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: Time to define your season

Every weekend presents season-defining games, but this weekend seems to be full of them. So many, we’ve even left one of the biggest to your own imagination.

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


Serie A: Juventus v Napoli
19.45 on TNT Sports 3
It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that Walter Mazzarri deserves at least some credit for Napoli’s title win last season. His first stint as manager of the club between 2009 and 2013 saw them rise from being a midtable phoenix club to Champions League qualifiers, becoming regular title challengers until finally winning it under Luciano Spalletti. Now he’s back as an interim measure to somehow rescue the champion’s season from its funk. An opening win at Atalanta looked promising but it was followed by a 4-2 defeat in Madrid. Then, last weekend they were on the end of a comprehensive 3-0 humbling to this season’s title favourites Inter, in Mazzarri’s first match back at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium. That defeat was their fourth of the season and has seen them slip out of the top four behind Roma on goal difference. It’s the home form he needs to fix - all of those defeats have been on their own turf. Their record on their travels this season is as good as Juve’s home record, so this promises to be very close. Though perhaps not as close as the Old Lady’s last match, away to Monza. Federico Gatti snatched a last gasp winner after his side conceded an injury time equaliser. Adrien Rabiot again starred in midfield, first scoring the opener (heading in a corner that came from a saved penalty) and providing the cross for Gatti’s winner. GS


Championship: Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion
12.30 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
It’s been quite a week on Wearside: on Sunday today’s hosts were drawn against the (dirty) Mags in the third round of the FA Cup and the following day sacked head coach, Tony Mowbray. Mowbray joined the club at a difficult time following the shock departure of Alex Neil in August last year and immediately found himself without an obvious striker, which was something that would both help and hinder him across his time. With a reputation for developing young talent, Mowbray nurtured Jack Clarke into one of the most exciting attacking players in the Championship and persuaded Patrick Roberts his future lay on the banks of the Wear. Ultimately, his frustration with the club’s youth over experience ideology, contributed to his dismissal as much as the recent poor form that accompanied it. He leaves the side in a much better place than he found it, and will be fondly remembered by the fans. While a modern, young über-nerd is sourced from a hipster-esque corner of Europe as Mowbray’s replacement, head of individual player development, Mike Dodds, will take charge today. Ranged against him is a West Brom side who are in decent form, having only tripped up against fellow promotion rivals Southampton and Leicester in recent months. It’ll be quite a test for Dodds: a large home crowd largely happy with Mowbray and an in-form West Brom who boast former fan-favourite, Josh Maja, among their ranks. In an interview shortly after joining, Mowbray said “This is a working-class area. I am from the North East. This is an industry town. People have dirt under their fingernails. These players need to work hard.” Sunderland fans don’t really do protests, but the failure of the club’s ownership and the new head coach to understand these words will lead to difficult times head - away win. JB

Premier League: Aston Villa v Arsenal
17.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
The fixture gods should be offered an extra plump sacrifice for the timing of this one. Both teams had fantastic outings during Amazon Week. Arsenal fans could vex themselves over giving up three goals at Luton, but coach Mikel Arteta was having none of this negative talk. He rightly praised the players for their commitment in that 4-3 win, pointing out how incredibly hard it is to play two games a week and maintain that winning mentality. The scorer of that decisive goal, Declan Rice, is playing like a club veteran rather than a new arrival. But Arteta should also be pleased with Kai Havertz. The German international has needed time to settle but he is repaying his manager’s faith by scoring twice in the last three. Arteta travels with his players to face an Aston Villa team bang in form and coached by a former Arsenal coach in Unai Emery who, like Arteta, is from Gipuzkoa, a tiny province of Spain which has produced some outstanding coaches, including Andoni Iraola (Bournemouth), Imanol Aguacil (Sociedad) Julen Lopetegui, and Xabi Alonso. It’s fair to say that a lot of water has passed under the bridge since Emery’s time at the Emirates and his Villa side is one of the best in the Premier League. Leon Bailey’s winning goal against Manchester City may have taken a lucky deflection but there was nothing lucky about the win. Villa were the better team in every respect. The last time these two played at Villa Park it ended with two Arsenal goals in injury time to win 4-2. Given the form both teams are in, there is no reason why we won’t be in for another game of high drama. So, a goalless draw it is then. TD

MLS Cup final: Columbus Crew v Los Angeles
21.00 on Apple TV
When Columbus won their second MLS Cup in 2020 there was the sense of a redemption arc closing for them, having recently removed the owners who had attempted to relocate the side to Texas. Sometimes though, fairytale endings aren’t all that. The season was of course affected by Covid and attendance for the final was limited to 1500 fans. The following two seasons saw them fail to reach the play-offs. They brought in Wilfried Nancy from Montréal as head coach and made some key signings, most notably Colombian striker Cucho from Watford and Uruguayan Diego Rossi from Fenebahce. Both made pivotal contributions in the dramatic Eastern Conference final last weekend. Columbus beat local rivals and Supporters Shield winners FC Cincinnati 3-2 in the Hell Is Real derby despite trailing 2-0 with just 15 minutes remaining. Rossi equalised after an own goal, taking the game to extra time, in which Cucho provided the assist for Christian Ramirez to grab the winner. Rossi spent five seasons at LAFC, scoring their first ever competitive goal on the opening day of their inaugural season in 2018. In last season’s final, Gareth Bale gave a match-affecting cameo for LAFC in his final ever club game - coming on as an extra time sub to score the 128th minute equaliser, taking the game to penalties. MVP in that game though was LA’s substitute goalkeeper John McCarthy who came on in the 117th minute after regular keeper Maxime Crépeau picked up a red card (in an incident in which he also broke his leg). McCarthy prevented Philidelphia converting any of their kicks in the shootout, but despite such heroics is likely to be back on the bench for this one with the fit again Canadian between the sticks. GS


FA Women’s Super League: Arsenal v Chelsea
12.30 on BBC Two & iPlayer
A WSL record 57,000 tickets have been sold for this one, I have one of them and can’t wait! Had this fixture taken place a month ago, you’d have been hard-pushed to give Arsenal much of a chance. Trailing in their first two home games of the season, both also at the Emirates, the Gunners looked like a side that wasn’t sure how they should play. A home win against City (in the more compact surroundings of Borehamwood) seems to have shaken Jonas Eidevall’s side into shape and they go into this knowing that victory will put them level on points with the visitors at the top of the table. Of course the flip-side of that equation is, if they lose, the title race is effectively over before we’ve even reached the half-way stage, such is Chelsea’s dominance in this competition. Emma Hayes’s side are clear favourites to win a fifith consecutive title in her final season in charge of the club before she heads to the USA. While Chelsea have been winning well, there is a sense that they too have yet to reach top gear. They were fortunate to get a point against City, having a two player advantage for the closing stages, and a three player advantage when they finally equalised. After leading her country to a home World Cup semi-final, Sam Kerr had a slow start to the season (for her) but a Champions League hat-trick against Paris would suggest she’s back to her best. 20 year old Aggie Beevor-Jones is in tremendous form for Chelsea having scored in each of her last five WSL games. Her last game against Arsenal, while on loan at Everton in May, saw her leave the field in tears after receiving a straight red card for a horror tackle on Lia Walti, which put the Swiss captain’s World Cup in doubt. GS

Bundesliga: Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen
14.30 on Sky Sports Football
First meets third, with both teams standing a real chance of silverware but also with dark clouds in the offing. Both won their respective DFB Pokal games during the week and joined a quarter final line-up consisting of only three 1. Bundesliga teams. Leverkusen saw off Paderborn while Stuttgart had the (on paper at least) harder task of beating Dortmund which they did with despatch. Bayer 04 also played Dortmund, last Sunday in what was a decent 1-1 game which they largely dominated. Despite dropping two points Xabi Alonso’s team stayed top of the table thanks to Bayern’s game with Union being called off. They travel to Stuttgart facing a much tougher challenge than Dortmund. I’ve waxed lyrical about the Swabians forward line, particularly Serhou Guirassy. But the Guinean international is subject to intense transfer speculation over a move to England or Italy. Even if he stays Guirassy will almost certainly be off to AFCON in January and February. If Guinea reach the final, he could miss as many as five Bundesliga games. Leverkusen have similar problems with their Nigerian top scorer Victor Boniface travelling to the Ivory Coast along with potentially 4 (four) other first team players. So, with the winter break looming fast, both teams need to get their points in now as they could be in for a fallow period in the early stages of the second half of the season. TD

If you’re wondering why there isn’t a preview for the Premier League blockbuster that is Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United, the answer is: we didn’t need to write one. What more could we say to encourage you to watch? It will be one for the ages and is on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event amd Ultra from 16.30.

La Liga: Barcelona v Girona
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 2
It’s easy to sneer at Girona being at the top of La Liga by pointing out to any gushing romantic that they are part of City Football Group. It’s easy and fun, so don’t feel like you have to stop - I won’t be. But what is also true is that Girona’s success has come from getting the best from their players rather than by buying ones already at the top of their game. How long it lasts will probably be better understood in upcoming weeks as they face three top sides in quick succession, starting here. Despite being level on points at the top with Real Madrid, they have yet to beat any side currently in the top seven. Today’s match closely followed by Atleti and an equally hard to beat Betis will provide a true test of their mettle. But what has really set Girona’s season apart is that they have beaten everyone else they’ve played (12/12). Even if they fail in these upcoming games, if they continue to beat the rest they should still get their first ever European qualification, and Champions League wouldn’t be beyond them. On Thursday, Girona had a scare in the Copa del Rey when they were 2-1 down an hour into their tie against fourth division Orihuela. A brace from their 37 year old captain Stuani turned the match around and in the end they ran out 5-2 winners. Barcelona will probably comfortably win this Catalan derby of sorts - as comfortably as Real did in Girona’s only defeat so far - but Michel’s side’s season isn’t being defined in these games. It’s being defined everywhere else. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Terry, Graham and Jan>

Get in touch with us


Email *

Message *

Latest podcast

Never miss a podcast