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: The big draw



This weekend we look at teams that are chasing the leaders in the titles races across Europe. Once, that is, we get past the important business of picking the names of countries out of little footballs.

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


All times are UK (GMT+1)

Friday

FIFA World Cup 2022 draw
16.45 on BBC One
Live from Doha, it’s the draw for the World Cup in Qatar. As with Euro 2020, the draw goes ahead despite not knowing who the final qualifiers will be. England are in Pot 1, with the holders France and hosts Qatar, and could be drawn against Germany, who are in Pot 2, as they were when we did our own version of the draw on this week’s podcast. Expect plenty of chaos when it comes to Pot 4, where you’ll find Canada, Wales, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. GS


Championship: Hull City v Huddersfield Town
19.45 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
As we enter the run-in, the race for the automatic promotion places looks done and dusted. Huddersfield’s 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth in the last round of fixtures before the international break opened a six point gap between the Cherries and the chasing pack, with the South Coast side also having played two games less than most of their promotion-chasing rivals. The Terrier’s now have to concentrate on holding their place in a tight bunch of sides in the play-off places, with teams like Boro and Forest snapping at their heels. Without a win in three, and having not scored since giving up a two goal lead in the match against West Brom, Carlos Coberán needs a strong performance here to stay in the hunt in what is their last season of Premier League parachute payments. The significant advantage of parachute payments couldn’t stop Hull falling into League One in 2020 but the Tigers bounced back at the first time of asking. While they sit in 20th place in the table, a comfortable 13 point gap between themselves and Barnsley means that relegation fears have almost completely faded. GS


Saturday

Premier League: Liverpool v Watford
12.30 on BT Sport 1
Liverpool were already in the process of being sold to Fenway Sports Group when Roy Hodgson was installed as manager. Already at a point of transition with the exit of Rafa Benitez, the free signing of Joe Cole from Chelsea was the only big name Hodgson brought in - though his forgettable time on Merseyside was marred with injury. Up for sale the club had no interest in investing in the squad and of all the players Hodgson signed, in what would be his only transfer window, only Jonjo Shelvey went on to play more than 50 games for the club. Hodgson’s reign was a disaster: home defeats to Blackpool in the league and Northampton Town in the League Cup were coupled with an awful run away from home which saw them win just once by the time he was sacked in early January 2011. It wasn’t all bad, he took the side unbeaten to the knock-out stages of the Europa League - a competition he had in the previous season taken Fulham to the final. But it was clearly a competition his far more popular successor Kenny Dalglish had no time for and they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Braga. Hodgson repaired his career at West Brom, suffciently well enough to be given the England job, which pretty much destroyed it again. It’s no wonder he wanted to retire after four, largely uninspiring, stable seasons at Crystal Palace. And now here he is, back in the game at Watford, given yet another hospital pass trying to keep the Hornets in the top flight. Two wins from his nine games in charge suggest that it won’t happen and it’s hard to look beyond a comfortable win here for Liverpool - which happens whenever Roy returns to Anfield. Which of course is good news for Everton, who are realistically the only side Watford can catch right now. GS


Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund v RB Leipzig
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
The traditional Bundesliga runner up faces the young pretender to the seat next to the throne. With Covid restrictions finally lifted the "House Full" signs are up at the WestfalenStadion for the first time since February 2020. Borussia’s championship hopes pretty much expired with the 1-1 draw against FC Koln last matchday. In fairness, they would have been terrible champions had they somehow blundered their way past Bayern Munich. Now they can concentrate on life without Haaland who is definitely leaving in the summer (to City probably). Had Leipzig started the season under coach Domenico Todesco then they might have proved a more worthy title challenger. Todesco replaced Jesse Marsch in December after a very disappointing spell for the now Leeds boss which saw Rasenballsport in the wrong half of the table. But the players immediately responded to Todesco’s methods and they have only lost once (to Bayern of course) in the second half of the season. This fixture is always tough for Leipzig. They are still a hated club, particularly in Dortmund and the home crowd will be on their backs. But if they hold their nerve they’ve got a good chance of sticking it to the Black & Yellows. TD


Ligue 1: St Etienne v Marseille
20.00 on BT Sport 3
There has been a recent history of trouble between these two sets of club fans. So much so that in the reverse fixture in Marseille, last August, St Etienne fans were barred from the Velodrome. Unsurprisingly for the return, the local Loire authorities have reciprocated and no Marseille supporters will be allowed into the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, under pain of a hefty fine and up to 6 months in prison.Such is the backdrop for what is an important fixture for both teams, albeit for different reasons.OM sit second in the table and while a title challenge is optimistic to say the least, Jorge Sampaoli’s team are far from comfortable in the only other Champions League spot. They need a win to keep Nice and Rennes off their back. The Argentine coach will have to manage without seven goal striker Arkadiusz Milik who has a muscle tear. ASSE has some injury problems too. Right back, Falaye Sacko, is out for the rest of the season and top scorer Wahbi Khazri is also missing. Les Verts recent decent form has lifted them out of the relegation zone. They’ve only lost once in the last seven games and that was to PSG. TD



Sunday

Serie A: Atalanta v Napoli
14.00 on BT Sport ESPN
Now I know what you’re thinking, surely the Serie A game of the weekend is the Derby d’Italia, Juventus v Inter. Well maybe so, and feel free to watch it later from 19.45 on BT Sport 1, but I have a feeling this match will have more of an influence on where the Scudetto goes come the end of the season. Napoli’s defeat to Milan at the start of March handed the lead in the table back to the Rossoneri. With Fiorentina and Roma to come in their next two games, this is the trickiest part of Napoli’s run-in as they look to retake top spot. Atalanta’s indifferent form of late has seen a gap of eight points open up between them and Juventus in the fourth Champions League place. Having qualified for Europe’s premier competition for the last two seasons, they may have to content themselves with the Europa League but could yet seal an upgrade by winning that competition this season. La Dea have fallen into the kinder half of the Europa League draw by avoiding Barcelona. Should they get past RB Leipzig (the first leg of which is coming up on Thursday), the winners between Rangers and Braga await in what would end a 34 year wait for a second European semi-final since reaching that stage in the 1988 Cup Winners Cup as a Serie B side. GS


Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
There were celebratory scenes at St James’ Park when these sides met in October, though those celebrations were dampened by a 3-2 win for the away side. The stadium was rocking in the immediate aftemath of the takeover by the Saudi PIF group bringing an end to Mike Ashley’s austere ownership and promising a new era of sportswashable super-spending. It also marked Steve Bruce’s last game in charge of club, though his opposite number, Nuno Espirito Santo, would only remain in his post for just another two weeks. Both sides have seen improvement under their new bosses: Eddie Howe needed the January transfer window before changes could take effect but Conte’s influence brough an immediate upturn in results. Mostly. How this game plays out will largely depend on which Tottenham turns up, which - for a neutral, at least - makes them fascinating viewing right now. The wins against Brighton and West Ham before the international break were their first back-to-back wins since Christmas - form which would suggest that a Champions League place is unlikely. They are still well-placed for a challenge though, and with a game against Arsenal to come, they can apply pressure on their local rivals for fourth spot. Despite losing their last two games, Newcastle look to be good enough now to comfortably avoid the drop and can look forward to next season when they can mount their own challenge for a top four place. GS


La Liga: Barcelona v Sevilla
20.00 on LaLigaTV
When I previewed the Classico in the last Boxset, I suggested that Barca would be looking to make a statement of intent following their dramatic revival. And a statement they definitely made with a glorious 4-0 win over Real Madrid which almost eclipsed the women’s team’s Champions League victory over the same opposition. The latest news is that the Catalans are in secret talks to sign Antonio Rudiger. The Chelsea centre half is leaving Stamford Bridge in the summer and it barely needs saying he would upgrade their back line next season. For this season there is still work to be done. The title seems unlikely but replacing their opponents in second place seems like such a good bet. Granted, Sevilla are unbeaten in the league since November but there have been too many draws recently. Julen Lopetegui’s team also suffered the disappointment of their Europa League exit; a competition which they can justifiably claim ownership of and with them due to host the final. There is a sense of anti-climax this season which is a measure of how far Los Rojiblancos have come in recent years. Here is a chance for them to prove their credentials as true title contenders. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry and Graham

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