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: Before the window closes



It’s the last weekend of football before the close of the transfer window. With just a few days of panic-buying remaining, the results from this weekend may lead to some ill-considered big money moves.

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

Serie A: Lazio v Inter
19.45 on BT Sport 1
Simeone Inzaghi joined Lazio as a player in 1999, in their golden era under Sven Goran Eriksson. He played alongside the likes of Pavel Nedved, Hernán Crespo and Marcelo Salas but while all of those moved on, he stayed for ten seasons and then joined the coaching staff, becoming head coach in 2016. When he took over from Antonio Conte as head coach of the then champions, Inter, at the start of last season, it ended a 22 year association with Lazio. Small wonder then that the football gods decided that his first defeat as Inter coach would be in the Stadio Olimpico against his old club, now with Maurizio Sarri in charge. Despite losing the goals of Romelu Lukaku, Inzaghi’s Inter made a valiant title defence, and the Belgian’s return could well make the difference this time around. Lazio’s Francesco Acerbi is unlikely to make his first start of the season as he’s looking to sign for today’s visitors. The centre back is in the last season of his contract and is so eager to link up with his former manager that he’s willing to waive €400,000 in unpaid wages for the transfer to go through. The signing of Acerbi may not go too well amongst Inter fans, though not because of his age - he’s 34 - or even the fact that he was briefly a Milan player. The more conspiracy-minded frequenters of the Curva Nord consider him to be an undercover agent of the Rossoneri after he appeared to smile when Milan scored a late winner against Lazio last season, securing the two points they would go on to win the title by. GS


Saturday

Championship: Sunderland v Norwich City
12.30 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
This will be the season’s third televised league game featuring Sunderland and it’s not September yet. Not that I’m complaining; for the past few years I’ve been restricted to midweek games on the iFollow service. If you’re planning on watching this one down the pub, be aware that the newly brilliant Manchester United are over on BT at the same time. It’s my plan to watch this one with my SoF colleagues before AFC Whyteleafe’s FA Vase game versus Wick, so if you’re a friendly landlord, please do make yourself known. This will be another tough test for Alex Neil’s men, who have fared well ahead of expectation in their opening five games. Last week’s win away at Stoke saw Ross Stewart (the Loch Ness Drogba) elevate himself to the level of a true Sunderland legend with his classy winner. The sky seems the limit for Stewart who is also forming a formidable partnership with Everton loanee, Ellis Simms. Former Arsenal defender, Daniel Ballard is out but Dan Neil should return following his sending off against Sheffield United. Visitors Norwich are one point behind their hosts but have put together back to back wins following a stuttering start. While Teemu Pukki may not have made his mark just yet, Joshua Sargent and Danel Sinani have both started well and will make Sunderland work for the points. JB


Bundesliga: Bayern v Borussia Mochengladbach
15.00 on Sky Sports Football
With Robert Lewandowski departed for Barcelona, Bayern seem to be even more free scoring without him. Three games into the Bundesliga season and the eternal champions are played three, won three, goals for 15 (fifteen) and goals against 1 (one). Could it be that without his top torjäger, Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann has the freedom to unleash his squad in a way that he couldn’t before? Sadio Mane’s three goals in his first three games since his move from Merseyside is giving us answers to that question. The Senegalese superstar’s instant impact is more proof that the club’s management rarely put a foot wrong when it comes to recruitment. If they weren’t in football, they’d be in HR. There will be more answers this weekend as they face their sternest test, so far, in Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Rekordmeister have not beaten the Rheinlanders the last three competitive matches and got a 5-0 tonking at their hands in the Cup last October. New ‘Gladbach coach Daniel Farke’s arrival has brought new energy after a mostly moribund season under his predecessor, Adi Hütter. Their start has not been perfect (conceding a late equalising penalty to Schalke was a bit embarrassing) but the front three of Thuram, Plea and Hofmann are off to goalscoring starts. The midfield duo of Kone and Kramer look composed, as does Japanese centre back Ko Iterkura. All to play for? Not really but still worth your time. TD


MLS: Minnesota United v Houston Dynamo
20.30 on Freesports
September starts next week so that must mean it’s crunch time in MLS, or not, depending on your preference. For those who value the Supporters Shield over the post-season MLS Cup, we’re now in the business end of the campaign, or would be if it wasn’t obvious that LAFC were going to run away with the title. With that in mind, the run for the play-offs is where the interest is. Minnesota United joined the league in 2017 but while currently enjoying a very familiar fourth place in the Western Conference, they’ve only ever been past the first round of the play-offs once, in the Covid affected 2020 campaign, where they reached the conference final. So you feel they’re in need of an asterisk free post-season. Perhaps not as much as Houston though, who will need some kind of miracle to take part this season. Having won two MLS Cups in their first two seasons after joining the league in 2006, they went on to two more finals, but their conference final of 2017 is the only play-off run they’ve had in what will be nine seasons. So this match is all about Minnesota not slipping up, and with the Pacific North west trio of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver all currently sat outside the play-off zone in the Western Conference, there are plenty of sides waiting to take advantage of any late season wobbles. GS



Sunday

Ligue 1: Nice v Marseille
14.00 on BT Sport 1
In 2019, James Ratcliffe, the English billionaire chemical engineer, bought OGC Nice from a Chinese-American consortium for €100 million. If that name sounds familiar that’s because he’s one of many names linked as a new owner of Manchester United, but unlike many of the others, he has the money to do it. So how’s he doing at Nice? Having dispensed with Patrick Viera as head coach in 2021, the club secured the services of Christophe Galtier, the architect of Lille’s incredible 2020/21 Ligue 1 title success. Galtier has moved on to the PSG career springboard, taking over from Mauricio Pochettino, and in his place Nice have appointed Vieira’s predecessor at the club, Lucien Favre. The veteran Swiss coach has been out of the game for two years following his departure from Borussia Dortmund but is a popular figure at the club, having taken them to their only run in the Champions League in 2017 (although they didn’t make it to the group stage). There was optimism in pre-season that he can achieve those heights again, with big names like Aaron Ramsey and Kasper Schmeichal coming in - further strengthed with Arsenal’s Nicholas Pepe on loan. But it’s been a shaky start for Les Aiglons, drawing their opening two games with Strasbourg and Toulouse and then losing away to Clermont while picking up two red cards. They collected another red in midweek in their extra time Europa Conference League win against Maccabi Tel Aviv. This fixture may not be the best one to judge if Nice are heading the right direction. This time last season this fixture was abandoned after 75 minutes after Marseille’s Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle of water and Nice fans invaded the pitch. It’s no wonder they’ve given this south coast derby a déjeuner kick off. GS


Premier League: Nottingham Forest v Tottenham Hotspur
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
Yes, I know, Spurs in the Boxset again, but this, like the other matches, should be very watchable. Before the start of the season, Forest’s opening five games looked tough, and taking anything more than a couple of points would have been a bonus. As it is, they can count themselves unlucky not to have come back from Goodison Park with three points - a result that would have seen them level with today’s opponents in the early table. Forest are at the Etihad in midweek but after that there is a run of games against beatable opponents to give them the chance to build a protective cushion from the relegation zone. For Spurs, the story of their season so far has been exposing other teams’ frailties. They took apart a disorganised Southampton side, then exposed Chelsea’s deficiencies in defence, and then showed up Wolves’ limited attacking options. Will Conte find an as yet unseen soft underbelly of Steve Cooper’s newly promoted side? Coincidentally, this week the two sides were drawn against each other to play at the City Ground in the next round of the EFL Cup, which is all the way in November. By the time that one comes around it will be a lot clearer what the season ambitions should be for both sides. GS


La Liga: Espanyol v Real Madrid
21.00 on LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 1
It’s been a mixed start to the season at Espanyol: A 2-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano was preceded by a spirited comeback against Celta from two goals down to equalise in the dying seconds with a penalty from Joselu. The journeyman German striker has been leading the line in the absence of Raul de Tomas who is expected to leave before the transfer window shuts. The immaculately coiffured exReal Madrid young star has lit up La Liga’s with 44 goals in 85 games for the Barcelona club. He may replace the Newcastle bound Alexander Isak at Real Sociedad. He has also been linked to Manchester United and Everton. RDT sat out the first two games and may not feature against his old club, while he waits patiently in the departure lounge. Real Madrid have had a comfortable start to the season with wins over Almeria and Celta. However, Madridistas have been marking the passing of an era with the sudden departure of the majestic, hard tackling, arch-shithouse, Carlos Casemiro to Man United. With Toni Kroos and Luca Modric, the Brazilian was one of the soon to be legendary midfield triumvirate who helped Los Blancos amass enough trophies to fill a warehouse in Nevada. But we’re entering the era of Tchouameni and Camavinga, so he can’t be hanging around especially when there’s new challenges to pursue. Go well, sweet prince. But not too well. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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