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 Lionesses are back



Sarina Wiegman’s triumphant Lionesses look to cement their place at the next World Cup, while in the Premier League Arsenal and Manchester United get to prove which of them really have changed for the better.

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 Women’s World Cup 2023 qualification - UEFA Group I: Greece v Wales
18.00 on BBC Two Wales, iPlayer & Red Button
While they currently sit clear in second place in the table, if Wales are going to join Scotland and Ireland in the play-offs, they need another four points from their last two qualifiers. Even then, next (northern hemisphere) summer’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand could be a long way off. Gemma Grainger’s side should feel confident having won 5-0 when the sides met in the home fixture, last November. However, their opponents are unbeaten in the group since then including a vital 0-0 draw in Slovenia, which gave the Welsh their advantage in the table. Wales complete their group stage against Slovenia in Cardiff on Tuesday. For Greece, their qualification hopes rely on a number of specific things happening. Should they win this one, they will require Wales and Slovenia to draw and then hope that France - who put ten goals past them in the first game of the group, don’t bother showing up for the last. Even then, for whoever gets through to the next stage, winning through two rounds of play-offs may still not be enough to qualify. Only two of the three UEFA play-off winners - those with the best record in qualifying - will progress straight to the final tournament. The third will have to compete in a mini tournament in North Island, New Zealand next February, with nine other teams from around the world for the final three places. GS


Saturday

Premier League: Everton v Liverpool
12.30 on BT Sport 1
A Merseyside derby with early season implications not just for the title race. The sack race is hotting up between those old midfield rivals: Steven Gerrard of Aston Villa and Everton’s Frank Lampard. With no sign of improvement from last season, Everton are second bottom of the table on points and second top on Expected Goals Against (xGA). They were fortunate to get a draw against Brentford last week and Leeds could have taken the extra two points off them on Tuesday. Those who think the former Chelsea legend is an overrated coach have not, so far, been evidenced otherwise. Despite their current league position, Liverpool are still considered the best placed team to finish behind Manchester City. After a difficult start, the Reds campaign looks to be underway. That 9-0 shellacking of Bournemouth helped restore confidence. The hard-fought win against a stubborn Newcastle side at Anfield on Wednesday, demonstrated the team’s resolve. Special mention to Fabio Carvalho who scored the late winner in that game. Props also to Roberto Firminho. The Brazilian was out of sorts at Old Trafford and against Palace but was in great form in the last two matches and may be the guy to silence the Goodison crowd. TD


FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualification - UEFA Group D: Austria v England
16.30 on ITV and STV
Following their triumph in the Euros, the Lionesses are back in action. England have got the better of Austria 1-0 in both of their recent encounters. The first of those was in this group, in difficult conditions at the tail-end of Storm Arwen at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. The next time they met was at Old Trafford for the opening game of the Euros. Austria would go on to be knocked out in the quarter finals by losing finalists Germany in a game that was much closer than the 2-0 scoreline suggests. Serena Wiegman’s side has made short work of every other team in this qualifiying group so far: eight wins from eight played without conceding a goal and scoring 68 (sixty eight - yes that’s 8.5 goals per game). Impressive as those numbers are, they still need a point from this tie to make their qualification official before completing their fixtures with the formality of another double-figure scoreline against Luxembourg at Stoke on Tuesday. Short of a miracle in that game, Austria will have to be content with a play-off place, which they’ve already secured at the expense of Northern Ireland. While the table placings are pretty much assured, Austria can still benefit from a good result here for them to finish among the three highest runners up, which would allow them to avoid the first round of the play-offs. The match is being played in the compact Weiner Neustadt Stadion, which is sponsored by a teddy bear retailer - compared to the rest of England’s qualification run this match is unlikely to be a picnic. GS

Alternative viewing: While the Lionesses game is allowed to bust the Saturday 3pm embargo in the UK, the big Serie A derby between last seasons’s top two, Milan v Inter, is not. If you’d prefer to watch that instead, or simply catch the last half hour, coverage on BT Sport 1 starts at 17.15, a quarter of an hour in.


La Liga: Sevilla v Barcelona
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 1
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui is a coach under pressure. Sevilla lost the Andalusian derby last week to La Liga rookies, Almeria. That 2-1 defeat marked the worst start to a season for 41 years for Los Nervionenses. Last season, Sevilla’s conservative style of play may have cost them the La Liga title. In the summer the club lost two key defenders. Diego Carlos, to Villa and Jules Koundé to Barcelona (the latter’s registration finally came through and is likely to line up against his old teammates). The fact that these transfers were beyond Lopetegui’s control won’t cut any ice with the fans or the club president and the coach badly needs a win. Sadly, there is little encouragement for Sevilla to draw from Barcelona’s form going into the match. The opening day bore draw against Vallecano was followed by emphatic wins against Sociedad (4-1) and Valladolid (4-0). Robert Lewandowski has not only brought his scoring boots to Catalonia, notching up a brace in both games, but is also adopting a leadership role on the pitch, offering on-pitch clinics to younger players and generally being the cool dad. He is also linking up well with Raphina, another new signing, from Leeds. TD


Sunday

Championship: Reading v Stoke City
12.00 on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
Reading crashed back down to earth this week after a 4-0 pummelling at the hands of Sheffield United on Tuesday night, just three days after they had dislodged the Blades at the top of the Championship. That result came after three straight wins for the Royals, all against play-off contenders, including manager Paul Ince’s former side Blackburn - which must have been very satisfying for him. In recent years, Reading have swung between fighting for a play-off place and avoiding relegation. Last season, the six points they were deducted almost did for them and, had Derby not been handed a second deduction, they would be playing in League One right now. The fear of experiencing the same must be what keeps Stoke City’s spending in check. While the owners certainly aren’t short of a bob or two, the sustainability rules in the Championship mean the Potters are under scrutiny, especially after selling their ground to the owners’ business to circumvent the rules - rules that were tightened just a month later. All of which goes some way to explain why most of their key business in the transfer window was raiding the Big Six for loan signings. Having watched the win against Blackburn from the stands before his appointment was confirmed, in-coming manager Alex Neil left touchline duties to the caretaker Dean Holden for the midweek draw against Swansea, so it’s unclear if he had any input in the decision to bring on second half substitute Tyrese Campbell, who scored Stoke’s injury time equaliser. GS


Premier League: Manchester United v Arsenal
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
While in times past this fixture would often decide which way the Premier League title would go, in recent years it’s been more about which bald man gets to keep the comb. On this occasion though, we see two sides that appear to be moving in the right direction - but we all know how quickly such optimism can vanish. Arsenal have a 100% start having won five Premier league games in a row for the first time since, erm, March. That time they lost four of their next five, then won four in a row. If the Gunners really have turned a corner, and their performances so far this season suggest they have, they need to get out of this streaky cycle they’ve been in that goes back to when Wenger was still in charge. United’s turnaround seem a lot more fragile. Three single goal wins in a row has restored some pride after the embarrassment of Brentford but they were all games they should have won, even the Liverpool game - the Bournemouth result aside (and we can easily dismiss it) Klopp’s injury ravaged team are not anywhere near their best. Another big name has arrived for another eye-watering sum, but Anthony will probably be on the bench for this one. This has all the makings of another classic between these two faded giants - and like the best of them, is one where chaos could be the ultimate winner. For both sides the result of this game could provide a huge narrative shift, for a couple of weeks at least. GS


Ligue 1: Nice v Monaco
19.45 on BT Sport 3
Another derby for Nice only a week after the last. Les Aiglons’ opening few weeks have been mediocre with just two points from their first four games. Perhaps the loss of coach Christophe Gaultier, and the influx of new players is taking its toll. Returning Swiss coach Lucien Favre faced the wrath of the home crowd after a 3-0 reverse to Marseille, as previewed in last week’s Boxset. But the players bounced back from that damaging result with a decent 2-1 win at Lille on Wednesday. Nicolas Pépé scored a maiden goal on his second appearance for his new club. The Arsenal loanee was publicly criticised, by Favre, after his debut against Marseille and responded in the best fashion. Monaco have also had a disappointing start to the season with only one win and an early Champions League exit to PSV. A decent 1-1 draw against PSG was undone by a disastrous 4-2 defeat at home to Troyes on Wednesday. Guillermo Maripán was issued with two yellows during the match and is suspended. Also missing is striker Kevin Volland who got kicked by Sergio Ramos in the PSG match and could be out for a month. New signing Mohamed Camara who replaced Madrid bound Tchouameni is posting good notices but is not quite up to speed. TD


Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry and Graham

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