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: All new and just the same



Hello everyone, as you can see we’ve had a bit of a spruce up. Don’t worry, the takes are just red hot as they always are.

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



All times are UK (GMT+1 on Friday and Saturday, GMT on Sunday)


Friday

Championship: Birmingham City v Queens Park Rangers
20.00 on Sky Sports Football
After a nightmare start to the season which saw Brum lose four out of six games in August, things have stabilised a little. As summer turned to autumn they put together a good set of results, including score-draws against high-flying Sheffield United and Burnley. Last week’s reverse away to Blackburn can be forgiven as the Lancashire club are in fine form, sitting two points off the top in third, behind tonight’s opponents, QPR. The West-Londoners are among the highest scorers in the league, behind the aforementioned Burnley and Sheffield United but have ground out results where needed. This includes a massively jammy and completely undeserved 2-2 draw away to Sunderland where they scored on 87 and 92 minutes to gain a point. While the wider team all seem happy to contribute to the goals, it’s Chris Willock and Scotland international, Lyndon Dykes who lead the way. Brum’s main threat will come from in-form Scott Hogan and veteran Troy Deeney who is now in his second season at his home-town club. Also, in a nice piece of footballing symmetry, Birmingham boss, John Eustace, was assistant manager at QPR and caretaker there for seven games up to June this year. JB


Saturday

Premier League: Leicester City v Manchester City
12.30 on BT Sport 1
Here’s a bit a trivia for you: only three players have scored hat-tricks against sides managed by Pep Guardiola, and of those Jamie Vardy is the only one to do it twice. (You can give yourself a million bonus points if you knew the others were Lionel Messi and Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku). So what are the chances he’ll be on the scoresheet today? He has after all ended his goal drought by picking up his first goal of the season last weekend against an abject Wolves side. On the face of it, a side just one place above the relegation zone going up against the free-scoring champions is only going to go one way, but there is the chance of a shock here. City on the road aren’t the irresistable force they are at the Etihad. They’ve won just one of the their last four away Premier League game, and that was against the afore-mentioned Wolves, who are now by most people’s reckoning, the worst team in the division. Leicester on the other hand are slowly turning a corner. They’ve won three of their last five - yes, all three wins were against sides that now occupy the relegation zone, but three wins is three wins. They also haven’t conceded a goal at the King Power since United visited at the start of September. I’m not saying the Foxes will definitely get something out of this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. GS


Bundesliga: Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
The Boxset finds both clubs in good form both domestically and in Europe. Dortmund travel to Eintracht having secured a place in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League with a game to spare after a spirited 0-0 draw against a slightly under-strength Manchester City. Before that, they put a poor Stuttgart side to the sword with a 5-0 win at the Westfalen. The team’s improvement comes, in my opinion, thanks to the decision to start 17-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko over Anthony Modeste plus the return from injury of goalkeeper Gregor Kobel. The Swiss shot-stopper saved a penalty against City on Tuesday to protect their point. It’s unlikely that readers will be unaware of the rave notices posted about Jude Bellingham and the 19-year-old midfielder will need all his powers against a high-quality Eintracht side. The Frankfurt club, like Dortmund, have been lumpy this season but notched an impressive 3-1 win at Mönchengladbach (a game that was effectively over at half time) and maintained second place in their Champions League group. Their goals tend to come from the midfield, in the shape of Japanese international Daichi Kamada and the exciting young Dane Jesper Lindstrøm. Not forgetting Mario Götze who is enjoying a productive late stage of his career and will relish the opportunity to play against his old club. TD

Copa Libertadores Final: Flamengo v Athletico Paranaense
21.00 on BBC Red Button & iPlayer
Welcome to Guayaquil, Ecuador for the biggest game in South American club football. As with last year it’s an all-Brazil affair but if you’re not up to speed with Brazilian domestic football, there will be a few familiar names to help ease you in. The first of those is “Big Phil” Scolari. Now 73, the 2002 World Cup winning coach and scourge of Sven Goran Eriksson, was hired by Paranaese as technical director in May this year; a role that includes management of the first team. Arturo Vidal missed his father’s funeral to play in Flamengo’s recent Copa do Brazil final. He limped off injured in the second half but looks set to return for this one. David Luiz scored in the shootout to help seal the win against Corinthians. This is Flamengo’s third Libertadores final in four seasons, winning in 2019 but losing out to Palmeiras in last season’s final in Montevideo. Paranaese won last season’s Copa Sudamerica but appear in the Libertadores final for only the second time, losing their only other to Sao Paulo in 2005. Flamengo have the upper hand in recent meetings, beating the Furacão twice in August: 5-0 in Série A and 1-0 in the Copa do Brazil quarter final. Other names to look out for are the competition’s top scorer Pedro, who is in red hot form, and Liverpool target Joao Gomes, both for Flamengo, and for Paranaese, their 17 year old club record signing Vitor Roque. GS


Sunday

Scottish Premiership: Livingston v Celtic
12.00 on Sky Sports Football
VAR has arrived in Scotland. The Friday night game of Hibs v St Johnstone appeared to pass without incident. The first televised VAR match however had plenty of talking points. In Celtic’s 4-3 win at Hearts, the Bhoy’s had two penalties awarded against them and a strong claim for a penalty in their favour for handball was dismissed. They also had a goal chalked off - though there’s confusion over that incident, as replays showed that the referee had already blown before the ball was in the net, so VAR couldn’t have overturned it, but in future referees may be more inclined to let play go on and use the system to decide. Of course this could just be the system settling in to a new league but this is a lighter version of VAR, with fewer cameras, and there’s still no goal-line technology on this side of the border. Will less tech provide a smoother experience or will it just create more controversies? Let’s see what happens in today’s game, with the table leaders visiting the side that almost got the better of Rangers last weekend. GS

Ligue 1: Lorient v Nice
16.05 on BT Sport 1
Expected stats are fun. They tell the tale of a world that isn’t affected by awful luck or being a bit rubbish in front of goal. A look at the expected points (xPts) table for Ligue 1 shows the gap between these two sides as 1/100th of a point! And yet the real table tells a much different story. In the starkness of reality, Lorient’s point tally is double that of today’s opponents, and they sit third in the table while Nice occupy the bottom half. Regular readers will know the Nice story by now; Lucien Favre is still in post, and is still, unsurprisingly, struggling to get a tune out of his ragtag bunch of ex-Premier League misfits. Their midweek win against Partizan has kept their Conference League hopes alive but they will still have to get something from next week’s trip to Cologne if they are to progress in the competition. Lorient finished 16th in Ligue 1 last season and have the lowest playing budget in the top flight - about a third that of Favre’s side. Their head coach Régis Le Bris is new in post having been promoted in the summer from being the manager of the reserves. Lorient are a side that play to their strengths and while it’s likely that the numbers will eventually revert to the mean, there is nothing to suggest they won’t be competing for a place in Europe come the end of the campaign. GS

La Liga: Real Sociedad v Real Betis
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 1
After some fantastic performances so far this season, both Real clubs got a reality check last weekend. If they have a problem, it’s their low number of goals scored relative to the other teams around them. Manuel Pelligrini’s Betis are ninth in the goals for table, with 14, but can console themselves with the fact that they are 5th on expected goals. They were frustrated by a typical Atletico Madrid performance last weekend, losing 2-1 despite posting double the xG figure of their opponents. But last night, Nabil Fekir enjoyed a bit of luck in front of goal following some ludicrous defending by Ludogorets in the Europa League, earning the Spanish club a 1-0 win. Sociedad have scored only two more than their opponents in La Liga and had an 8 (eight) game winning run interrupted by a 1-0 defeat to mid-table Valladolid. La Real made up for the disappointment with a hard fought but convincing 2-0 win at Nicosia against Omonia. Top scorer, Brais Mendez came off the bench to settle the game and score his sixth goal of the season. If you enjoy watching possession football, then this is the game for you. Outside of Real Madrid and Barcelona, only Celta Vigo have more touches of the ball than these two. TD

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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