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: Mayday! Mayday!

An underlying theme of this week’s Boxset seems to be last gasp managerial changes to rescue what remains of the season. Gary Andrews returns to give us the low down on the final weekend of the regular season of the A-League, which will already be in full swing by the time you get this. As a bonus, he also gives us a preview to the A-League Women’s Grand Final, the biggest game in Australian women’s football ahead of this summer’s World Cup.

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

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All times are UK (GMT+1)


Championship: Blackpool v Millwall
20.00 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event and Ultra
If things don’t improve soon, tonight’s hosts will be playing their football in League One next season. Temporary manager, Stephen Dobbie, was promoted from his Senior Professional Development Phase coach role, when the Seasiders sacked (Big) Mick McCarthy who himself replaced Michael Appleton, making it three managers in a season. McCarthy seemed a sensible appointment given Blackpool were languishing in twenty-third and staring relegation in the face. Unfortunately, less than three months, and nine losses later, Blackpool’s league position hadn’t budged one bit and Dobbie was in at (Big) Mick’s expense. Four games in, he’s won two and lost two, a statistic already infinitely better than either of his predecessors. While it’s a tough ask, a win today would give them more than a fighting chance of survival, with a trip up to playoff outsiders, Norwich, their next and final game. They can expect no quarter from today’s visitors who sit one place outside of the relegation spots and finish their campaign next week against fellow hopefuls, Blackburn. Recent losses against lowly Birmingham and bottom club, Wigan, have put a real dent in their playoff chances. I was at the Den for their draw with the mighty Sunderland back in February, and that side didn’t look like one that would lose to such unlikely opposition. They need to get that fight back tonight, or their season will be for nothing. JB


A-League: Sydney v Newcastle Jets
08.00 on BT Sport 1
By the time you read the Boxset, the order of the top 4 finals spots in the A-League will have been decided. By some quirk of fate, all the top four will have played each other on Friday morning UK time, leaving the last two finals berths up for grabs in a rare final day where nearly every team has something to play for. Sydney’s win on Monday over a poor Brisbane Roar side has secured a fifth place finish so it’s Wellington Phoenix who will be looking nervously over their shoulder as they take on bottom side Macarthur, who will be desperate to avoid a first wooden spoon of their short existence (08.00 on BT Sport 6). A draw will be enough to see the Nix secure finals football in Manager Ufuk Talay’s final season in charge. Behind them, Perth Glory will be watching anxiously. A loss for the Kiwis would mean Glory have to win against last season’s champions Western United to sneak the final spot (13.00 on BT Sport 4). Western have a mathematical possibility of sneaking in, should Phoenix lose and they overcome a seven goal difference. And then there’s the Newcastle Jets, who also need a big goal swing. Given that Sydney have blown hot and cold this season under Steve Corica, a final match collapse in what is effectively a dead rubber for them can’t be ruled out. However, by this stage, they’ll know who their likely opponents are in the preliminary final. Currently, it’s in-form hated rivals Western Sydney Wanderers. Everybody but Sydney would probably rather avoid Marko Rudan’s team, so there’s a nice sub-plot floating around. Bottom line: if you love final day permutations, this is the weekend to watch the A-League. GA

Scottish Cup semi-final: Falkirk v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
12.15 on BBC One Scotland & iPlayer and Viaplay Sports 1
Despite this fixture being League One versus Championship these sides met each other in the final of this competition as recently as 2015, when both clubs were one step higher on the ladder. Hampden was only three quarters full for that game but it had all the drama of a classic final. The favourites Caley took a deserved lead in the first half and were cruising until 15 minutes before the end, when defender Carl Tremarco miscontrolled an innocuous back-pass and, in his attempt to recover, fouled Falkirk’s Blair Alston. As the last man it had to be a red, and with a man advantage Falkirk equalised five minutes later. With Falkirk pushing for a winner in regulation time, it was another defensive slip that allowed Caley’s Marley Watkin’s to break quickly. His low shot was parried into the path of James Vincent who grabbed the winner for Inverness CT. Of course most will view this semi-final simply as a play-off to see who loses the final to whichever of the two Glasgow giants gets through in the other tie. You can watch that Old Firm derby semi-final on Viaplay Sports 1 from 13.30 on Sunday. GS

Serie A: Roma v Milan
17.00 on BT Sport 2
Last week’s ultra-dramatic win for Napoli over Juventus last weekend should have put the title race to bed. Now, the race for Champions League spots is the centre of attention, as far as Serie A is concerned. But, of course, both teams have an alternative route via trophy glory. Roma are a two-legged semi-final with Bayer Leverkusen away from a second European final under coach Jose Mourinho. They dropped out of the top four, partly due to Juve’s points deduction reprieve, but also due to the 3-1 defeat to Atalanta which did not help their cause. Mourinho has had an injury boost when Tammy Abraham returned from injury sooner than had been anticipated. The English marksman is a key component of Mourinho’s attack and combines nicely with Paolo Dybala, who started on the bench on Monday because he too has been struggling for fitness. Hopefully, the Argentine will start this game. With all due disrespect to Roma’s forthcoming Europa League adventure, Milan have an absolute beast of a game in the Champions League. A semi-final against their city rivals Inter, which must rank as one of the biggest games in Italian football history. But before that comes, this. The Champions are fourth, and a win keeps their opponents at bay. There’s too much at stake for either club to hold back, and even if there were not, the home fans would never stand for it. TD


A-League Women Grand Final: Western United v Sydney
07.00 on BT Sport 1
12 months ago Western United’s women team didn’t even exist. Now they stand on the verge of the title in their inaugural A-League season. Standing in their way is a side that demands, nay, expects a finals appearance. Ante Juric has led Sydney FC to three back-to-back table topping seasons and six straight Grand Final appearances, although the Sky Blues have only won the title once in five of their previous final appearances. This is a rematch of the preliminary final two weeks ago that Western won thanks to a poacher’s finish from Golden Boot winner Hannah Keane. United frustrated a strangely blunt Sydney that afternoon and the Sky Blues then only just squeezed through against Melbourne Victory in the semis. Sydney will be looking to Matildas star Cortnee Vine and top scorer Maddison Hayley to provide the attacking threat, but United have a wildcard in experienced returning Australian international Chloe Logarzo. Expect an engaging, if cagey, affair that may well go all the way to penalties. GA

Championship: Cardiff City v Huddersfield Town
12.00 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event and Ultra
You’ve gotta hand it to Neil Warnock. Coming out of retirement at 74 years young to take temporary charge of the club he fist managed thirty years ago. It may have taken a couple of months to turn around Huddersfield’s dire situation, but turn it has: their last six games has yielded three wins and two draws. Amongst this came the scalps of both ‘Boro and Millwall, making Warnock’s second coming something of a miracle, so to speak. Sitting now one place above relegation, the Terriers have the advantage of a game in hand and still have to play the team directly below them, Reading. Their hosts, despite their perilous position, are also in quite good form: recent away wins at Watford and fellow strugglers, Rotherham, sandwiched a decent draw at home to Stoke. Most of their wins this season have come since they appointed former Forest manager, Sabri Lamouchi, their third coach this term. As I mentioned in a previous Boxset, Lamouchi’s side are capable of some good football, and will give Warnock something to think about today. JB

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich v Hertha Berlin
14.30 on Sky Sports Football
A lot has been said about Bayern Munich’s current situation, so I’ll try not to dwell on this for too long. However, it must be said that irrespective of whether sacking their coach Julian Nagelsmann was the right call or not, the champions have not improved under his replacement, Thomas Tuchel. Bounced out of the Champions League with only minimal resistance, a draw with Hoffenheim which was not punished by title rivals Dortmund, and a defeat at Mainz that was. Just when it looked like the Bavarians had done the hard work, when they won Der Klassiker, they find themselves a point off the top and facing a real possibility of surrendering their grip on the Meisterschale for the first time in ten seasons. What they need is a statement win over one of the worst teams in the Bundesliga to demonstrate that, in the words of Wor Kev, they’re still fighting for this title. Happily, for them, their next opponents are the worst team in the league. Hertha have not seen a win since February and have conceded nine goals in the last two games. Five of those were hilariously against Schalke, which cost coach Sandro Schwarz his job and was replaced by the club’s very own Jupp Heynckes. Pal Dardai returns to the hot seat for the third time. In his first spell, Hertha were a decent side. On the second occasion, it was to successfully rescue the club from relegation. Now, he’s back to do it again, only with far fewer games left in the season. His first resulted in a 4-2 defeat to Werder. It’s hard to see where they are going to find the belief, let alone quality, to win this match without help from their opponents. TD

Premier League: Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event and Ultra
Ryan Mason knows all about being thrown in at the deep end. When he was last given the role of caretaker manager, following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, it was just four days before Spurs’ EFL Cup final against Manchester City. Almost two years to the day of that final defeat, Mason has been put back in to that role following the dismissal of Cristian Stellini, himself an interim. After six minutes of being back in charge in their midweek tie against United it looked like things weren’t going to get better for Spurs. As with the Newcastle game, Jadon Sanco found space where you’d imagine a full back should probably be and curled in a beautiful effort off the back stick. Spurs were two down before half time but the spirit they showed to claw the game back to 2-2 in the second half (albeit against a United side that looks dead on its feet) should give heart to their beleaguered fans. This will be a much sterner test. With four teams going for the three places non-Champions League spots, someone will have to miss out. On current form it doesn’t look like Liverpool or Villa are going to slip up so Spurs may be left to rely on Brighton wasting their three games in hand. In 2021 Mason did enough in his six league games in charge to beat Arsenal to the Conference League place. Will he do the same this season to deny the Seagulls a place in Europe’s third competition. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham, Jan and Gary

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