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 foolingest day of the year

Football returns from the final international break of the season with some huge title, euro-placing and relegation shapers. April is looking like it’s going to be a wild ride.

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

All times are UK


Championship: Burnley v Sunderland
20.00 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
No side wants to play a team that’s just had a six-nil hammering; every player will be itching to put the nightmare behind them and prove to themselves that they are far better than just one game. Add to this the fact that Burnley’s hammering at the hands of coach Vincent Kompany’s former club, Manchester City, was a complete one-off in a season where they have been near dominant, and you get a sense of what Sunderland are up against. The numbers are all stacked against an away win tonight - or even a draw. You’d have to go back to Guy Fawkes night to find Burnley on the wrong end of a result, and they have yet to lose at home this season. Kompany, as you’d expect from someone who played under Pep, prefers a possession based game where they turn their dominance into goals (loads of them) and clean sheets. They currently sit thirteen points clear of an impressive Sheffield United side in second, and thirty (30) ahead of tonight’s visitors. That said, Sunderland have arrested their recent slump with good performances against decent Norwich and Luton sides. In the reverse fixture back in October, Sunderland raced to a two goal lead inside of twenty minutes, only for Burnley to blow them away with four second-half goals. While they clearly will win, it won’t be easy for Burnley, and they face further tough tests against the Smoggies and Sheffield United in the coming weeks. For me, I’ll be watching from behind the sofa. Good luck lads, you’re gonna need it. JB


Premier League: Manchester City v Liverpool
12.30 on BT Sport 1 & Ultimate
In recent years this game has been a nailed down fixture in Sky’s late Sunday afternoon programming. With the UK main broadcaster choosing to go with the clash of the Uniteds of Manchester and Newcastle in their premium slot, BT have been able to grab what has been a barnstorming fixture in the era of Pep v Klopp. But could this be the last time they face each other in the Premier League? Rumours - usually triggered by slow news days in international breaks - are that both managers could be assessing their options in the summer. Klopp has cut a frustrated shape this season but is that more to do with a burnt-out squad rather than a failure to replace Sadio Mane? A recent study in The Sunday Times showed that Liverpool were clearly the most impacted by injuries this season, missing on average 6.2 players per game. In comparison City’s is only 1.8, a figure only bettered in the Premier League by Brighton (that said, talk is they could be without Haaland for this one). When it clicks for the Reds they can clearly beat anyone, as they showed in the reverse fixture. History is against them however with Klopp’s only win at the Etihad coming in the second leg of their Champions League quarter final of 2018 where they already led 3-0. With Arsenal at home next week, Liverpool have two games that could not only decide where the title is going, they could define the type of season their fans should expect next campaign - depending, of course, on whoever is in charge. GS

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
With Borussia Dortmund in the unfamiliar position of being above Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga this was always set to be one of the closest editions of “Der Klassiker”. But a new twist was added by Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn and Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidžić after they sacked their coach Julian Nagelsmann during the international break. In one sense this is not all that surprising given that Bayern lost to Bayer Leverkusen the week before. However, the club spent north of €25 Million to get the 34-year-old coach out of his contract in 2021 at Leipzig and repeatedly made it clear that they saw Nagelsmann as a long-term figure. The story goes that Nagelsmann had upset some key players, including Sadio Mane, and coupled with the unfamiliar position of not being over the horizon in March they decided to take advantage of Thomas Tuchel freedom and make the change. Tuchel is a brilliant coach, but rarely sticks around at a club. However, his children and their mother live in Munich so perhaps he’ll be looking to change that. Still, the way the transfer of power was overseen should be of concern to Bayern fans. The decision was leaked to Bild and Nagelsmann was skiing in Austria when he heard the news. Former CEO Uli Hoeness was many things but it’s unlikely to have gone down like this when he was in charge. In any event, Tuchel welcomes his former club to the Allianz with a lot riding on a win. Defeat would do more than extend Dortmund’s lead at the top of the table: it would cast doubt on the thinking behind this caper. A win, on the other hand, restores order and we can probably call the title race as done. TD

Ligue 1: Rennes v Lens
20.00 on BT Sport 2
While PSG appear to have everything in hand for another Ligue 1 title, the race for European places in France is heating up. Lens have impressed in their return to the top flight, finishing comfortably in the top half in their two seasons after being promoted when the 2019/20 campaign was curtailed. This season they’ve spent more time in the top three Champions League positions than outside, though if they are to stay there they need to hold off Monaco and today’s opponents. For Lens it’s been 20 years since they last took part in the Champions League and 15 since they were last in the Europa League. Lens have lost fewer games than anyone in Ligue and have conceded the fewest numbers of goals. Head coach Frank Haise plays a distinctive 3-4-3 with ball carrying defenders and a packed midfield allowing them to build slowly from the back but also park the bus if they’re under pressure. While this may sound a bit "sit deep - hit on the counter" their approach is more measured - when they beat PSG 3-1 at home on New Years Day it was the Parisians who, unable to break Lens down in midfield, were reduced to pumping long balls to Mbappe. Rennes are worthy of their position in the table as well, and have also got the better of PSG. In the last game before the break they beat the table leaders 2-0 in Paris - a first home defeat in almost two years. That defeat was PSG’s fourth of 2023, and shrunk their lead to seven points. With ten games remaining maybe there is still life in the title race too. GS


Women’s Super League: Arsenal v Manchester City
12.30 on BBC Two & iPlayer
After the league defeat to City in February, Arsenal, without Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, looked like a club that didn’t have a Plan B - well that’s how my preview in this organ of the League Cup final read anyway. Jonas Eidevall, did indeed have something up his sleeve: he tactically out-manoeuvred Emma Hayes to take home the trophy, and this week secured a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over Bayern at the Emirates. Currently sat fourth in the WSL, the Gunners have plenty of work to do if they are to qualify for next season’s Champions League but so tight is it at the top, they can still win the title without relying on other results. That 2-1 win for City last month was arguably their best performance of the season, but it was their 2-0 defeat of Chelsea last weekend that has really opened up the title race. After another slow start to the season City are finally getting the results their performances have been promising. Their attacking line of Hemp, Shaw and Kelly are miles ahead of any other team in the league in terms of chances created but its the deep-lying midfield role of Yui Hasegawa that has transformed the way Gareth Taylor’s side play. A summer signing from West Ham, the Japanese international is the player that Eidevall will have to find a way to neutralise if his side are to stay in the race. Another key fixture this weekend is Chelsea’s trip to "best of the rest" Aston Villa, which is on Sky Sports Football and Sky Showcase from 18.45. With Chelsea having played a tough two hour Champions League tie with Lyon on Thursday and with a growing list of injuries, Carla Ward will feel her side can cause an upset. GS

Premier League: West Ham United v Southampton
14.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Moyes is truly awful, isn’t he? My own club, as well as Manchester United and Real Sociedad have all learned that the hard way, and now it’s West Ham’s turn. Friends of mine, who mumble "Irons" while making that sinister crossed-fists gesture out of the two minutes of hate from Orwell’s 1984, have for many months now forgotten the respectable finishes of the last few seasons as they stare down the barrel of relegation to the Championship. The Hammers have Newcastle, Arsenal, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs still to play before the fat lady sings and the Europa Conference League is now nothing but a distraction. Their visitors today are fellow relegation contenders, Southampton, who have enjoyed something of a turnaround since installing Rubén Sellés. He debuted with a win at Chelsea followed by another against fellow strugglers, Leicester. He’s also overseen crucial draws against Manchester United and Spurs, which added together has given the south-coast club something resembling momentum. I may be a little one-eyed when it comes to Moyes, and it’s more than likely colouring my judgement, but I fancy Southampton to get something here. There you go: my own two minutes of hate. JB

La Liga: Villarreal v Real Sociedad
17.30 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Xtra
Villarreal have blown hot and cold since Quique Setién took charge of the team in late October. You’ll recall that the Boxset was a bit of a Setién stan in his days at Betis. He replaced the Aston Villa bound Unai Emery at Villarreal and lost their subsequent three league games. Then everything clicked and the Yellow Submarine embarked on a six game winning run, in league and cup before taking just four points from the next seven. Things have settled back down again, being unbeaten in five league fixtures and sitting sixth in the table. But sadly for them they were knocked out of the Conference League. Setién has the luxury of calling on some players of genuine quality: Pau Torres will most likely be off in the summer. After struggling with injury last season Gerard Moreno is in good form, but the man of the moment is Samuel Chukwueze. The Nigerian right-winger has 11 goals and 11 assists in his breakout season. The 23-year-old has tremendous pace and is one of the most exciting players to watch in La Liga this season. Fourth placed Real Sociedad also suffered from a Euro exit, at the hands of Roma in the Europa League. They are still missing David Silva who despite his years remains a key player. But they received a boost when Alexander Sørloth scored in the 2-0 win over Elche last weekend, ending a barren spell of four games. With Umar Sadiq out for the rest of the season, the Basque club need the Norwegian striker to find his pre-World Cup form if they wish to finish the season in the top four. TD

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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