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: Double parked

Afcon and the Asian Cup reach their thrilling climax, and in Europe you have a tough choice ahead: which early title-decider do you watch?

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


Scottish Cup fifth round: Greenock Morton v Motherwell
19.30 on BBC Scotland & iPlayer
It was at this stage of the cup last season that Motherwell crashed out at the hands of Championship opposition. That 3-1 away defeat to Raith Rovers saw club legend Steven Hammell sacked after just six months as manager. It’s unlikely the same fate will befall his successor, Stuart Kettlewell, if their cup run ends here at Cappielow Park. His side is unbeaten since Christmas but the memory of their miserable run of 15 games without a win leading up to that point could easily resurface. They face a Morton side that should be brimming with confidence on a unbeaten run of 12 games that started in this competition with a 4-0 win against Lowland League side Bo’ness United. Morton last made it to the quarter finals in 2018, the season Motherwell last went all the way to the final. Both were knocked out by Brendan Rodgers’ double-treble chasing Celtic. For the rest of the last 16 round, BBC Scotland will also be showing Airdie v Hearts on Sunday while Viaplay are covering the ties involving the Old Firm: Rangers v Ayr on Saturday and St Mirren v Celtic on Sunday. GS


Championship: Ipswich Town v West Bromwich Albion
12.30 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
Back in December, I heard Sky Sports pundit, Lee Hendrie, predicting that the wheels were going to come off Ipswich’s promotion charge. I thought this ridiculous at the time as the Tractor Boys were going into the Old Farm Derby off the back of four straight victories and were comfortably in second place. In a clear demonstration as to why he gets paid to do this kind of thing and I don’t, the wheels did indeed come off the Ipswich tractor. Since the derby, Kieran McKenna’s men have recorded just one league win which came at home to a Sunderland side in the early days of whatever the opposite of a renaissance is, under the inept Michael Beale (#BEALEOUT). A decent draw against runaway leaders, Leicester, proved a false dawn as Town were unceremoniously kicked out of the FA Cup by National League side, Maidstone United, at Portman Road. Today’s visitors will welcome the trip to Suffolk having played their previous two fixtures against Black Country opposition, the last of which was a useful 1-0 home victory over Tony Mowbray’s Brum. This kept the Baggies in fifth, one place, but eleven points behind today’s hosts. With West Brom losing all of their last three away games, and failing to score, today’s match presents an ideal opportunity for Ipswich to get back on track - the question is, will they? Home win. JB

AFC Asian Cup Final: Jordan v Qatar
15.00 on TrillerTV+
While Afcon has been entertaining, the slightly forgotten Asian Cup also reaches its climax this weekend with two very unexpected finalists in a tournament that’s been - for the most part - very entertaining (unless you’ve watched Australia). The general consensus was this would be Japan or South Korea’s year, but part of the joy of this tournament has been just how open the tournament has been. Jordan, who’ve been consistently impressive and entertaining in a slightly chaotic whirling dervish sort of way, found unexpected discipline to totally do a number over the Koreans in the semi-final. Qatar, meanwhile have had a fortunate run to the final, avoiding most of the region’s big hitters until a thrilling (possibly game of tournament) last gasp victory over Iran in the last four. And while most people will wonder how a team who exited their own World Cup with less than a whimper could be in the running for consecutive continental titles, The Maroons have consistently been one of Asia’s strongest teams and were in the midst of a rebuild when FIFA last rode into town. That said, while Qatar sit a good 29 places above Jordan in the rankings, expect the Lusail Stadium to be packed with fans cheering on The Chivalrous. Just for having the best nickname in international football should be reason alone for neutrals to back Jordan along with, y’know, all those dead migrant workers who built the football infrastructure in the name of sportswashing. And given how Jordan have played until now, there’s every reason to believe they could be surprise, but entirely deserved, victors. Whatever the result, this is unlikely to be a snoozefest. GA

La Liga: Real Madrid v Girona
17.30 on ITV4, LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 2
La Liga’s top-two clubs battle it out for top spot in the early evening kick-off which you can even watch on terrestrial TV here in the UK. Real, who only recently retook top, failed to extend their lead thanks to a Marcos Llorente ninety-third minute equaliser, at home to local rivals Atlético. Fortunately for them, today’s visitors played out a hard-fought 0-0 against Real Sociedad in which Head Coach, Míchel, was sent off late on for protesting a little too enthusiastically. He’ll be in the stands for this one, joined by Daley Blind and Yangel Herrera, who are also suspended. With one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League last-sixteen match at RB Leipzig, Ancelotti may opt to allow Vinicius Junior further rest. He sat out the draw with Atlético, but was ably replaced by the brilliant Brahim Díaz, who’s fine display was rewarded with a goal. This game also boasts two of La Liga’s top scorers in the form of Artem Dovbyk, who scored a hattrick in the last Girona game we previewed, and also Jobe Bellingham’s brother. Clearly, this is a must win for both sides. If it’s any sort of indication at all, Real ran out three-nil winners in the reverse fixture back in the autumn, where Bellingham was among the scorers. My head says home win, but a result for Girona will keep things interesting at the top. JB

Alternative viewing: Instead of the biggest game of the season in Spain, you could choose to watch the biggest game of the season in Germany, as Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten table-toppers host the eleven-times consecutive champions. Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich kicks off at 17.30 on Sky Sports Football.


Women’s FA Cup fifth round: Arsenal v Manchester City
12.30 on BBC Two & iPlayer
If you want to see how fast the women’s game is progressing you have only to look at the prize money on offer in this competition. The inflation rate of cash handed out to the winners and losers is usually only seen in failing South American republics just before a military junta takes over. As recently as 2022, Chelsea received just £25,000 for winning the Cup at Wembley in front of more 50,000 spectators. Last season they sold the place out and the prize hiked to £100,000. This season the money on offer is £430,000. Winners in the third round (the stage before the WSL teams joined) received more money than the winners of the final did just two years ago. These increases have come about from improvements to TV deals and the willingness of sponsors to get involved. The new sponsor is software giant Adobe. As part of the deal, all 456 participating clubs get software and training on Adobe Express for those all-important social media posts. That may not seem like much for PR-savvy clubs like Arsenal or City but for the vast majority of still fully amateur clubs that entered in the earlier rounds this is a rare example of a sponsor actually offering something useful other than just money. Arsenal need to get back on the horse after an insipid WSL defeat to a battling West Ham last weekend which has left the Gunners trailing in the title race. City may have one eye on next week’s WSL showdown against Chelsea which could see them overhaul the Londoners at the top. On a run of ten straight wins they should go into this one more confident than their mis-firing hosts. GS

Premier League: Aston Villa v Manchester United
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Aston Villa’s fantastic season under Unai Emery is in danger of hitting the rocks. The team have endured two successive 3-1 defeats under the lights at Villa Park: a loss to the Dirty Mags Tuesday week ago and another to Chelsea on Wednesday in the Cup. This is a tricky time of the year for squads that are excelling but punching above their weight, as I humbly suggest Villa are, this season. The FA Cup comes along with its tricky ties and potential for awkward replays which can in turn upset the momentum. But a glance through their recent results suggest that they are not as good as their fourth place suggests. Three wins from the last six league matches and they were against Sheffield United, Burnley and Brentford. One of those six was a loss to their next opponents, Manchester United, 3-2 at Old Trafford. Since that game, the Reds have suffered a single defeat at Forest but are enjoying an otherwise good spell in both league and cup. They triumphed, comfortably against a gutless West Ham and showed tremendous character to resist a late surge from Wolves at the Molineux to win, in a dramatic win 4-3. The scorer of United’s fourth was local lad Kobbie Mainoo. The 18-year old’s promotion to the Man U first team under Eric ten Hag, under difficult circumstances, is a testament to him and his coach. Not to mention a wonderful example of nominative determinism. TD

Africa Cup of Nations Final: Nigeria v Ivory Coast
20.00 on BBC Three & iPlayer and Sky Sports Football, Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
What a month it’s been - the colour, spectacle and action of Afcon has been the perfect tonic for any late-winter blues. Shocks, surprises, drama and controversy, it’s had it all. You need only look at the hosts, Ivory Coast, for a taste of what a rollercoaster ride this tournament has been. The Elephants manager Jean Louis Gasset was fired following their humiliating 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea in their final group stage match, a result that left them in third place. All but eliminated, they could only watch on as each of the other groups finished. A series of almost impossible results kept the Ivorians in the tournament: Mozambique scored twice in injury time to knock out Ghana, and then Mauritania beat Algeria. Suddenly in the knockout phase, Ivory Coast quickly promoted Gasset’s assistant Emerse Faé who lead his side through what looked the tougher half of the draw. Nigeria have already beaten Ivory Coast in this competition, 1-0 in the second group game. Their tournament started with them going a goal down to Equatorial Guinea but that was the last goal they conceded until the dramatic (what else!) final minutes of normal time in their semi-final against South Africa. Victor Osimhen “scored” in the 84th minute to put the Super Eagles 2-0 up, but VAR called the play back to an incident at the other end at the start of the move and awarded a penalty to Bafana Bafana. They equalised, taking the match to extra time and then penalties. This too could go all the way: all four of Ivory Coast’s previous finals have gone down to penalties (won two lost two with a tally of 29-30) including their 2006 defeat to Egypt, the last time the host won Afcon. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry, Jan and Gary

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