent 2-0 loss to Palace aside, there is little to suggest that they can’t put Leeds to the sword as they recently did to fellow strugglers, Everton and Watford. And with a European place up for grabs they’ll be no slacking. TD


Saturday

A-League Men: Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory
08.45 on BT Sport Extra 2
A few weeks into the season it looked like Tony Popovic was ready to win his third Premiers’ Plate with his third different A-League club. Melbourne Victory have been unrecognisable from the team that finished at the foot of the table last season and are still genuine title contenders under Popovic, even if a streak of three losses has seen Victory drop back to fifth. The A-League’s best supported club have four games in hand on current league leaders Melbourne City - win all four and they’d be a point in front of their noisy neighbours. That’ll be a tall order at AAMI Park, as City don’t lose that often. But if the current champions have a weakness, it’s an inability to hang onto a lead. Already this season Patrick Kisnorbo’s team have conceded five equalisers in the final minutes of the match, including the 2-2 draw with Victory at the start of the season. Nick D’Agostino scored Victory’s equaliser in December and the young striker has just earned a Socceroos call up off the back of his form his season. Lining up for City is Australia’s first choice striker and A League leading scorer Jamie Maclaren. This has all the makings of a classic derby encounter. GA


Championship: Derby County v Coventry City
12.30 on Sky Sports Football
With both sides suffering defeat in their midweek fixtures this match looks like a last desperate chance to achieve something this season. Both had great starts to the season: Coventry, in their second season back in the Championship, were challenging for the play-offs, while Derby were looking to set to perform a miracle and suvive their 21-point deduction. The Championship season though is long and surprising good runs seldom last. With no sign of a new buyer and having to sell their best players, Derby’s great escape bid has faltered. Their trip to Blackburn on Wednesday night was always going to be tough but having gone in ahead at half time, they must have thought they could get sometthing from the game, but eventually lost 3-1. So is it over for Derby? If it was simply a matter of catching Reading, then maybe they could do it but now Barnsley seem to have turned a corner, it now looks a bridge too far for the Rams. What then for Wayne Rooney? GS


FA Cup quarter final: Middlesbrough v Chelsea
17.15 on BBC One
Any more fares, please. The build up for this match has been dominated by ongoing PR blunders from the now public sector communications department at Stamford Bridge. Unlike any of Roman Abramovich’s other business interests, Chelsea have been allowed to continue operating under the sanctions imposed by the govenment, although with strict limitations imposed. Unable to sell any away tickets for the fixture, Chelsea requested the match be played behind closed doors to, in their words, protect "sporting integrity". The irony of this claim coming from a club that has benefited from financial doping for the past 19 years was not lost on anyone - even the club’s Supporters’ Trust told them to withdraw the request. Which they did. Maybe though it has helped in some way. Already there is talk that the government is looking to ease the restrictions imposed on the club, especially with regards to travel costs, currently capped at £20,000. The tie has special FA Cup memories for Chelsea: Roberto Di Matteo’s first minute strike in the 1997 final helping his side to their first major trophy in over 25 years (no, I’m not including the ZDS), and made more poignant, coming at the end of the season that saw club benefactor Matthew Harding lose his life in a helicopter crash, at the age of 42. Of course for Boro that season has any number of bad memories. The Cup final defeat came just a month after losing the League Cup final to Leicester and a week after being relegated from the Premier League by the three points they were deducted for failing to fulfill a fixture. GS


Sunday

FA Cup quarter final: Crystal Palace v Everton
12.30 on ITV and STV
The Eagles find themselves in the unusual position of going into a quarter-final against a traditional top level club as favourites. If you look at where Crystal Palace are in the table you’ll see that they appear to be doing a little better than they did under Roy Hodgson, last season. But the real story of Palace, has been their transformation under Patrick Viera as a tactically flexible and disciplined group of players. One day Palace can be an attack-minded and, when pushed, free-flowing, getting the best out of Conor Gallagher, Wilf Zaha, Michael Olise and co. On another, they can be hard-nosed and ultra-defensive Simeoneites, as they were against Manchester City on Monday. They’ll need to take the former approach to this game. For one, draws are forbidden in the FA Cup. For two, Everton have been so poor that they don’t require that much attention. We can’t be certain what effect the extraordinary events surrounding their 1-0 win over Newcastle will have on Frank Lampard’s team. Perhaps it acted as a bolt cutter to set them free. We also know that the nature of the FA Cup can reduce pressure and provide focus. Nevertheless, it may not be enough against a hungry Palace side, free of relegation worries and determined to stay on the road to Wembley. TD


FA Cup quarter final: Nottingham Forest v Liverpool
18.00 on ITV and STV
It’s been more than thirty years since Forest reached an FA Cup final, more than sixty since they’ve won one. Their run this year has been spectacular, seeing off first Arsenal, then Leicester and, in the previous round, high-flying Huddersfield. Fortune, as always, has played a part, with this being their fourth consecutive home draw. Liverpool have also had the benefit of home advantage in every round so far (not that they’ve really needed it) - getting past Shrewsbury, Cardiff and Norwich - all of whom at least managed to score against them. With the League Cup already under their belt, passage to the quarter finals of the Champions League secured, and City dropping points against Palace in the league - Liverpool are closing in on a quadruple. Talk of quadruples is nothing new - City have been in this position for each of the last four seasons. With the international break starting immediately afterwards, there should be no need to rest players for this one, however, what may be on Klopp’s mind is that progression through this stage for Liverpool will see them in a Wembley semi-final just a week after their crunch tie at the Etihad, four days after a Champions League quarter final second leg and three days before having to face Manchester United (which on current form should be a blessed relief). If he does take his foot off the gas even slightly here, Forest have shown they are capable of causing a shock. GS


La Liga: Real Madrid v Barcelona
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 2
After a difficult start to the season for both clubs the traditional top two in Spain are reasserting their authority and a stonking Clasico would be fitting symbol. Real Madrid will have to try hard to lose the title from here but don’t need the prospect of three points for motivation for this match. Barcelona, who’s recent financial problems are well documented, are much revived under Xavi and benefiting from the services of free scoring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who joined the club during the winter transfer window. When these two last faced off, in the league, Real claimed a convincing 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou (soon to be called the Spotify Camp Nou after a new sponsorship deal was struck with the controversial music streaming platform). The Madrid club also prevailed 3-2, in a dramatic Supercopa encounter that went to extra time in Riyadh. If he wants to avoid an unwanted treble in his first season at the helm, Xavi can look to Real’s recent PSG match in the Champions League. The manner of their victory was as much about the mental fragility of the Paris club as it was about the genius of Modric and Benzema plus Real’s unquenchable thirst for victories. But the fact is that Carlos Ancelotti’s side were there for the taking and can be beaten. The Catalans will go into this game with no Parisian-made millstones around their neck. Just a point to prove to themselves and a message to send to their fans: Barca are back. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Gary (@gafootbl)

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