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: Welcome to Halifax. Not that one



It’s the end of April, so titles, Champions League places and relegation survival are all up for grabs across Europe. But if you fancy a change of pace, with an empty summer ahead for men’s football, we take our first look at the Canadian Premier League.

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

La Liga: Sevilla v Cádiz
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 1
The La Liga weekend kicks off with an Andalusian derby with consequences for the top and bottom of the table. Cadiz boosted their hopes of survival with a sensational win over Barcelona two weeks ago. At least it was sensational until the Catalans lost to Rayo Vallecano last week and now it’s been downgraded to just unexpected. Cadiz are one place above another Andalusian club, Granada, just out of the relegation zone. Since Sergio took over as head coach in January, Los Piratas have lost just four games. But their inability to convert draws to wins has hampered their escape from relegation. This is no surprise given that they are the league’s second lowest scorers this season. All eyes then on former Manchester City striker and top scorer Alvaro Negredo. Of the three games left to play this is the trickiest: a derby match against the third placed team. Sevilla’s recent form has not been great, losing to Barca and Real Madrid plus only squeaking past lowly Levante 3-2 last week. But with only six points between them and Betis in fifth, they cannot call time on their season yet, lest they lose that Champions League spot for next season. TD


Saturday

Premier League: Newcastle United v Liverpool
12.30 on BT Sport 1
With four games left of their season, not only do Newcastle find themselves in the top half of the table, they can (purely mathematically) still qualify for the Europa Conference League. Having gone through the first half of the season with just one win, Newcastle’s form in the second half has been better than anyone in the division, with the exception of the top two. Even before a busy summer ahead in the transfer market spending their new owners’ cash, they already look capable of challenging for a top four place next season. Getting to the top four is one thing, trying to overhaul City or Liverpool is a whole other thing. A few week’s ago I was sceptical about Liverpool’s chances of completing the quadruple. Since then they’ve convincingly knocked City out of the Cup, humiliated United, skillfully negotiated a tough Merseyside derby and now, again Liverpool find themselves in the position where their return tie in the Champion League looks far more comfortable than that of their title rivals. If all this wasn’t enough, fans were given a bonus present this week when manager Jurgen Klopp signed a contract extension keeping him at the club for the next four seasons. Who would be brave enough to predict what the Premier League will look like in 2026? GS


Serie A: Sampdoria v Genoa
17.00 on BT Sport 2
Strap yourselves in for a Derby della Lanterna relegation dogfight. With four rounds of fixtures to go, Genoa are in the mire while Sampdoria are quickly being dragged in. For Genoa skirting with relegation is nothing new, since returning to the top flight in 2007 they’ve finished one place above the drop zone four times. Having finished in mid-table last campaign, this season has seen a downturn for both clubs. Sampdoria replaced Claudio Ranieri with Roberto D’Avera, who was then sacked the same week in January as Andrei Shevchenko was at Genoa. Marco Giampaolo now has the task of keeping Sampdoria in the top flight, in his second spell at the club, while for Genoa their new owners’ second managerial appointment is former RB Leipzig youth coach Alexander Blessin. Their main rivals in escaping the drop are Salernitana who have turned a corner, winning three in a row. They also have a game in hand over the Genoese sides. The other team in the relegation scrap is Cagliari who will be hoping to take all three points when they host nothing-to-play-for Verona this weekend. Samp’s run-in after this looks very tough with all three games against sides with title or European ambitions - Inter, Fiorentina and Lazio. Three points from this game might just be enough for them but they will be far from safe. For Genoa, their next two are Juventus at home and Napoli away. Defeat wouldn’t seal their fate but only the most optimistic mathematical models would be able to save them. Of course, for UK viewers the start of this game will be missed because of the Saturday 3pm blackout, so coverage will begin fifteen minutes in. GS


Canadian Premier League: HFX Wanderers v Edmonton
19.00 on BT Sport ESPN
Now in its third season, the CPL comes to UK screens. This eight-team professional league showcases some of the best young talent from the emerging men’s game in Canada. I imagine that the league is awash with European scouts looking for the next Alphonso Davies or Jonathan David. Indeed, Atletico Ottawa are owned by Atletico Madrid. You can expect some moderately good vibing from the skilled attacking players but some poor defending, which is harder to coach. Some of the stadiums are low capacity which means support and atmosphere can be lacking. However, that may change as the weather improves over the summer and the hockey season ends. Overall though it’s good stuff with some crisp passing football and a nice grass roots feel making it a more "authentic" summer alternative to MLS, I reckon. Plus, no VAR. HFX Wanderers and Edmonton have made below average starts to the fledgling season. Edmonton (who used to be a NASL club) are a young team and were beaten by Forge FC, 3-0 in the last round. The coach, Alan Koch, was honest in his appraisal of his players when he said that they fought hard but were too timid. Meanwhile, HFX went down 2-1 in front of a decent crowd at champions Pacific FC in a closely fought match settled by a penalty. This upcoming fixture will be the first game of the campaign at home and Trinidadian coach Stephen Hart will look to exploit the home field advantage at Wanderers Grounds. TD


Sunday

Scottish Premiership: Celtic v Rangers
12.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
After Celtic’s league win against Rangers four weeks ago, there is perhaps a hint of "after the Lord Mayor’s Show" about this one, but even though the visitors still have other irons in the fire you can’t see them just giving up their title here. Rangers return to Glasgow from their Europa League semi-final in Leipzig in the same position they were in after the quarter final first leg- a goal down with everything to play for. On top of that they also have a Scottish Cup final against Hearts, having beaten Celtic in the semi-final two weeks ago. Given Celtic’s vastly superior goal difference, they would need to slip up twice in the final three games, in addition to losing this fixture, to give Gio a van Bronckhorst’s side a chance of retaining the Premiership. A win for Celtic will as good as see them as champions, they’ll just need one more point before they can set off the confetti cannons. Will these two dominate as much once VAR is introduced in Scotland’s top flight from this December? Supporters of other clubs will rush to say this what they need to compete but evidence from other leagues would suggest otherwise. It will end up costing the Old Firm more than other clubs in financial terms though: the top placed side will pay three times more for the service than the team finishing bottom of the division. GS


Premier League: Everton v Chelsea
14.00 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
Since Frank Lampard was appointed Everton manager at the end of January, he’s picked up five wins, a selection of which are: one against National League side Boreham Wood, another against an in-transition (dirty) Mags and the last against a United side who have lost their way. With Everton sitting four places above the relegation zone at the end of January, they did need to act. However, their decision to replace Rafa Benítez for a relative rookie, when experience was necessary, will be their undoing. They are now sitting third bottom and facing the prospect of tier two football at Goodison Park for the first time since 1954. Not that this is all Frank’s fault; Everton have been in decline since 2016 following a change of ownership. However, he has a host of talented players, and the decline on his watch will further diminish his standing as a top-tier coach. Today’s visitors, the club where Lampard achieved legend status (as a player at least), aren’t in their usual sparkling form. Recent reverses to Brentford and top-four rivals, Arsenal, saw them ship eight goals and on Thursday they couldn’t even take three points from United. They may be entering a period of transition themselves, but I can’t see anything other than a Chelsea win today. JB


Ligue 1: Marseille v Lyon
19.45 on BT Sports 2
Two old rivals meet again for the second Clash of the Olympics of the season. Earlier in the season OL squeezed past OL in a tight 2-1 win in Lyon. But this fixture has been marred by crowd violence in recent years, on one occasion resulting in Marseille fans being banned from the city of Lyon. Last year, Marseille’s Dimitry Payet was hit by a bottle thrown by a Lyon fan and the match was abandoned. In 2018 there was a full-scale brawl in the tunnel immediately after Lyon’s 3-2 win. Obviously, this is Not Something You Like To See but it illustrates the depth of feeling and adds drama and narrative to a PSG dominated league. In terms of league position OM have the upper hand, sitting in second and looking to stay there. Lyon are eighth and have had an up and down season, characteristic of their head coach, Peter Bosz. Their Europa League quarter final exit to West Ham was especially irksome for OL fans. That said, the Dutchman is confirmed to remain in post for next season. A league double over the old rivals would help smooth things over. That’s assuming the crowd can keep their heads. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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