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: Football for free

I can’t recall a time we’ve had three games from three different competitions on ITV in the same Boxset. It’s a beautiful day!

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 A1: England v Netherlands
19.45 on ITV4 & ITVX
The inaugural Women’s Nations League has reached the final two rounds of group fixtures. Having so far won two and lost two, England can finish in any of the four places in the group. Finishing bottom, and being relegated to League B, is least likely and is avoidable (should it be necessary) by returning from Scotland with a point next Tuesday. Finishing where they are now, third in the group, would mean England face a relegation play-off against a runner-up from League B next February (this feature is also being added to the men’s version of the Nations League, which is next autumn). Finishing top, and getting the chance to qualify for next summer’s Olympics as Team GB, will require them to win here and then hope that other results go their way. The Dutch currently top the group with three wins from four including beating the Lionesses in the 90th minute of their game in Utrecht on match day 2 in September. Keira Walsh didn’t play in that game but will feature here to give the solidity in midfield that England missed that night. The big worry for Sarina Wiegman will be the absence of skipper Millie Bright with a knee injury, leaving the Lionesses’ head coach to juggle her backline yet again. Scotland host Belgium in the other game in this group, that match is live on BBC Alba and the iPlayer but kicks off 15 minutes earlier than this one. GS


FA Cup second round: Alfreton Town v Walsall
12.30 on BBC One & iPlayer
This tie is National League North’s Alfreton Town’s third attempt to get past the second round of the Cup to a potential money-spinning match against top tier opposition. If they are to do it here they will have to do what they’ve never managed before in the competition: beat a league side. With Walsall sat sixth from bottom of League Two, and in poor form, this could present the Derbyshire side’s best opportunity to progress. In June 2022 Walsall become yet another club to be taken over by a US-based sports investment company. Almost inevitably, it now looks likely they will become part of the newest network of clubs, with their owners Trivela buying League of Ireland side Drogheda United. Fans of the Saddlers may wonder why the money for that investment isn’t going into their club as they face the prospect of staying in the fourth tier for a sixth season - a record period outside the third tier for the club that holds the record for seasons at that level. Walsall’s only win in their last eight games was the first round win away at Sheppey United, a side two steps below Alfreton in the pyramid. While Alfreton have yet to face higher opponents in the competition so far (they beat Worthing in the first round) they should feel confident that an upset is not out of reach for them here. GS

UEFA Euro 2024 draw
17.00 on BBC Two & iPlayer
Coming live from Hamburg, it’s the draw for next summer’s Euros in Germany. There’s a high risk of a “group of death” with strong tournament sides like Croatia and the Netherlands in pot 3, and the holders Italy among the lowest seeds in pot 4. England, Scotland and play-off bound Wales are in separate pots so there’s also the potential for the three home nations to be drawn in the same group. If all this sounds thrilling to you, why not listen to how it worked out when we did the draw on this week’s podcast. GS

Premier League: Nottingham Forest v Everton
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
“Let’s get on with it” was the line from Everton coach Sean Dyche after the 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United last week. He was speaking about moving on from the ten-points deduction applied to the Goodison club and its subsequent appeal. Dyche’s team were undone by an early moment of genius from Alejandro Garnacho which set the foundations for a defeat that flattered United. In general Everton are a solid mid-table team and Dyche’s job will be to maintain a united dressing. If he does that then I’m sure they will survive the season even if their appeal yields nothing and assuming that there are no further deductions forthcoming. With Dyche seemingly in a good place to absorb the pressure of a relegation scrap, his opposite number in the Forest dugout for this game is feeling a little more heat. Club owner Evangelos Marinakis appears to have given Steve Cooper a vote of confidence which as everyone knows can be a precursor to the sack. This fixture marks the start of a run of winnable games against Fulham, Wolves, the injury-ravaged Tottenham and Bournemouth. Whether Cooper is around for the Boxing Day fixture depends on how whether they can add to their three solitary wins so far this season. They’ll have to do it without top scorer Taiwo Awiniyi. The Nigerian’s groin injury flared up again during the international break and he’ll not be back this year. TD

Ligue 1: Nantes v Nice
20.00 on TNT Sports 4
It must be sacking season in France as two head coaches have been given their marching orders in the last few days. Yesterday, Fabio Grosso was relieved of his duties at Lyon less than three months after taking over from Laurent Blanc, and on Tuesday Nantes made the slightly surprising move to fire Pierre Aristouy after a short run of poor results. The former Nantes player, a member of their last title winning team in 2001, was promoted from youth team coach at the tail-end of last season, saving the cup holders from relegation. He is replaced by Jocelyn Gourvennec who returns to football more than a year after an unspectacular season at the then champions Lille. His immediate task is to find goals from somewhere; they’ve scored just once in their last four. They even failed to score last time out when Le Havre were reduced to ten men after Andre Ayew, coming on as a second half substitute, saw red within 2 minutes of his debut. Scoring against Nice though is not easy. Not only have Nice not lost all season, they’ve still yet to be behind in any game, and haven’t conceded a single goal since their win at PSG in mid-September, a run of eight games. Whether they can maintain their challenge to PSG for the title could depend on how they are affected by the loss of key players for the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts next month. Ligue 1 is always particularly hard hit by absenses for the tournament, providing a significantly higher proportion of players than other leagues. Both of these sides will be without the services of three starters from their most recent match - including their top scorers. GS


FA Cup second round: Eastleigh v Reading
13.30 on ITV1, STV & ITVX
As you may have noticed, if I can shoehorn a Sunderland reference into one of these previews, I invariably will. Helping me keep that tradition alive this week are Stewart Donald and Chris Maguire. The former is simultaneously both the former and current owner of today’s hosts, Eastleigh. Sandwiched between those two spells is what some in my tribe would define a disastrous tenure as owner of Sunderland. On a more positive note, Eastleigh striker, Chris Maguire, is something of a legend in my corner of the northeast. Flamboyant, creative and the absolute king of shithousery, Maguire is one of the most entertaining players I’ve had the pleasure of watching in recent years. If you’d like to see an example of what I’m getting at, just search for Lincoln’s 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light where a returning Maguire scored a hatrick - shithousery par excellence. He was at it again (the flamboyance and creativity, that is) in Eastleigh’s 5-1 demolition of Boreham Wood in the last round - scoring two and heavily involved in two of the other three goals. It’s players like Maguire that can really make a cup game; Eastleigh have sold out all 5,500 seats of the Silverlake Stadium for the visit of Reading and, given their guest’s dire performance in League One (currently second bottom), the stage is set for the National League side to cause an upset. Just don’t expect any level of decorum should Maguire find himself on the winning side, or indeed, with a goal - pure genius! JB

Premier League: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Sitting in twelfth place, with a mountain of issues both on and off the pitch, you’d be forgiven for thinking Chelsea won’t have much of a say in how the Premier League is decided this year. Of course, you’d be incorrect in your assumption, as the West London side already have. Both of today’s sides were enjoying excellent starts to the season: City had five straight wins and Spurs had won seven of their last eight - enter stage left, Chelsea. City’s epic 4-4 draw against the blues proved so traumatic that they put us all through a dire score draw with Liverpool, then had to come from behind to beat RB Leipzig in the Champions League. Spurs, again over three games, suffered an absolute hammering at home to Chelsea then lost 2-1 to both Wolves and Villa. To make matters worse, along the way they lost James Madison, Micky van de Ven and Rodrigo Bentancur to injury and Romero and Udogie to suspension. Quite what is going to happen in today’s encounter is anyone’s guess. Form hasn’t just gone out of the window, it jumped through it hotly pursued by an impish Mauricio Pochettino. City will probably win this, but, I don’t know - can anyone tell me what the hell is going on? JB

La Liga: Barcelona v Atlético Madrid
20.00 on ITV4 & ITVX, LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 1
Both teams are level on points and start the weekend in fourth and third place in La Liga. Of the two, Atleti are in better shape; rejuvenated under a more attacking style of play, still defensively solid and with Griezmann and Morata up front, a dangerous prospect in attack. The feeling is that Diego Simeone’s team is the most balanced in the league and are clear contenders for the title. They showed their character on Tuesday in the Champions League in front of a packed and hostile Feyenoord crowd where they worked hard for a 3-1-win assuring qualification to the second round. Barcelona are also through in that competition. But, despite that, the natives are restless. Defeat in the Clasico and then to Shakhtar in the Champions League, and only a point against Vallecano last week have put coach Xavi under pressure from the fans who have forgotten that they won the league as recently as May. Robert Lewandowski, despite scoring seven goals, is not at his best and Gavi has torn an ACL and is out for the rest of the season. But the team picked themselves up and achieved a rousing 2-1 comeback win at home to Porto in the Champions League. Joao Cancelo scored a brace. This should be a big opportunity for Joao Felix who lines up against his old club. The Portuguese attacker is yet to blossom in Catalonia and should be strongly motivated to put in a mighty shift. TD

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan

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