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Weekend Boxset: FA Cup semi-finals 2023

Across this weekend, the two halves of Manchester head to Wembley with very different expectations. There’s also plenty of action involving sides chasing Champions League places - which now includes Juve again.

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

All times are UK


Bundsliga: Augsburg v Stuttgart
19.30 on Sky Sports Football
As mentioned in last week’s Boxset, Stuttgart has a new coach. Sebastian Hoeness took charge for the DFB Pokal quarter final against Nürnberg who they scraped passed with a 1-0 extra time win. Next up was a dramatic relegation six-pointer against Bochum where they ran out 3-2 winners. They were then given a free hit with a home game against Dortmund. Having gone down 2-0 and to 10 men, the Swabians rallied in the last 12 minutes to level the scores. It looked like they had lost a well-earned point when Reyna scored a third deep into injury time for Borussia, only for Silas to pounce upon some comedy defending even deeper into injury time. While still in the bottom three Stuttgart have an unbeaten run and more importantly self-belief going into another six-pointer against an Augsburg side that are five points and three places above them in the table. FCA are a curious side. By that I mean they are incredibly boring to watch but effective enough to meet their own limited ambitions. Coach Enrico Maassen has set them up to be defensive and quick on the break; a sort of Poundland Atlético Madrid and up to the last month it’s kept them out of trouble. The Fuggerstädter have lost the last two and are winless in five. They’ve missed influential striker Mërgim Berisha. The Fenerbahçe loanee has been injured for the last two games but should be back for this match. TD


Premier League: Fulham v Leeds United
12.30 on BT Sport 1 & Ultimate
What better way to kick off your Saturday than watch two of the Premier League’s worst performing clubs. Indeed, it may surprise you to know that, despite sitting in a lofty tenth place, Fulham actually have a worse record of late than today’s visitors, Leeds. Of course, the WDL flag only tells part of the story with Leeds being comprehensively humped by both Palace and Liverpool in their last two games - eleven goals shipped to boot. The Cottagers’ hopes of a European place has all but vanished thanks to their recent run, and a win today is a must to keep those slim hopes on life-support. Also, next up is in-form Villa then Manchester City who they’ll have to face without top scorer, Aleksandar Mitrovic, who won’t see action until their penultimate game at home to Palace. For today’s match, their attacking options are further limited by the absence of Dan James, who is ineligible to face his parent club. In the reverse fixture at Elland Road, Fulham came from a goal down to win three-two, a scoreline which bodes well for today. Despite their problems, Leeds aren’t shy in front of goal and Fulham, save their win last time out against Everton, are a bit of a leaky bucket. JB

Alternative viewing: From 12.30, Chelsea v Barcelona, Women’s Champions League Semi-final first leg on DAZN and DAZN Youtube. Chelsea have it all to prove against the side that is favourite to go on and this title. In the final of 2021, at an empty Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg, Barcelona tore apart Chelsea in a devastating opening that saw them lead 4-0 at half time, which proved to be the final result. Emma Hayes described her team’s performance that night as naive - which to me says this match is going to be far more pragmatic.

FA Cup semi-final: Manchester City v Sheffield United
16.45 on ITV, STV and ITVX
Both sides come into this one having successfully got through important games in midweek. Sheffield United left it late to get past a Bristol City side with little to play for. With that win, and thanks to Luton dropping points against relegation threatened Reading, they now need just three points from their remaining four games to secure an automatic return to the top flight. The Blades’ winner on Tuesday night came from James McAtee, his eighth in his season long loan from Manchester City. Because of the competition rules, both he and Tommy Doyle - another City loanee and scorer of the winning goal in the quarter final against Blackburn Rovers - are ineligible for this game. The ruling is undoubtedly harsh - had they been recalled by their parent club they would still be ineligible to play as they would be cup-tied. Pep said his players were exhausted after they completed the task of getting to the Champions League semi-finals by drawing with Bayern on Wednesday night in a tie where they were already 3-0 ahead. Attacking silverware on three fronts, they aren’t showing any signs of weariness, though Erling Haaland did sky a penalty over the bar against Bayern. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for the Blades after all, though with everyone expecting an easy win for City, Paul Heckingbottom’s side really do have nothing to lose. GS

Ligue 1: Lens v Monaco
20.00 on BT Sport 2
With Lens faint hopes of the title dashed by their 3-1 defeat in Paris last weekend, attention now turns to them holding on to one of the three available Champions League positions. The loss to PSG was pretty much guaranteed after just 20 minutes when Salis Abdul Samed was sent off for a clumsy challenge on Achraf Hakimi. Consequently the Ghanaian midfielder will be suspended for this game and the other Champions League qualification crunch tie against Marseille in two week’s time. Monaco have spent barely any time in the top three this season but appear to have got over the wobble they experienced after their Europa League exit to Leverkusen. Of the three sides below PSG, you’d say Monaco have the toughest run-in so may have to content themselves with their current fourth place. There’s a six point gap between these three and the chasing pack, lead by Lille in fifth. With the Coupe de France being contested by mid-table Toulouse and relegation threatened cup holders Nantes, fifth will be the Conference League place this season. With the UEFA competition expansion from season 2024/25, the French league should gain a fourth Champions League spot but that will rely on them holding on to their position in the UEFA coefficient table. That position is under threat from the Netherlands, who - unlike France - still have a team in this season’s competitions, AZ. GS


Premier League: Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
14.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event and Ultra
Last week saw the (dirty) Mags’ five match unbeaten run come to a crashing end at the hands of a newly brilliant Aston Villa side. The Villains, now sixth, were worth every penny and the win was made all the more sweeter given the nature of their loss on Tyneside earlier in the season. What Eddie Howe needs after such a setback is to get his boys back in the saddle, ideally against a side who have lost their way and are feeling a little vulnerable: step forward Tottenham Hotspur. This may be fourth versus fifth, but the gulf in quality between the two is huge. Last time out, Spurs came back from a goal down to make it two-all against Bournemouth at a time when most of their faithful were heading for the exits. Any that did manage to make it back did so just in time to see the South-coast side slot home a third to take all three points. Karma, some would say, for the points VAR effectively stole for them seven days earlier in their 2-1 ‘win’ at home to Brighton. Newcastle have lost at St James’ just once this season, and that was in a mad, mad game against Liverpool where Nick Pope was sent off. The potential absence of Allan Saint-Maximin may give the visitors some hope, but I’d be surprised if they get anything out of this other than a right hiding. JB

Alternative viewing: From 14.30 Wolfsburg v Arsenal, Women’s Champions League Semi-final first leg on DAZN and DAZN Youtube. Leah Williamson’s name was added to a lengthy injury list for Arsenal in their mdweek defeat to United in the WSL, a result that not only puts a huge dent in their title ambitions but also makes qualification for next year’s UWCL even tougher. Hopefully the tie will still be in the balance for the near sell-out crowd at the Emirates for the second leg next Bank Holiday Monday.

FA Cup semi-final: Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
16.30 on BBC One & iPlayer
"And Smith must score..." Peter Jones’ radio commentary of the drama of the last minute of extra time in the 1983 FA Cup final against Ron Atkinson’s United is now the stuff of legend among Brighton fans. The match finished 2-2, they lost the subsequent replay 4-0 and have still yet to win at Wembley in their three attempts since, so it’s no wonder fans have spent the last 40 years wondering what might have been. In reality, these days at least, Gordon Smith’s tired, scuffed effort from just outside the corner of the six yard box would probably amount to no more than 0.37 xG, but where’s the mythology in that? Alan Mullery’s Brighton had been relegated in that season, in contrast this De Zerbi’s side could be the finest assembled. 19 year old Paraguayan Julio Enciso it just the latest exciting talent to be added to the squad, scoring twice this month including a spectacular winner against Chelsea last weekend. Alongside Mitoma and Mac Allister, the fragile, injury-wracked defence of United will have their hands full. There will certainly be a need for an improved performance from ten Hag’s side following their calamatous exit from the Europa League in Seville on Thursday night. With the highly publicised bad luck Brighton have had from decision-makers, they can feel justified in expecting the football gods to give something back to them here. But as we all know, it really doesn’t work like that. GS

Serie A: Juventus v Napoli
19.45 on BT Sport 1 & Ultimate
A classic North v South classico packed with weight and narrative. It’s all change in the top four of the Serie A table as Juventus had their 15-point deduction overturned by the Italian courts. The decision moved the Old Lady from seventh to third and pushed AC Milan out of the Champions League qualifying spots. It should be said that the court did not acquit Juve of fixing balance sheets by artificial gains from transfers, but they did rule that the punishment by the FIGC (Italian Football’s sporting body) was inappropriate. It’s likely that Juventus will receive another deduction, only with fewer points, but it will still be appealed by Juve. So, it’s possible that the final placings in the table may not be decided when all the football is finished. So, for now at least, Juve have a Champions League spot to defend. Then there’s the added incentive of trying to put table toppers Napoli off their stride as they close in on the title. There is a mammoth 14-point lead between the Neapolitans and second-placed Lazio, but they’ve encountered a few hiccups this month. There is the trilogy of Milan games, which saw them beaten twice and knocked out of the Champions League. Then there is the 0-0 draw with Verona on Saturday. In mitigation, top scorer Victor Osimhen has been missing for two games and is now fit. Georgian wonderkid Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has also been less than wonderful in recent games and needs a confidence boosting goal or assist. All of which is contributing to a creeping sense of fear of a collapse that would impress Fred Dibnah. A defeat in Turin may turn that creep into a crawl. TD

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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