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: Rooney's return

This week we have a poignant Manchester derby, Wayne Rooney’s return to England and some more action from the women’s Nation League. Also, a new season of A-League kicked off last weekend and our man in Sydney, Gary Andrews, is back to give us his thoughts.

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


UEFA Women’s Nations League Group A1: England v Belgium
19.45 on ITV4 and ITVX
It’s an international break in women’s football and in Europe that means the middle round of fixtures in the inaugural Nations League - a round in which teams play each other home and away. Belgium lead the group after a surprise win against the Netherlands and a draw against Scotland. The Red Flames have yet to reach a World Cup but performed well in last year’s Euros, coming out of a tricky group ahead of Iceland and Italy and running Sweden close in the quarter finals. They faced England as recently as February in the Arnold Clark Cup, in which they finished second overall but were soundly beaten 6-1 by the Lionesses in the deciding final fixture at Ashton Gate. England may have reached the World Cup final since then but have struggled in a number of their performances, most recently last month’s defeat to the Netherlands. England are without Lauren James who has left the squad after picking up a concussion. Although returning for Arsenal after a lengthy spell out of the game with an ACL injury, the Lionesses top scorer from Euro 2022 Beth Mead was not included in the squad this time but Fran Kirby and Keira Walsh are. There could also be a full debut for Grace Clinton. Kicking off at the same time is the other game in the group, Scotland v Netherlands, and you can watch that game live on BBC Alba and the iPlayer. The return matches are on Tuesday night. GS


A-League: Western Sydney Wanderers v Western United
09.45 on TNT Sports 3
This season’s A-League is somewhat of a curiosity insofar as there’s no one team that feels like a favourite for the title. In past seasons, it’s become the norm for Melbourne City to canter to the top of the table but their 6-1 grand final loss to Central Coast Mariners appears to have broken something in the City Football Group and they entered this season with a substantially weaker side that gave up a late goal to Western United in the opening round last week. United are made up of canny, battle-hardened A-League mainstays and in John Aloisi they have a manager who knows how to carve out results. They travel to a Wanderers team who look good on paper but had a tendency to blow hot and cold last season and have a serious lack of depth. Finals football is a minimum for Marko Rudan’s side but they struggled to find the net against Wellington in the opening round’s only goalless draw and United will test them a lot more than the toothless Nix did. An away win wouldn’t be a shock here. GA

Championship: Southampton v Birmingham City
12.30 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
Just before the international break Birmingham City’s new owners (who appear to be a consortium of American asset managers and Peaky Blinders fans) decided that head coach, John Eustace, did not have the "winning mentality" and fired him despite winning his last two games. Coincidentally, or not, Wayne Rooney’s failure to take DC United into the MLS post-season resulted in his departure and he arrived at St Andrews on 11 October. The former Derby boss had ten days with his new players before the next game but lost to an admittedly very good Middlesbrough at the Riverside. Wednesday night’s 2-0 home loss to Hull City is harder to justify and if Wazzer wants to instill that much-needed "winning mentality" he’ll need to improve on the 0.6 xG from that match. Rooney could do worse than look to his opposite number at Southampton for inspiration. Taking over a relegated team, Russell Martin had to watch the departure of his best players, including Roméo Lavia, Tino Livramento, James Ward-Prowse, plus the returning Nathan Tella who scored 17 goals for Burnley on loan in the Championship last season. Despite these challenges, Martin is fashioning a team based on his attacking principles with a determination to succeed. After an atrocious September, the Saints were back on the March in October and have risen to fifth in the table. They salvaged a point at Preston on Wednesday with a 96th-minute equaliser from a corner. The final touch came from North End’ striker Ched Evans but it was deflected from Saints ’keeper Gavin Bazunu’s header. You love to see it. TD

Bundesliga: RB Leipzig v Köln
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
Were it not for the form of Stuttgart and Leverkusen, Leipzig would be even higher up the table than fifth place. Given the changes to their squad in the summer, they have coped admirably so far. Losing Josko Gvardiol, Christopher N’Kunku, and Dominik Szoboszlai in a single window would have knocked the stuffing out of most squads. However, the Red Bull multi-club ownership system is configured for these kinds of eventualities. No sooner had those players booked their tickets for England than defender Castello Lukeba and forward Lois Openda were welcomed from France. Both signings have worked out really well with Openda the top scorer with 6 goals, The 23-year-old is currently overshadowing Timo Werner who has struggled for form and fitness since his return from Chelsea last year. Only Leverkusen have beaten them in the Bundesliga and they took points off Bayern Munich. There’s a slight blot on their copybook in the shape of a 0-0 draw at Bochum before the international break. A place in the last 16 of the Champions League looks good after a 3-1 win over Red Star on Wednesday. Ordinarily, I would not give their opponents much of a chance in this match. However, Köln broke a four-game losing streak to win their first league match of the season, last Sunday in the derby game against Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Billygoats were a team transformed from the aimless rabble that I’ve watched in recent weeks. If they can catch Leipzig out, even with a point, then perhaps the outlook for the season does not look so grim.TD


Premier League: West Ham United v Everton
13.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
This week it was reported that the independent commission assessing Everton’s financial misconduct has been asked by the Premier League to impose the maximum sanction against the club - an immediate 12 point deduction. As the table stands now, that penalty would put them on minus five points, six adrift of the next team, winless Sheffield United. While the demand from the Premier League did not come in an official statement, the timing of it has been seen as insensitive coming less than 24 hours after the death of Everton’s chairman, Bill Kenwright. A lifelong fan of the club, he joined the board just before the start of the Premier League. Kenwright’s showbiz background made him an ideal choice as owner/chairman for the new league with its then focus on being an entertainment product rather than what it is now: an investment vehicle for equity companies and sportwashers. The investment did come, but too late for the club to challenge and their overspending now means they face an uncertain future. David Moyes was hired from Preston North End by Kenwright and managed Everton for 11 seasons under him. Both men faced the same criticism from fans: they were perfectly decent people but perhaps lacked the edge to take the club a step further. Moyes has done much to change that perception of his managerial abilities at West Ham but recent results have a familiar look to them. His last five games in the Premier League have yielded just one win - against the only bottom-half side they faced. Lucky for them then that it will be a long time before Everton are anywhere near to becoming a top-half side again. GS

Premier League: Manchester United v Manchester City
15.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
The life and legacy of Sir Bobby Charlton was commemorated at Old Trafford on Tuesday night before United’s Champions League win over FC Copenhagen. There will also be a minute’s applause before this game for the United legend who died last weekend at the age of 86. Sir Bobby may have played his final match for United for than 50 years ago but his influence as arguably England’s greatest footballer stretches further than the confines of the club and those old enough to have seen him play. Of course not everyone shows respect at these times: two City supporting minors have been banned by the club and reported to the police for unpleasant chants about the World Cup winner at the Etihad last weekend. It’s unlikely they were the only ones, just probably the only ones daft enough to put up a TikTok of them doing it. Being the consummate pros they are, City are likely to let their football do the disrespecting here and spoil the wake with a comfortable drubbing. That said their win last weekend was perhaps more down to Brighton rather charitably assigning 37 year old James Milner to contain the explosive Jeremy Doku. The former City player was hooked at half time but by then the damage was done. The two yellows picked up Manuel Akanji late on in the game means that the Swiss defender has to sit this one out. GS

Serie A: Napoli v Juventus
19.45 on TNT Sports 1
"Italian football will die" - that was the stark warning issued by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis during Serie A chief Luigi De Sievro’s press conference announcing the league’s new domestic TV deal. He expanded on his interruption of Monday’s events by stating that the two broadcasters - Sky and DAZN - who had low-balled their way to all the rights were, in his words, "not to be trusted". From the outside, Italian football looks to be in a good place right now. The last four seasons have seen four different winners of the Scudetto, including most recently De Laurentiis’s Napoli. Also last season we saw Italian clubs make it to all three European finals - which happened almost every year in the early 90s when the league was in its pomp. Of course back then they’d win at least two of them, but this time they all narrowly missed out. In truth, debts are mounting for Italian clubs and they make less than a third of the money from TV revenue compared to Premier League sides. For Napoli, much like the Liverpool side of 2019/20, such is the narrative around them that were never going to win the title by dipping for the line - they would have to be the only ones on the home straight. It’s no wonder then that despite holding on to their best players, there is a hangover at the start of this campaign and while well-positioned they already find themselves chasing the top three. In the latter half of the 2010s this fixture invariably signalled the end of Napoli’s title challenge but they’ve won their last three here against the Old Lady, most recently a 5-1 demolition in January. It’s unlikely we’ll see a similar performance today but it will certainly be worth watching. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Gary

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