Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

Weekend Boxset: The big ones

We have four of the biggest local derbies in Europe for you in the Boxset this weekend. There's also crunch ties at the top of the table in Serie A and the WSL.

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

All times are UK


Serie A: Napoli v Juventus
19.45 on BT Sport 1 & Ultimate
Beset by injuries, financial scandals and boardroom resignations, somehow Juventus survive and thrive. While the massed ranks of the anti-Juve coalition ask, “Why can’t this club just die?” the Old Lady simply cackles in their faces. It’s now eight league wins in a row and not a single goal conceded in any of them. Coach Max Allegri has stripped back the principles to make the football as unpalatable as a packet of sour cream and chive Hummus chips. However, as recently as September, he was only spared the sack because the now departed president could not afford to pay him off, so he won’t be concerned about aesthetics, just results. Fears that the World Cup may break Napoli’s momentum seemed to have come to pass when they lost their first game after the league restarted, 1-0 to Inter. However, nerves will be steadied after a 2-0 win over Sampdoria last week. The Serie A leaders are best placed to unpick their opponent’s lock. But this is Italy and if we follow the usual script, the Neapolitans will dominate the match but lose by the odd goal. But imagine the psychological boost to the club and its football mad city if they were to rewrite that narrative. TD


Premier League: Manchester United v Manchester City
12.30 on BT Sports 1 & Ultimate
Bizarrely, this highly contested fixture between two of the country’s finest sides have been selected for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Brentford entertain Bournemouth in the late fixture and the (dirty) Mags play Fulham on Sunday at 14.00 - surely, this contest trumps both of these? Even the saddest of football anoraks must have something that requires their attention at lunchtime on Saturday. Regardless, here we are with a Manchester derby that I’m actually looking forward to, but probably won’t get to see. The hosts have had an extra day to prepare following their comprehensive win against League One Charlton midweek. They still needed their big guns to get them through, but they fared far better than today’s visitors who failed to register a single shot on target in their 2-0 defeat at lowly Southampton in the same competition. That really is saying something for City: they may have fielded a weakened side (as did United), but they did have De Bruyne and Haaland on early in the second half, so it’s reasonable to expect that they’d have turned their customary dominance in possession into something. Both will return to full strength for this one, although there may be doubts over de Gea’s selection following a God-awful howler against Everton in the FA Cup last week - further blushes were only spared by a marginal off-side call. Form certainly is with the home side in this one, but only a fool would write off City. JB

Premier League: Brentford v Bournemouth
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Bournemouth ended 2022 with the announcement that they had a new owner. Bill Foley, who also owns the Vegas Golden Knights NHL franchise, completed the purchase, ending 11 years of unprecedented club success under previous owner Maxim Demin. Eponymous star of the Creed series of films, Michael B Jordan, is also a big investor in the new consortium, so expect a documentary series on Disney+ sometime soon. The Cherries are yet to experience a new owner bounce though with three straight Premier League defeats without scoring a single goal since the season restarted, and going out of the FA Cup at home to Burnley. Luckily the other teams at the bottom are just as terrible so they’re not in the relegation zone yet, but it is getting crowded down there. There are no such worries for Brentford though, who are unbeaten in their last six league games - though they have exited both cup competitions during that run. Transfer talk around Brentford is centering around whether they should get a forward in, in the eventuality that Ivan Toney gets a lengthy ban for all that betting he’s done. One player who has come in is Romeo Beckham, on loan from dad David’s Inter Miami until the end of the season, but he’s only likely to play for the Bees’ reserves, who will take part in next month’s Atlantic Cup (look it up). GS

La Liga: Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 2
The Basque derby has been played 171 times, prior to this match and dates back to 1909. Historically, Athletic have the better of things with 77 wins to 60 in league and cup games. But the slight favourites going into this game will be Sociedad. The San Sebastian club are flying high in third position and have won their last six competitive fixtures. Having said goodbye to Swedish striker Alexander Isak to Newcastle in August, the breach has been filled with another Nordic Alexander. Norwegian Alexander Sorloth previously struggled to fulfil his early promise, but the former Palace and Leipzig player has six goals this season. Just one fewer than top scorer Brais Mendez. Athletic Club’s form is not as impressive as their great rivals but they sit in a respectable seventh place in La Liga. They were in derby action last week: a rather flat 0-0 draw against Osasuna. Los Rojiblanco won the last derby 4-0 in their home ground, San Mames, but their record in the Anoeta Stadium is not great, having triumphed there only twice in the last decade. So, they will be looking for the brothers Iniaki and Nico Williams to find their scoring boots. The latter acknowledged last week that he needs to do better. This would be the perfect moment to put those words into action. TD


Women’s Super League: Arsenal v Chelsea
12.00 on Sky Sports Football
Attendance at the Emirates is set to top 40,000 for the third time in as many WSL games played at the venue this season. With all their Champions League group games played there as well, Arsenal’s women have already played more games at the club’s home rather than their traditional base in Borehamwood - moving closer to the promised full sharing of the ground with the men’s team. For both clubs this could prove to be the most decisive fixture of the campaign - approaching the mid-point of the season, both have lost just one game. Arsenal are missing perhaps their two most prominant players Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead both out with ACL injuries but have been active in the transfer market adding 19 year old Danish winger Katherine Kuhl along with Dutch midfielder Victoria Pelova, while Jordan Nobbs has left the club for Aston Villa. Chelsea’s business so far in the window has only been outward. Frustrated by a lack of game time due to competition in attacking positions at Chelsea, Beth England, who was an unused squad member at the Euros, has moved to Spurs for £250,000 making her one of the biggest ever internal WSL transfers. GS

Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event and Ultra
What a day for a lucky few Arsenal fans. Having watched the crunch WSL game at the Emirates, some will go on to make the half hour 259 bus ride between the Emirates and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to complete a cracking double-header with the North London Derby. Arsenal have returned after the World Cup with two wins and a draw but look slightly less commanding than they did before the break. They dropped points against a Champions League-chasing Newcastle side that clearly saw themselves as plucky underdogs, but that Arsenal performance was perhaps better than their games against West Ham, where they trailed at half time and Brighton who were unfortunate not to get anything. Tottenham have returned as they left off: just as frustrating for their fans who have seen them take a comfortable win away to Palace only to follow it with a lacklustre defeat at home to Villa. That defeat to Unai Emery’s side was Spurs’ third defeat in four home games but luckily for them this fixtures tends to benefit the home side. Since Arsenal’s last win away at Spurs almost nine years ago, they’ve lost on six of their eight visits. Arsenal certainly have it in them this season to break that run, but while Tottenham won’t be able to give City the chance to take top spot this weekend, the weight of a title race on the Gunners could give Conte’s side a slim advantage. GS

Primera Liga: Benfica v Sporting
18.00 on BT Sport 4
What greater way to end your weekend football than to watch the most decorated teams in Portugal face off in the Dérbi de Lisboa? Benfica had been imperious prior to the World Cup break, but have stumbled a little on the restart. Their first game back saw them soundly beaten by a now second placed Braga 3-0. They then made hard work of overturning mid-table Portimonense, but were untroubled in their Taça de Portugal win over Varzim where World Cup winner, Enzo Fernandez, returned to action with a goal. Roger Schmidt will be hoping that his team can now get back into their stride against a Sporting team who have failed to impress so far this term. As mentioned in earlier previews, they did sell a number of their star players, which is more than telling in their returns this season. The only silverware they realistically have a chance of winning is the Taça de Liga in which they’re due to play a semi-final at the end of the month. Not that this will get them European football, and they’re already out of the only other cup route, the Taça de Portugal. Five points off Porto in third, and a massive twelve behind their hosts, Sporting have it all to do in the league if they are to grab one of the three remaining European spots. JB

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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