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: Don't call it a Super League

Nice and Leverkusen are emerging as this season’s surprise contenders in Europe’s big leagues. They’re both in this week’s selection along with the second leg of the final of the world’s newest continental club competition.

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

Share this with someone on WhatsApp

All times are UK


Ligue 1: Montpellier v Nice
19.45 on TNT Sports 3
Can Nice go all the way this season? Top of Ligue 1 they’re still unbeaten and have won seven of their last eight, including victories away at the teams nearest to them in the table, PSG and Monaco. While they have financially benefitted from four years of ownership by Manchester United’s newest investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe, constant changes of players and coaches have limited the side’s progress. Nice’s successful period was the 1950s, when they won all four of their league titles and two of their three French Cups. Their 34 year old Italian head coach Francesco Farioli is certainly getting a tune out a side that has a solid mix of youth and experience. They don’t come much more experienced than club captain Dante; the former Bayern centre half turned 40 last month, has played every minute of the season and has formed a formidible partnership with Jean Clair Tobido, 17 years his junior. In attack Khéphren Thuram’s career looks to be on a similarly upward trajectory to his older brother Marcus. A quick look at the table would suggest a comfortable win for Nice but the table doesn’t tell the full story of Montepellier’s season. Were it not for the mindless action of one spectator, Montpellier would be sat sixth from top rather than sixth from bottom. After a firework hit the Clermont goalkeeper the club have been docked a point and, at the end of this month, will have to replay the match that was abandoned when they were leading 4-2 in second half injury time. GS


A-League: Adelaide United v Sydney
08.45 on TNT Sports 3
Gary Andrews returns with some more A-League insights. If you’d like to read more of his stuff check out his article on growing the women’s A-League in this month’s When Saturday Comes.

This week we finally got an answer to the question “what does Steve Corica have to do to get sacked by Sydney FC?” A post-Halloween horror show at Melbourne City after two equally uninspiring losses against Brisbane and Melbourne Victory did for the Sky Blues’ most successful ever coach. In truth, Sydney have underwhelmed for over a year and it was a mild surprise that club and manager opted not to part ways in the close season. His replacement - former assistant coach Ufuk Talay - has his work cut out. Talay inherits a winless side with a paper thin squad and a misfiring set of forwards. Opening tests don’t come tougher than a trip to Adelaide, who’ve plundered 10 goals in four games and look like genuine title contenders. In Nestor Irankunda they have one of the most exciting teenagers in Australian football. Linked with Bayern Munich in the off-season, the 17-year-old is a mainstay of the Adelaide team and you can feel the expectation in Coopers Stadium anytime the young striker picks up the ball. Sydney’s bench has also been full of 17 year olds out of necessity and while the likes of Mitch Glasson and Zak De Jesus may go on to have long, successful careers, at the moment they look very much like teenagers thrown into a crisis team. For all the miracles Talay worked at Wellington Phoenix, it would be a huge shock if Sydney were to come away from South Australia with anything other than an honourable loss. GA

Championship: Sunderland v Birmingham City
12.30 on Sky Sports Football & Ultra
Let’s face it, any neutral tuning in for this one will be doing so to see former England goal machine, Wayne Rooney, in his new role as Brum’s head coach. He took charge following the surprise departure of John Eustace in mid-October with the club in sixth place after eleven matches. Rooney was in the hot-seat within a few hours, suggesting, if not confirming, that the deal was already done while Eustace was still in place. Three straight defeats followed but an impressive 2-2 draw against second placed Ipswich Town bring us up to date and to the gates of the Stadium of Light. Awaiting them is an inconsistent Sunderland side who slipped out of the top six on the back of their own trio of defeats. A much needed win at home to a lacklustre Norwich City was followed by a frustrating nil-niller away at Swansea where they enjoyed a one-man advantage for an entire hour and still failed to score. Not that Sunderland strikers do much scoring these days. Indeed, not one of them has registered a goal this season. There are reasons for this: Mason Burstow (loanee from Chelsea), Nazariy Rusynv (summer signing from Zorya Luhansk) and Luis Hemir (Benfica B), whilst promising youngsters, aren’t exactly experienced at this level. That said, Sunderland, given the amount of time they were required to play without the now departed Ross Stewart, were forced to play to their strengths. This season and last, Tony Mobray has deployed quick, skillful wide-men to provide the threat - namely Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke. The latter continues to enjoy an excellent season, with nine goals and is the side’s stand-out performer. With contract discussion at a reported impasse, it may not be long before the Premier League clubs come knocking again. Home win. JB

La Liga: Real Madrid v Valencia
20.00 on ITV4, ITVX, LALigaTV and ViaPlay Sports 1
The ITV execs will be sweating on the fitness of Jude Bellingham. The 20-year-old Englander yanked his shoulder in the 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano last week and had to sit out his team’s hard-fought 3-0 win against a dogged Braga side in the Champions League on Wednesday. Reports suggested he could have played so it’s safe to assume that he is on for his date with the UK free-to-air audience, assuming they can receive ITV4 or figure out how to open the ITVX app. But enough about Real. The, er, real story of this game is Valencia. After having suffered years of humiliation and underinvestment, coach Rubén Baraja has plumbed their academy side and produced an exciting team that play good football and win games. It’s still a far cry from the day when Los Che were competing for titles and playing in Europe but eighth place feels good for their fans and they can enjoy an exciting season before the squad is inevitably sold off in the summer. But there is some extra needle to this game. When these two last met it was at the Mestalla and Valencia won 1-0. However, the game was marred by repeated racial abuse of Real’s Vinicius Junior from the home fans. Vini was rightly outraged but was sent off just before full-time for slapping Hugo Duro in an action that many felt could only have happened because of a lack of support for the player earlier in the match. Back at the Bernabeu the atmosphere will be different but there could be a potential flashpoint. Hopefully, we’ll see an extra motivated Vinicius, put in a five-star performance. TD


African Football League Final 2nd leg: Mamelodi Sundowns v Wydad
13.00 on TNT Sports 4
A few years ago, some guys sat around a table and discussed how the Champions League wasn’t good enough and there needed to be a Super League. One of those guys was Gianni Infantino. This wasn’t the aborted breakaway of Europe’s elite clubs but the creation of the African Football League (the Super part of the name was dropped pretty quickly). The plan was to have 24 teams in three groups to go into a knockout stage of 16. Poorly performing teams would be relegated and replaced. For it’s first iteration however it has been a much scaled-down affair with just eight invited clubs into a straight knockout. The money from this venture is coming from, where else, Saudi Arabia. Given how much of CAF is controlled by FIFA this is hardly shocking news and may also go some way to explain the motivations behind CAF’s decision in September to tear up its continental-wide TV deal with Qatari-owned beIN Sports. There are many dissenting voices in African football but the money is clearly talking much louder. Part of the issue with any continental tournament in Africa is the distances involved: Wydad’s home city Casablanca is closer to Winnipeg in the middle of Canada than it is to Mamelodi’s Pretoria - a round trip of over 15,0000km. Wydad hold a slender advantage having won the home leg 2-1 on Sunday. Fans of the old away goals rule will be glad to know that it’s alive and well in this competition, so 1-0 for the home side would be enough to take the title. It was away goals that decided the CAF Champions League semi-final these sides contested back in May. A late Mothobi Mvala own goal equaliser putting Wydad through to final, which they lost to Egypt’s Al Ahly. GS

Bundesliga: Bayer Leverkusen v Union Berlin
14.30 on Sky Sports Mix
In the four seasons that Union Berlin have been a Bundesliga club, they have done literally everything right. Every conceivable choice they’ve made was the correct one. They finished eleventh, seventh, fifth, and fourth in consecutive Bundesliga seasons culminating in qualification to the Champions League. The fact that they have found their group to be a bridge too far is understandable. But the real shock is their Bundesliga form which has dropped off a cliff. There are so many “L”s after Union Berlin results that you’d have to visit an L Plate factory to find more. Eight straight defeats in the league make up the bulk of a losing streak of 12 (twelve) games up to last weekend. So, what’s happened? Well, most people think it’s down to bad luck and uncharacteristically poor recruitment in the summer. But I personally think It’s karmic payback for choosing to play their Champions League home games in local rival Hertha Berlin’s stadium for the extra cash. This kind of hubristic money-grabbing does not fly with the football gods, and they’ve slapped them down hard. In an attempt to appease them, the Union ultras (who strongly opposed the move) unveiled a banner during last Saturday’s game against Bremen, in support of under pressure coach Urs Fischer. Union’s subsequent Champions League 1-1 draw at Napoli suggests that the gods may be prepared to forgive them, just in time for a game against the league leaders. Bayer Leverkusen are not in a false position. They are the best team in the league and whether they stay that way depends on if they can overcome stubborn opponents that they are expected to beat. TD

Serie A: Lazio v Roma
17.00 on TNT Sports 2
I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that Jose Mourinho still knows how to stir things up before a big local derby. Panto season started early with Jose claiming that Lazio had the advantage in this match because their Champions League game was being played at home two days before Roma’s Europe League tie away in Prague. When asked to respond, Maurizio Sarri commented that his side faced the tougher challenge. A fair statement considering Lazio were up against a side that had beaten them 3-1 in the reverse fixture and were ahead of them in the group, while Roma had already guaranteed at least a top three place in their group after just three games. He went on to say that in comparison Roma’s game against Slavia was more like a friendly. As you can imagine, Jose chose to take this as huge insult - not to him of course but to the good people of Slavia Prague and the very integrity of the UEFA Europa League. He went to say how he always has respect for his opponents, and then immediately questioned Sarri’s mentality, as a coach who has barely won anything compared to his “26 titles” (of course he includes the five Community Shields/Super Cups he’s won - it’s Jose!) Roma went on to lose 2-0 in Prague while Lazio beat Feyenoord 1-0, Ciro Immobile making Lazio’s only shot on target count. Both sides had rotten starts to their Serie A seasons, each winning just one of their opening five. They’ve both been in much better form since but last weekend Lazio lost to the only goal in a tight game at Bologna. Roma were five minutes of injury time away from suffering the same fate at home to Lecce. Sardar Azmoun equalised at the end of the 91st minute and just two minutes later Romelu Lukaku, who had earlier missed a penalty, fired home the winner. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham, Jan and Gary

Get in touch with us


Email *

Message *

Latest podcast

Never miss a podcast