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 business end

With Easter done the run-in has officially started. Who's staring down the barrel, who's settling for the play-offs and who's already digging out their flip-flops?

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

All times are UK


Championship: Middlesbrough v Norwich City
20.00 on Sky Sports Main Event & Ultra
Boro will be hoping to get themselves back on track tonight after some patchy form of late. A loss away to lowly Huddersfield was followed on their next trip with a hard-fought point at Bristol City. In between they failed to stop Burnely clinching promotion at the Riverside, meaning it’s looking likely tonight’s hosts will have to slug it out in the playoffs. While Norwich are still in with a chance of the top six, Boro have the opportunity to cement their place ahead of a tight chasing pack. With fellow hopefuls Millwall and Preston playing each other and Luton and Blackburn up against relegation threatened sides, tonight is a must-win for both teams. I think it’s fair to say that ‘Boro have been a real handful since Michael Carrick took over at the Riverside. Such has been their rise, it’s easy to forget that they were a point above relegation at the time of his appointment. Maybe, and who can blame them, they’ve just run out of steam, but this is the business end of the season where winners need to show their colours. Boro to win for me. JB


Championship: Sheffield United v Cardiff City
12.30 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
To say this is a must-win for both sides is something of an understatement. Today’s visitors’ struggle for any real form sees them hovering just one point, and one place, above the relegation void. A decent win over fellow strugglers, Blackpool, on Good Friday was tempered by a home defeat to the mighty Sunderland on Easter Monday - two steps forward, one step back. Former Forest manager, Sabri Lamouchi, was brought in back in January to bring some consistency to the South Wales club following Mark Hudson’s departure after just eighteen games. Unfortunately, this hasn’t really materialised, and the Black Cats loss showed the real Jekyll and Hyde nature of the side where they were poor in the first half and unlucky not to get at least a point in the second. For today’s hosts, this is one of two league fixtures before they take on Manchester City in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. With just five points between them and third-place Luton, they need to bag the points tonight. They will, however, be without goalkeeper, Wes Foderingham, who is suspended following his dismissal last time out against Burnley. Foderingham received his matching orders in the seventeenth minute and, despite this, United held on until the hour mark before Burnley fired home two inside of ten minutes. A tough task for Cardiff - home win. JB

Premier League: Manchester City v Leicester City
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
There’s a new management team at Leicester, following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers at the start of the month. Dean Smith comes in as head coach assisted by Craig Shakespeare and John Terry. While Rodgers is still being tipped for top jobs, just a glance at the form chart will tell you how bad things are for Leicester. Despite being the top scorers in the bottom half of the table, they’ve taken just eight points in their last fifteen games compared to seventeen in their first fifteen. Craig Shakespeare rejoins Leicester as he left them in October 2017 - in the bottom three. The Foxes were still champions when he was put in as caretaker following the dismissal of Claudio Ranieri. He won his first four games in charge and they ended the season 12th. If the club’s owners are anticipating a similar bounce it may have to wait for their next game at home to Wolves. Pep’s side are in frightening form right now and have won nine games in a row in all competitions scoring 33 goals in the process. In the title race there’s an ominous feeling that they will do to Arsenal what they did to Liverpool in 2018/19, where they won their last 14 games to take the title by a single point. So far they have won every game from that same point. You feel that only a miracle will stop them from taking all three points today - do the Foxes have any miracles left? GS

Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain v Lens
20.00 on BT Sport 3
As in England, the French title race sees the top two sides separated by six points and about to face each other. Sadly, for the sake of end of season drama, in France it isn’t the petro-state-owned supergiant that’s doing the chasing - but should Lens get a win here the title will be very much up for grabs, as Brian Moore would’ve said. Lens are hitting form just at the right time and should feel some level of confidence going to the Park de Prince, which appears no longer to be a fortress for PSG. Since their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern, PSG have lost twice at home against Lyon and Rennes and survived two very tight matches against Lille and Nantes. The Parisian crowd are turning against their superstars: jeering Messi’ s name as the teams are being called out. Their mood will not have been lightened if they saw just how hapless Bayern were in their game against City in midweek. There may also be a frosty reception for head coach Christophe Galtier who faces a number of allegations of racist and islamophobic remarks he made in his time at his previous post in charge of Nice - allegations that Galtier vehomently denies but were enough for a leading PSG ultra group to issue a statement calling for his head if they prove to be true. GS


Women’s FA Cup semi-final: Aston Villa v Chelsea
14.15 on BBC One & iPlayer
Watching her star player Sam Kerr play all but 30 seconds of a friendly international, you could hear the frustration in the voice of Chelsea manager Emma Hayes in co-commentary for England’s Tuesday night defeat to Kerr’s Australia. The Matilda’s victory, Sarina’s Wiegman’s first defeat in charge of England, was won mainly through Australia’s high-press not allowing the Lionesses to build from the back. With the relentless wind and rain we had that evening, it must have taken a lot out of Chelsea’s top scorer - who got the first goal and set up the other. With a much shorter league season, fixture congestion isn’t something you hear too much about in women’s football compared to men’s, but with six league games remaining for Chelsea as well as a two-legged Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, this most recent international break has not helped their cause. There should be no excuse for heavy legs for Villa’s top scorer, Rachel Daly, who came on as a second half sub on Tuesday night and in the Finalissima against Brazil. Jordan Nobbs stayed on the bench for both matches. Unlike the men’s FA Cup, the semi-finals are not played at neutral venues. With Villa’s men team playing at home this weekend, this semi-final will be played at Villa women’s regular home, the Poundland Bescot Stadium (which, to avoid any confusion, is the actual Bescot Stadium not a cheaper, less desirable version of it). The sides met here just before the break with Chelsea running out 3-0 winners. That result was surprisingly one-sided given what Villa have achieved this season and they will be hoping for much better today. The other semi-final Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion is on BBC Two and iPlayer on Saturday from 17.15. GS

Bundesliga: Union Berlin v Bochum
16.30 on Sky Sports Football
We discussed narrative in football on our latest podcast, of which there was plenty in Union’s game at Borussia Dortmund last Saturday. A 79th minute Youssoufa Moukoko winner provided a heart-warming redemption arc for BVB after their DFB Pokal defeat and debagging by Bayern the week before, but it also denied Union a well-earned point at the Westfalen which would have reinforced their credentials as a top four side. The Berliners too were dumped out of the cup last Tuesday but prior to that had seen off Stuttgart and Frankfurt in the league. They have a couple of tricky fixtures ahead in the shape of Freiburg and the improving Leverkusen but in general they face some pretty beatable opposition in the run-in to what could be an historic season; starting with Bochum whose unbeaten run of three games was interrupted, last week, by a Stuttgart team enjoying a new coach bounce. The Ruhrpott club sit just above the bottom three with the aforementioned Stuttgart just three points away. On the pod I suggested that the football in this game would be old-fashioned, which was a touch unkind. Neither team are throwbacks but neither do they embrace modern pressing and counter-pressing. Expect direct, physical, and high stakes football. TD

La Liga: Valencia v Sevilla
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 1
With ten games to go, it’s not quite time to panic, but Valencia needs to pull their finger out if they want to avoid playing in the Segunda for the first time since... well, ever. In the seven games since Rubén Baraja took charge of Los Che, he’s only managed two wins. Their 2-1 defeat to fellow strugglers Almeria was down to poor finishing, rather than an absence of chances. The loss puts Valencia third from bottom. Up next is Sevilla who are slowly clawing their way out of the entirely unnecessary relegation scrap they orchestrated for themselves. Now on their third coach of the campaign, the new man at the helm comes from more humble coaching stock. José Luis Mendilibar was a second-tier player and has never really managed an elite level club in a coaching career that goes back to the late 90s. So far it’s going well with one win and a draw from two games. It should have been two in three, last week, in a frankly ridiculous 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo. Having gone two up with 10 men they conceded two late goals and got a second man red carded in injury time. Papa Gueye and Marcos Acuna will be suspended for this game. That result should resonate with anyone who watched their 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the Europa League last night in which Sevilla were gifted two own goals in the final minutes of the second half. So, all of a sudden Mendilibar has fashioned an unbeaten run, just at the right time of the season. TD

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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