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: Deja vu, times two



It’s the final Boxset of the season. Leagues are completing, play-offs are in full swing and from Wembley we have the finals of both men’s and women’s FA Cups - both of which are replays of the League Cup finals from earlier this year.

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

Championship play-off semi-final 1st leg: Luton Town v Huddersfield Town
19.45 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
Play-off matches are always of huge historical significance to the participating clubs, but this game takes even greater magnitude because it’ll be the first ever EFL League match to use VAR. This is a blow for opponents of video referees as it can only be seen as an endorsement or at the very least an acceptance that the infernal thing is here to stay. I expect that it won’t be too long before it’s rolled out to the entire Championship, assuming they can pay for it. These two met last month and Huddersfield returned from Kenilworth Road with a 2-0 win which flattered the victors. Had Luton scored from their penalty when the score was 1-0 it would have been a very different game. I spoke to Yorkshire Live’s Huddersfield journalist, David Hartrick, who feels the two sides are well matched and can see the play-off being settled by penalties. I’m inclined to agree; this will be tighter than a gnat’s chuff, especially in the first leg and given that Luton may have some more players returning from injury. It’s also likely that, although welcome additions to the Premier League they would be, the winner will probably lose in the final. TD


Saturday

Championship play-off semi-final 1st leg: Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest
15.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
Like all play-off games we’re likely to be in for some cagey football and a shirt-full of shenanigans. As stated above my feeling is that one of these two will be in the Premier league next season. Recent form is important when considering the chances in any game but it’s even more significant when it comes to play-offs, rather than final league position. Forest’s form is slightly better but there is a view that had United started the season under manager Paul Heckingbottom they would have gone up automatically. Their opponents caught the eye earlier this season with their FA Cup exploits and I don’t doubt that both teams could make a real go of it next season. Steve Cooper rested seven players in their draw with Hull last week. Big things are expected of Cooper, and he has done an amazing job pulling together a club that had hitherto been seen as unpulltogetherable. The two teams couldn’t be separated in the regular season, with both games ending 1-1. So, it really could not be closer, but I reckon that despite their recent loss to Reading, the Sheffield club will not only prevail here but will emerge triumphant at Wembley. TD


FA Cup Final: Chelsea v Liverpool
16.45 on BBC One, ITV and STV
The question is who wants this more? On form you’d back Liverpool but expect a very close and tense game, low on spectacle. Last year’s losing finalist, Chelsea are about to embark upon a new adventure with different owners and have big players out of contract at the end of the season. Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christianson are leaving and so too might Cesar Azpilicueta. There may be fewer chances for silverware if Todd Boehly tightens the purse strings in the coming years. Then there is Liverpool who are still juggling with the tantalising prospect of a quadruple, although the League title seems unlikely, short of a City crash. If Klopp’s team bottle this game and lose to Real Madrid in the Champion League Final then Liverpool fans could be looking back on the season with huge regrets. Moreover, it’s been 16 (sixteen) years since the Reds have lifted the FA Cup so that should provide extra motivation, despite their likely European defeat. The match also brings together two of the best coaches at the peak of their powers and with a shared history. Thomas Tuchel has only beaten Jurgen Klopp twice in the 14 games they’ve faced each other. TD

Terry has written a fascinating profile of Christian Heidel, the man who gave both Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel their first jobs in management at FSV Mainz. You can read the story behind their appointments now on our blog.

League Two play-off semi-final 1st leg: Mansfield Town v Northampton Town
19.45 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
Last weekend, Northampton missed out on bouncing straight back into League One when Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers racked up a 7-0 win against a side made up of already relegated Scunthorpe’s academy squad, wiping out the goal difference advantage the Cobblers had at the start of the day. While John Brady’s side can feel aggrieved, Scunthorpe did nothing wrong, keeping within the rules of playing at least outfield ten players who were on the teamsheet from the week before. Fourteen games into the season, at the end of October, Mansfield were in the relegation zone. The next 18 games transformed their season, seeing them drop just nine points from a possible 54 (which included a club record eight consecutive league wins) and leap up into the automatic promotion places. That momentum couldn’t last though and in the end the Stags were hanging on for the last ten minutes in a 2-2 draw with Forest Green, seeing them finish seventh in the table, a point ahead of Sutton. Despite a long career in the football league, Mansfield manager Nigel Clough has yet to reach a play-off final - the one time he has taken a team to Wembley was as a losing FA Cup semi-finalist with then League One Sheffield United against Hull City in 2014. The other semi-final is between Port Vale and Swindon on these channels at 12.00 Sunday. GS


Sunday

Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley
12.00 on BT Sport 1
Having comfortably come out on top in the North London Derby, Spurs have kept their season alive in their chase for fourth place. To secure Champions League football next season they still need Arsenal to drop points against either Newcastle or Everton and make sure they get their job done here and at Norwich on the final day. April’s Premier League manager of the month, Mike Jackson has taken ten points from his five games as caretaker manager, a position he took up at the Easter weekend when Burnley were four points from safety. They sit now just ahead of Leeds thanks to a substantially better goal difference, on the right side of the relegation line and have the benefit of a game in hand over Jesse Marsch’s side. Unfortunately, that game in hand is away to Aston Villa who easily beat the Clarets at Turf Moor last weekend. With a home tie against Newcastle to come on the final day, Burnley need to squeeze every point they can in these final three games. One point would be invaluable for them here but if Spurs can raise themselves as they did against Arsenal, it’s likely the relegation battle will go to the final weekend. GS


Women’s FA Cup Final: Chelsea v Manchester City
14.30 on BBC One
As with the men’s final yesterday, the women’s FA Cup final is also a replay of this year’s League Cup. Back in March City beat Chelsea 3-1 at Plough Lane, in a significantly more entertaining game then the men managed. Scotland international Caz Weir scored twice either side of a goal from all-time Lionesses top scorer Ellen White, after Sam Kerr had given Chelsea a half-time lead. Despite having only just confirmed their Champions League place last weekend in the final round of fixtures in the WSL, City are very much in rich form and certainly capable of snatching another piece of silverware away from the league champions. Having been without England skipper and defensive rock Steph Houghton all season and missing other stars earlier in the campaign, City have recovered from an awful start to overhaul United for third place. Given the short season in the WSL, any slips are costly but City’s injury crisis allowed their young stars like Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway - who was played out of position for much of that early difficult early stage of the season - the opportunity to show what they can do. 50,000 tickets have already been sold for this one and the closer it gets to 60,000 the more questions will be asked regarding the venue choices made for this summer’s Euros in England. GS


Serie A: Milan v Atalanta
17.00 on BT Sport 3
After one of the most enthralling title races in years in Serie A, this weekend’s fixtures could see Milan crowned champions if Inter fail to at least match the Rossonerri’s result here in their final away game of the season at Cagliari (which you can watch after this at 19.45 on BT Sport 1). It all might go down to the final round next weekend though with Atalanta still having something to play for as they go after another European adventure. Despite having enjoyed five consecutive seasons of European football under Gasperini, including reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League twice, Atalanta could be set to miss out this campaign. In Serie A, results in head-to-head encounters is the decider for teams on equal points. For this reason, despite having a significantly better goal difference, they sit just outside the European qualification spots, behind Fiorentina and Roma, who are also on 59 points. Unable to improve that head-to-head record against teams they lost to home and away, Le Dea need wins and hope others drop points. For Milan, their better head-to-head record against Inter could be what decides the title if they only manage to get a point here. GS


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend, and enjoy the summer. See you again in August.

Terry and Graham

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