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: Who's not gone to Saudi?

For most of Europe, this weekend is the last before the transfer window closes. Any speculation still hanging over players could come down to next Friday’s deadline or have to wait until January. However, the Saudi Pro League’s transfer deadline is still three week’s away - reviving memories of when Chinese clubs were snapping up players beyond the deadline in 2017.

Seven 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


La Liga: Celta Vigo v Real Madrid
20.30 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 1
Real Madrid top the fledgling table with two convincing wins over Athletic Club and Almería. Star of the show so far is their 20-year-old summer signing: the English all-action midfielder who has already scored three goals since arriving from Borussia Dortmund. I am of course talking about Jobe Bellingham’s older brother who has easily transitioned into Carlo Ancelotti’s team. As a Dortmund fan, it was sad to see him leave but at least he did not go to Bayern. Bellingham slots into a midfield with Valverde, Tchouameni, Kroos or Modric which is likely to dominate that area of the pitch throughout the season. But with Benzema gone and the new number 9, Joselu, more likely to be an auxiliary striker, Ancelotti has been playing a front two of Rodrigo and a somewhat out-of-position, Vinicius Junior. La Real travel to Vigo who have a new coach in Rafael Benitez who has a mammoth job on his hands. Celta narrowly avoided the drop last season and are relegation candidates for this. It will be interesting to see what Rafa can conjure up on the tactics board to combat this superior opponent where he cut his coaching teeth. So far, results have been unspectacular: a 2-0 loss to Osasuna and a seriously late equaliser against Real Sociedad to secure a 1-1 draw. To be fair, the highlights suggested that Celta had the better of that came and deserved to win. Celta also look set to lose one of their best players, Gabri Veiga. The 21-year-old was set to go to Napoli but instead has opted for Al Alhi in Saudi Arabia. A decision that Real Madrid player Tony Kroos described as “embarrassing”. TD


Premier League: Bournemouth v Tottenham Hotspur
12.30 on TNT Sports 1 & Ultimate
Get ready for what promises to be an eventful game, especially given that three of the last four meetings have been 3-2 scorelines. The Cherries started their campaign with a hard-fought draw at the Vitality against a determined West Ham side which was followed by a three-one defeat at Anfield. Hopefully, they’ll be able to pick themselves up after that result: they took a deserved lead, were undone by a bit of flat-footed defending, a soft penalty decision, and can count themselves unlucky for number three. Particularly impressive was the (very) high press which had Liverpool all at sea for Antoine Semenyo’s opener - turning that on today will give the visitors something to think about. That said, Spurs have had an excellent start to the season. New coach, Ange Postecoglou, certainly has got them playing and they didn’t seem to miss Harry Kane as they swept aside Manchester United last time out. They have real quality in Sarr and new signings James Maddison and goalie Vicario. Maddison faces a late fitness test having picked up an ankle knock, which will put a little pressure on Son and Richarlison to pick up the slack. Considering his pace and athleticism, Richarlison should be scoring more. While he can argue he was in Kane’s shadow last term, he does need to improve on just three goals on a Tottenham shirt. Prediction: 3-2, to somebody. JB

Bundesliga: Borussia Möchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
These two teams shared 13 (thirteen) goals with their opponents in last weekend’s season opener. Bayer Leverkusen are considered to be front runners behind Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich this season. They may have lost Moussa Diaby to Aston Villa, but Victor Boniface looks to be a good arrival and confidence is high that Xabi Alonso will guide his team to a Champions League place at the very least. It’s good to see Florian Wirtz in good shape after a huge injury setback. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder ruptured a cruciate ligament in March last year and only returned to action in January. He scored a belter in Leverkusen’s 3-2 win over Leipzig. That victory laid down an early season marker against a fellow title contender, but it would have been a draw had Leipzig’s Lois Openda not crashed his injury-time shot against the post when it would have been easier to score. Gladbach start the season with a new coach. Gerardo Seoane used to be in charge at Leverkusen and had a great first season before it all went badly wrong at the beginning of the last. He was fired and replaced by Xabi Alonso. The Swiss manager inherits a Gladbach side who have lost striker Marcus Thuram and said farewell to their long-standing captain Lars Stindl. There have been some backroom changes that have resulted in a loss of momentum and significantly reduced expectations. However, if the 4-4 draw with unfancied Augsburg is any indication, the club is in for some hi-jinks this season. But Seoane can draw encouragement from the team’s superior xG in that game and their resilience. They rescued the point with a seriously seriously late penalty from debutant Czechia striker Tomas Cvancara who scored a brace and looks like a useful signing from Sparta Prague. TD

Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain v Lens
20.00 on TNT Sports 1
If the only Ligue 1 action you’ve watched this season has involved these two sides, who finished as the top two in 2022/23, you might think that the French top flight had been given instructions to give out as many penalties as possible. Statistics are easily skewed in the early stages of a season and bogus patterns are often seen, but the four games these sides have been involved in have seen five of the six penalties awarded so far in the division. Lens have been hardest hit by this blip, conceding three penalties already: two in the opening day defeat at Brest, the other in their draw against Rennes. Lens led in both games and should feel they are due a change in fortunes against a PSG side whose start to the season hasn’t been much better. The champions have just two points from their opening two games; the last time they failed to win either of their first two games they went on to lose the title to Lille. With the number of high profile players leaving the club, new head coach Luis Enrique has his work cut out. PSG scored 17 in their first three games last season, more than half of which were scored by Messi and Neymar, both of whom are now off the payroll. This season, their only goal has been a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Toulouse last weekend. That penalty was converted by Kylian Mbappe who remains at the club despite PSG’s best efforts to shift him before his contract expires next summer. Enrique had already left his role as Barcelona head coach when the club signed Ousmane Dembélé from Dormund in 2017, but he’s obviously seen enough of the 26 year old to take a €50 million punt on him (less than half what Barcelona paid). He has taken Neymar’s number 10 shirt and if he can link up with Mbappe as he did for France at the World Cup the goals should come in numbers. GS


Championship: Watford v Blackburn Rovers
12.00 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
After thumping Queens Park Rangers at Vicarage Road on the opening day of the Championship season, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Hornets would go on to achieve great things. After all, head coach, Valérien Ismaël, who replaced Chris Wilder in May, has certainly been around the block as both player and manager. Indeed, Watford’s victory was so complete, that the four-nil scoreline actually flattered the West Londoners. However, a few days later they went out of the EFL Cup to League One Stevenage on penalties. A disappointing goalless draw at home to newly promoted Plymouth followed and defeat away to Stoke brought them crashing back down to earth. The frustration with Watford’s inability to turn possession into goals was summarised perfectly by Ismaël in a recent presser: “Decision making… we were hectic in the final third”. While that wasn’t in evidence against QPR, a quick look at the numbers in the other fixtures and you can see his point. If it’s going to change, however, today may well be the day. Despite an identical points return, Rovers are as leaky as my old Austin Metro’s oil reservoir - both messy and frustratingly expensive to fix. Eight goals conceded in just four games tells its own story, and if Watford can find some composure in the final third, this could be a torturous afternoon for Rovers. JB

Alternative viewing: Anyone consumed by women’s football during the recent World Cup might be disappointed to discover that none of this weekend’s Women’s Championship opening fixtures have been picked up for broadcast. All games are available to stream on The FA Player app, with kick off times of the five Sunday games staggered every hour from midday. Meanwhile, the BBC do have two SWPL1 matches on iPlayer, and later DAZN are carrying two NWSL matches free to air on their YouTube channel.

Premier League: Newcastle United v Liverpool
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Newcastle are facing some big guns at the start of the campaign. They fared very well against the highly fancied Aston Villa, winning 5-1 but followed up with a quite conservative approach to their game against Manchester City, which they lost 1-0. Getting beat by the treble winners is no disgrace but I would have thought they would have shown a bit more initiative. After all, some brave pundits have tipped the Dirty Mags as outsiders for the title. I wonder if Eddie Howe’s history of being the coach whose priority is to avoid relegation has affected his instincts. While the club still make noises about consolidation and patience, momentum can feed ambition and patience can run pretty thin. This may not yet occur to Mr Howe, because he tends not to think about a lot of things. One club with plenty of ambition is Liverpool. The Reds started the season with a point at a confusing Chelsea team and then a comfortable-ish 3-1 win at home to Bournemouth. The “ish” refers to Alexis Mac Allister’s red card, 58 minutes into the game. Liverpool appealed the decision, no doubt buoyed by Alan Shearer’s comments on last weekend’s Match of the Day where he stated that the red should not have been given. The decision to overturn surprised me somewhat as the former Brighton player’s studs are clearly showing. Perhaps the foul was more reckless than serious foul play. Anyway, no harm was done, and the Argentine is available for what will be a much sterner test at St James’s Park. TD

Serie A: Napoli v Sassuolo
19.45 on TNT Sports 1
Napoli started their title defence last weekend with a 3-1 away win over the Serie B champions Frosinone. Last season’s capocannoniere, Victor Osimhen, got this season’s goal tally off to a flyer with a brace, after his side trailled to an early penalty. There was plenty of speculation that the Nigerian striker would be on the move this summer: Real Madrid were tipped to sign him as a stop-gap in their wait for Mbappe, Manchester United were also in the frame, and there were rumours of a £1million a week tax free contract waiting for him at Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal. Now it looks like he might sign a new contract for Napoli this week that will make him Serie A’s highest paid player. Another player under heavy transfer speculation is Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi. The 29 year old forward made his senior debut for the club in their promotion season in 2012/13 and has remained at the club for their decade in the top flight. Well, sort of. He was co-owned by Juventus between 2013 and 2015 but remained at Sassuolo for the duration. Now the Old Lady has put €25 million on the table for the player who signed a new 5 year contract just last August. Sassuolo are adamant that he’s not going anywhere but his absense from the 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta last weekend might suggest otherwise. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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