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: Easter special 2023

It’s a long weekend of season defining football action. We’re here to give you a few clues as to where the Easter Bunny has hidden the best of what’s on offer.

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

All times are UK

Good Friday

Primeira Liga: Benfica v Porto
18.00 on BT Sport 3
If this game is anything like the reverse fixture back in October, you’re in for a proper Easter treat tonight. Benfica ran out winners in a close run one-nil, but the end-to-end nature of the encounter was thrilling. VAR had a hand in the winning goal in a game overshadowed by the dismissal of Stephen Eustaquio for Porto and also his head coach, Sergio Conceicao, who got his marching orders after the final whistle. Interestingly, for Conceicao, currently being touted as a candidate for one of the many Premier League vacancies, this was one of four red cards he’s received this season alone - feisty. The significance of this particular O Classico is that it could well decide the outcome of the Primeira Liga title. Porto, ten points behind, need a result tonight to keep their faint title hopes alive, while a win for Benfica will more or less wrap things up. Should that be the case, this season could end up being one of Benfica’s greatest in a very strong field. They remain in contention to win every domestic competition and, having overcome the likes of Juventus and PSG, face Inter Milan in the Champions League quarter-finals next week. JB


Premier League: Southampton v Manchester City
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event And Ultra
Southampton are probably only a couple of defeats from being cut adrift at the bottom of the table in what is currently a very tight relegation scrap, taking nearly half the Premier League. There have been signs of life under new coach Rubén Sellés: they managed two draws against albeit emotionally fragile teams in the top six. The first against ten-man Manchester United and the second was a stirring comeback 3-3 draw against Spurs that led to Antonio Conte going full Keegan on his way out the door. However, the latest 1-0 defeat to West Ham, as previewed in last week’s Boxset, was a significant blow ahead of what will be an incredibly difficult game against City. They can look to those aforementioned performances as inspiration and hope that their opponents are thinking about Bayern in the Champions League next week which might be the foundation for an upset. But that’s the situation that Saints find themselves in: looking for miracles and favours from clubs disinclined to give them out. What would help them is if Erling Haaland is still unfit for this game. The Norwegian striker is back in training and may be ready for action, assuming Pep decides to keep the former Dortmund player sealed for Bayern. One man who will not be lining up for the champions at St Mary’s will be Phil Foden. The England international is recovering from appendix surgery. That has got to hurt both him and his team’s prospects. TD

Serie A: Lazio v Juventus
19.45 on BT Sport 1 & Ultimate
Without the 15 point deduction Juve would be ahead of second placed Lazio in the Serie A table, but would still be twelve points shy of runaway leaders Napoli. The Old Lady’s unlikely push for a Champions League place hit a setback the last time they were in the eternal city, just a few weeks ago, when they lost to Jose’s Roma. That defeat is their only defeat in fourteen across all competitions; a run that has seen them close in on the top four, reach the quarter finals of the Europa League, and the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia. The first leg of that Coppa semi, at home against Inter, ended in controversy when Romelu Lukaku scored an equaliser from the spot deep into injury time. Having received racial abuse from the Juve fans, the Belgian striker hushed the home fans in his celebration, a move the referee deemed warrented a yellow card, Lukaku’s second of the game. The red cards continued to be produced after the final whistle for Juve’s Juan Cuadrado and the Inter keeper Samir Handanovic. Lazio were knocked out of Coppa Italia by today’s opponents and with their Conference League adventure brought to a close in the most recent round they now only have staying in the top four to concentrate on. Joint top scorer Ciro Immobile returned after a month out with a thigh strain, coming on for the last 25 minutes against Monza when his side were already two up. It’s thought he’ll also be on the bench with Pedro likely to start in his place. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has been Lazio’s key man this season, and coming into the final twelve months of his contract is a summer target for a number of clubs, including Juve. GS

Easter Sunday

Premier League: Liverpool v Arsenal
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event and Ultra
Whether or not Arsenal can go on to win the Premier League appears to be coming down to a simple equation: get through their trips to Manchester City and Liverpool with at least four points. Of course, winning a title is not that straightforward and with almost all of their remaining opponents having something to play for, there is space for a few bumps in the road ahead. Arsenal have not won at Anfield since 2012 but this side are better than any that has made the trip in that time. Away from Anfield, Liverpool look like a side that can’t wait for the season to end. While they started brightly against City last weekend they crumbled in the second half. The following performance against Chelsea in midweek was just poor, and they were lucky to come back with a point. At home, however, performances are very different. They haven’t conceded a goal at home in the league this year and of course their last Premier League game at Anfield was the 7-0 demolition of Manchester United. Maybe this game is also where Diogo Jota’s fortunes take a turn. The Portugese forward has struggled with injury but enjoys scoring against Arsenal: he has seven in seven against them. Maybe the memories of those performances can break him out of his fug before the one year anniversary of his last Liverpool goal, which is Monday. For Arsenal, Leandro Trossard will surely start having already scored a hat-trick at Anfield this season in Brighton’s 3-3 draw at the start of October. GS

Bundesliga: Hoffenheim v Schalke
18.30 on Sky Sports Football
Two straight wins against Werder Bremen and Hertha BSC have eased Hoffenheim’s relegation anxieties. But really, you have to ask what is the point of this football club. A passion project of a billionaire who lifted a village club from the amateur leagues and carried them to nearby Sinsheim and the Bundesliga. They were fun to watch under Ralf Rangnick when they first came up in 2009. Julian Nagelsmann made them relevant from 2016 to 19, taking them to the Champions League. But beyond that, they seem to have no purpose beyond being Dietmar Hopp’s plaything. Unlike the other plastic clubs in the Bundesliga they serve no broader marketing or sports washing agenda. And unlike their opponents, Schalke, they are not a product of their community or born from local industry. There is no sense of place. Nobody asked for them and nobody cares about them. So if they’re just going to scrape a living at the bottom end of the league then I ask again: what is the point of Hoffenheim beyond the fact that a billionaire wants them to exist? Eventually, their patron’s influence will wane and they will become a memory; a question to which, years from now, only the most obsessive football quiz geeks will know the answer. Schalke, meanwhile, had their unbeaten streak of eight games broken last week by Bayer Leverkusen. A win won’t guarantee that they will go above Hertha who are third bottom but will bring them to a point behind their opponents and keep the relegation conversation going for as long as possible. TD

Easter Monday

National League: Wrexham v Notts County
15.00 on BT Sport 1 & Ultimate
Any other season and these sides would be making plans for a return to the EFL. But with only only one automatic promotion place from the National League, either Wrexham, already with 100 points, or Notts County, just three points shy of that total, will have to compete in the play-offs. Given how dominant the two sides have been this season, the play-offs shouldn’t hold fears for the side that eventually misses out on automatic promotion but knockout football can often be cruel; County’s progress in the play-offs has got worse in their three seasons in the National League. Both sides have winnable games on Good Friday, which will mean that a win here for Wrexham would leave them needing just four points from their remaining four fixtures to secure promotion. While Paul Mullins grabbed the headlines for his nine goals in Wrexham’s FA Cup run, it’s Notts County’s Macaulay Langstaff who is the top scorer in the league with an incredible 40 goals to his name - 17 of them in the 12 games since the start of February. County’s prepartions for this match will have been over-shadowed by the sudden death of club CEO Jason Turner, at the age of 50. He had previously held similar roles at Cardiff, Newport and Plymouth and his passing will be marked at County’s home game against Wealdstone on Good Friday. GS

Championship: Burnley v Sheffield United
20.00 on Sky Sports Football
By the time you tune in for this top of the table clash, both teams will have already played a round of fixtures on Good Friday. I normally omit this from any preview as it’s usually a cup game of some sort, but this is a round of league fixtures which may well change the approach of both sides tonight. Leaders Burnley, eleven points ahead of United in second, must travel to third place ‘Boro who haven’t lost at home since mid-October. United have a somewhat less challenging trip to bottom club Wigan, but it could be a banana skin as the Latics look to make it four without defeat in a desperate effort to avoid the drop to League One. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing both of tonight’s sides play my own club, Sunderland, recently. They are both worthy of their lofty status, but United impressed me the most. Coming back from a goal down, they were powerful and determined to get forward in possession. Burnley, by contrast, were easily frustrated by Sunderland in a game in which they were clearly the better side, but were, ultimately, unable to break down a team set up to neutralise. Take from this what you will, but I think United have the quality to stifle Burnley and the power and ability to hit them on the break. Away win for me, Jeff. JB

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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