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: Easter eggstravaganza

Happy Easter everyone!

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 (Friday and Saturday GMT, Sunday BST)


Ligue 1: Lille v Lens
20.00 on TNT Sports 2
What better way to start your Easter weekend than a passionate local derby with plenty at stake. This Derby du Nord sees both sides chasing Champions League places, with Lille currently in the final position with Lens just one point behind and Nice in between them. In fairness though neither have looked like Champions League material for much of the campaign. Lens’ position would be better if they had taken more than one point from their first five games of the season - which could be blamed on a mix of a hangover from their tremendous campaign last season and the transition of losing a couple of their more influential players. For Lille it’s inconsistency that has been their issue; they’ve been unable to get back to back wins in the league since the start of December. Terry and I saw Lille a couple of weeks ago at home against Rennes and watched them contrive to go 2-0 down within the first 20 minutes, with the sort of defending you expect from sides in the relegation fight. The home side’s blushes were spared by two late goals from Jonathan David. In a rich vein of form, the Canadian striker has scored nine goals in his last seven games. GS


Serie A: Napoli v Atalanta
11.30 on TNT Sports 2
Not only do Napoli welcome back 15 players from international duty, they get their head coach back too. When Francesco Clazona took the role at Napoli last month (made vacant by the sacking of Walter Mazzarri after just three months in charge) it was on the understanding that he would be able to continue as head coach of Slovakia. The 55 year old has been in charge of the Slovak national team since 2022 and guided them to this summer’s Euros. He had previously been on the coaching staff at Napoli alongside both Sarri and Spalletti, so was given special permission from the Slovak FA to return to the club until the end of the season. For Atalanta the fixtures are begining to pile up. Already through to the quarter finals of the Europa coming up they also have a two-legged Coppa Italia semi final against Fiorentina. Atalanta were also due to play I Viola in the last game before the break but the match was called off when their opponents general manager, Joe Barone, was taken ill before the game. Sadly Barone passed away last week, at 57. While Inter are running away with the title, pretty much everyone else in Serie A has something to play for - except maybe Genoa who sit drift in 12th place. Everyone below them is within four points of the drop zone, while everyone above is within four points of a European place. These two are in the right half of that equation holding on to European places in a congested pack. GS

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
In recent seasons, this fixture has been the de facto title decider in the Bundesliga. A title decider that has been won on nine of the last ten encounters by Bayern, so as title deciders go, they’ve been pretty much on the money. This season, however, it’s a different story as Borussia Dortmund are not in the running for the Meisterschale. Despite the repeated and frankly tedious complaints coming from a corner of Dortmund Twitter, Edin Terzic’s team have shown tremendous resilience and a capacity to win ugly this season. They are decent value for their fourth place but not secure in their placing. And while they are probably the weakest team in the last eight of the Champions League, the fact remains that they are actually in the last eight of that competition. With Niclas Füllkrug and Donyell Malen in good form and no title millstone around their neck BVB could take advantage of a below par Bayern and cause an upset, even if that were to present itself as a draw. The champions find themselves in the unusual position of being second favourite for the title, given the ten-point gap between themselves and Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the table. Bayern have injury concerns, chief among them, goalkeeper Manual Neuer who tore a muscle in his thigh during the international break. The club captain will be a big loss. So too would Harry Kane. The England striker, who has scored 31 goals this season was sent home from international duty having not shaken off the injury he sustained at Darmstadt but is back in training. Coach Thomas Tuchel may be tempted to start him from the bench. TD

Premier League: Brentford v Manchester United
20.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
I’m not usually one to have sympathy for fans of Manchester United, but scheduling a match at 20.00 on a Saturday night stinks of prioritising TV over match going supporters. I know that late kick-offs happen frequently across the European mainland, but they don’t have to contend with a crumbling rail infrastructure and sky-high prices. Also, while I do wince at the lazy trope that most United fans live in Surrey, a poll on their official website showed north of 60% of fans approved of the late start, so make of that what you will. On the pitch, tonight’s hosts seem to be doing everything they can to get involved in the relegation scrap. Indeed, had Everton and Forest not been docked points, Thomas Frank’s men would be in far more trouble. Despite enduring the worst form in the league, Frank can take comfort in the fact that his side do have goals in them, and Ivan Toney’s form will add to that optimism. For the visitors, the turning of the year and INEOS investment has seen confidence both on and off the pitch: an unlucky last-minute loss against Fulham and a predictable reverse against the noisy neighbours being the only blips in an otherwise impressive run. That being the case, expect an away win, if you can stay up that long. JB


La Liga: Celta Vigo v Rayo Vallecano
13.00 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports 1
In a departure from our usual coverage at the top end of La Liga, this week’s pick is very much at the sharp end. Today’s hosts, Celta Vigo, finally ran out of patience with Rafa Benítez following a humbling 4-0 home defeat to Real which was comfortably their worst defeat of the season. His replacement, Claudio Giráldez, plucked from Celta’s B team, recorded a much needed 2-1 win at fellow strugglers, Sevilla, in his first game in charge. This not only pulled Sevilla back into the relegation dog-fight, it put five points between Vigo and third bottom Cadiz. Just two places and two points above their hosts, Rayo also won last time out, ending a nine-game winless run. This run saw Francisco Rodríguez dismissed from his post, replaced by Iñigo Pérez, also promoted from within the existing Rayito structure. The win, their first in Pérez’s first four in charge, was encouraging in that it came at home to Real Betis and off the back of score-draws against Real Madrid and Cadiz. A betting man may stick a Euro or two on a score-draw here; they’ve both seen change and improvement of late - and which side would want to risk going all out only to be pulled further into the mire? JB

FA Women’s League Cup Final: Arsenal v Chelsea
15.00 on BBC Two & iPlayer
When I’m selecting the games for the Boxset, I avoid any overlaps, if at all possible. I’ve been unable to do that for this fixture but it’s certainly a matter worth highlighting as women’s foootball becomes ever more popular. Arsenal fans hoping to see their women’s side retain the League Cup will be faced with a dilemma: stick with the action from Molineux or switch over to the men’s crunch title-race match with City? Why wasn’t this match held last week as the centrepiece of Women’s Football Weekend? Instead, this weekend it goes up against two huge Premier League ties. Hopefully once the WSL NewCo has hold of the reins we’ll see more joined-up thinking when it comes to scheduling (and maybe plan something wiser than getting two sets of London fans to the Midlands on an Easter weekend when Euston station is closed). I covered a clash between these sides in the previous Boxset, in a Friday night WSL match at Stamford Bridge that had a delayed start because Arsenal brought the wrong colour socks. The game eventually started an hour late after the red-faced kit man had bought some dark blue socks from the Chelsea club shop and stuck gaffer tape over the badges (it kind of made the whole ensemble look like a 90s Norway kit). The embarrassing mix-up clearly affected Arsenal more than the hosts, and a series of early defensive errors saw the Gunners quickly fall three goals behind. They clawed one back in the second half but the damage was done and Arsenal’s title hopes were in the bin (presumably along with the blue socks). If they are to avoid a similar thing happening here they will have to find a way of dealing with Chelsea’s latest front-pairing of Lauren James and German international Sjoeke Nusken, who ran riot in that first half at the Bridge. Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall has in the past shown he can come up with strategies to counter Emma Hayes’s plans: unfancied in this final last season, it was his side that won 3-1 with all the goals coming in the first half. GS

Premier League: Manchester City v Arsenal
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
When this fixture was played at a similar stage last season, Arsenal had a five point lead over City who had two games in hand. It was a make or break fixture for Arteta knowing that defeat would leave his side needing snookers despite still behind ahead in the table. City ran out comfortable winners in a win 4-1 and underlined the gulf between repeat champions and a side making their first serous title bid in years. Will it be any different this time around? City have injury worries in defence with both Kyle Walker and John Stones currently ruled out after picking up knocks while playing for England. Ben White, fully refreshed from his holiday in Dubai, will no doubt start for the Gunners; for anyone out there looking for even more narrative for this game. While defeat for City wouldn’t mean the end of their title defence, for Arsenal defeat would probably knock the wheels off their challenge, again. In their run-ins afterwards, both sides host Villa and have to go to Spurs. Of the remainder you’d have to say Arsenal’s is the tougher with a trip to Old Trafford and a big London derby against Chelsea. A draw hands the advantage to Liverpool, if, that is, they get a result against Brighton earlier in the afternon (on these channels, KO 14.00). GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry and Jan

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