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: Stamford Bridge, twice

Bit of a Chelsea theme this week: two games at the Bridge and more bad news for their former managers.

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


Women’s Super League: Chelsea v Arsenal
19.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra and Sky Showcase
Seven rounds of WSL fixtures remain of this season, and the eventual title winners will almost certainly have to get to the end without dropping another point. Even if Arsenal fail to lift silverware, it could argued that they have made a more important victory for the women’s game by repeatedly filling the Emirates this season. The Gunners average home attendance is higher than half the teams in the Premier League and stands as an example of what can be done. Other teams are still playing catch up, even Chelsea with all their on-field success. The total number of tickets sold for the three previous games played at Stamford Bridge this season, is less than the number Arsenal sold for their home game against Chelsea. While an evening kick off for this game may not be ideal commercially, it will suit Chelsea in their build up to next Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against a formidable Ajax side, who have already beaten PSG and Bayern on their way to that stage. Still chasing silverware on four fronts its going to be a very busy period for Emma Hayes’ side. They will play three more games before the League Cup final against Arsenal at the end of the month, while the Gunners will play just once. If Chelsea are to stay at the top they will need to do here what they haven’t been able to all season and beat one of their title rivals. This Chelsea are more vulnerable than the sides of recent campaigns, while Arsenal have saved their best performances for the toughest opponents. Though if you ask me, the winner of this one will probably be City. GS


FA Cup quarter-final: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Coventry City
12.15 on ITV1, STV and ITVX
Yet another FA Cup West Midlands derby sees Championship play-off hopefuls, Coventry, travel across Brum to face Premier League Wolves. For Cov, at this stage for the first time in five years, a win would take them back to Wembley, the scene of their play-off heartbreak back in May. Their route to the quarter-finals has been the easier of the two: victories over Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday and Maidstone were ultimately pretty routine, once the Yorkshire side were despatched 4-1 in a replay. The hosts, four-time winners of the old trophy, had to work much harder for their place: Premier League sides Brentford and Brighton were tight affairs either side of win at local rivals, West Brom. An early kick-off, common in derby ties, will hopefully prevent the scenes witnessed at West Brom when Wolves played there in round four. Adding to the concern, the Baggies are hosting Bristol City at three o’clock, meaning supporters could cross paths as they make their way across the city. Let’s hope this one is remembered for what happens on the pitch rather than off it. JB

Bundesliga: Hoffenheim v Stuttgart
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
These two clubs sort of swapped coaches in 2022. Current Hoffenheim coach, Pelligrini Matarazzo, was let go by Stuttgart and replaced by ex-Hoffenheim boss Sebastian Hoeness. After a brisk start, Hoffenheim’s season has levelled out to upper-mid-table mediocrity. TSG sit in seventh place, one place outside the European slots but with a seven points gap to Eintracht. And it was the Frankfurt club that broke Hoff’s two-game winning run, last weekend. Player of the season is 21-year-old Maximillian Beier who is having a breakout campaign; 12 goals and a Germany call-up. His contribution has made up for the long-term injury of striker Mergim Berisha and the disappointing return of Wout Weghorst who joined in the summer. Third-placed Stuttgart have become a staple of the Boxset this season and rightly so, given the season they’re having. It’s not uncommon for teams who are unused to the rare atmosphere of the top four to drop off as the pressure mounts in the run-in to the end of the season. If VfB are to falter it may well be in games against teams like Hoffenheim which, by rights, they should win comfortably. But even if they drop down the table, I think we can be confident that this is not a flash in the pan season. Yes, players will leave in the summer, but the club has sizable investment from Porsche and are building after years of chaotic leadership. The only major setback could be if Hoeness departs in the summer. The 41-year-old is linked with a return to Bayern, where he won the 3 Liga with its second team and as the name suggests, has strong family connections. TD

Serie A: Frosinone v Lazio
19.45 on TNT Sports 2
It’s not been a great 2024 so far for former Chelsea managers. Jose Mourinho fired by Roma, Thomas Tuchel serving notice at Bayern, and this week, Rafa Benitez got his marching orders at Celta Vigo, and Maurizio Sarri handed in his resignation at Lazio. Five defeats in their last six games, including being knocked out the Champions League by Bayern and culminating in a home defeat to relegation threatened Udinese, took the former Napoli and Juve head coach to the end of his tether. His long time assistant Giovanni Martusciello has been placed in interim charge. Former Lazio striker Miroslav Klose is strongly rumoured to be the permanent replacement but his only managerial experience so far was at Austrian Bundesliga side Rheindorf Altach, who he almost got relegated before they fired him in the closing stages of his only season. Frosinone started the season well for a newly promoted side, and were top-half at the start of December. Their form since then however has been abject, taking just six points from 15 games, winning once (against Claudio Ranieiri’s Cagliari). Last weekend’s defeat against second-bottom Sassuolo, saw them dragged into the relegation zone for the first time. Frosinone’s only other two seasons in the top flight ended in relegation (2015/16, 2018/19) so there’s probably a sense of inevitablity amongst their fans, but as Verona, Empoli and Cagliari have proved in recent weeks, a couple of wins can make things look a lot better. The seven teams clustered around the relegation line are separated by just four points, so escape is tantalisingly within reach. Two vulnerable sides desperately looking for a win. It’s getting to that time of year. GS


FA Cup quarter-final: Chelsea v Leicester City
12.45 on BBC One & iPlayer
Welcome back to Stamford Bridge, it seems like ages since we were here last. Given the wholesale changes in personnel, it’s unlikely this fixture will provide any flashbacks to Wembley in 2021 when these sides met in the final. On that day, Brendan Rodger’s Leicester got the better of Tuchel’s Chelsea just two weeks before the Blues would win the Champions League. Cesare Casadei will not be making his home debut for Chelsea here as he played for Leicester in the third round, getting a goal and an assist for them in their 3-2 win at Millwall. The Italian was surprisingly recalled from his successful loan spell shortly after but has been a largely unused sub since. It was not long after that Leicester’s poor run of form started, due largely to injuries and a lack of depth in midfield - gaps the 21 year old could have helped fill. A restorative win against an equally out of sorts Sunderland has put Leicester’s promotion push back on track, though what looked, a month ago, to be an unassailable lead at the top of the Championship, now looks fragile. Chelsea problems are numerous but if you ignore games against Liverpool and Wolves they are in pretty good shape right now. Despite what Gary Neville may say, they made a decent show of themselves in the League Cup final, and Pochettino’s side should expect a Wembley return here. It won’t be easy though; they got to this quarter-final by beating Leicester’s promotion rivals Leeds in a tie went down to the wire, and you can easily imagine the same happening here. GS

FA Cup quarter-final: Manchester United v Liverpool
15.30 on ITV1, STV and ITVX
Talking of previous finals, here’s one to conjure up memories of the “Spice Boys” final of 1996. Though in fairness, Liverpool’s awful white suits were the only memorable thing about that final. That season had started with Alan Hansen, dispelling United’s chances of regaining the Premier League title with the now famous line “you can’t win anything with kids”. Ferguson went on to win the double, could Klopp’s kids grab an unprecedented quadruple? They already have the League Cup and on Thursday night cruised into the quarter finals of the Europa League by hammering an already beaten Sparta Prague. United are going for a record-stretching 32nd FA Cup semi-final and are at home for the first time in this season’s competition, but form and recent memeories of big defeats put Liverpool as favourites. That said, United have little else to play for this season while Klopp’s side could have one eye on their return to Old Trafford in the Premier League in three weeks time. Hopefully it won’t be as stodgy as that 1996 final or the much more recent 0-0 at Anfield. GS

La Liga: Atl├ętico Madrid v Barcelona
20.00 on LaLigaTV, Viaplay Sports 1, ITV4 and ITVX
With both clubs winning their respective second-legs in the Champions League, it’s back to domestic competition for Atleti and Barca. Tonight’s hosts may be forgiven for being a little jaded having gone through the drama of extra-time and penalties in order to despatch Inter in a thrilling game. Goalkeeper, Jan Oblak, again demonstrated his mastery in saving two spot-kicks in the shoot-out. The win, sending them into the quarter-finals, was a welcome relief having lost 2-0 at Cadiz the previous weekend. The win for Cadiz was their first in the league since early September, suggesting Simeone’s thoughts were on Inter, rather than the side third-bottom of La Liga. If this was indeed the case, it cost him dearly: Barca are one place and six-points ahead in third, with Athletic Club over his shoulder just two-points behind. For the Catalans, a decent run of form has them now well within striking distance of Girona, but Atleti are the first of the other top-four they have to play away from home between now and the end of the season. To make matters worse, their hosts have the best home record in the league, dropping points in only one game.  While it’ll be good to see such gifted attacking talent on display from both sides, I can’t see past Atleti tonight. JB

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry and Jan

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