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: Starting the weekend early

Happy Thursday! We're off for the weekend so you're getting this earlier than usual.

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


Championship: Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United
20.00 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
With Ipswich back to winning ways, and leaders Leicester City ending their run of three consecutive defeats, the pressure is on Leeds tonight. A win will put them above the Tractor Boys who have a tricky away fixture at Cardiff on Saturday lunchtime. It really is all to play for in the Championship with only five points separating a top three who all seem to have got their rough patches out of the way in time for the final ten games of the season. Such is the class among this trio that tonight’s visitors have won ten of their last eleven, including a fine 3-1 against Leicester, and still find themselves in third. Ranged against them tonight is a Wednesday side, second from bottom but one of the form teams in the division. This is down to manager Danny Röhl who has been slowly turning things around since his appointment in mid-October. When he arrived, the Owls were bottom with three points from eleven games - a win tonight could comfortably lift them out of the relegation mire. A CV which boasts coaching jobs at Southampton and Bayern under names such as ralf Hassenhuttl and Hansi Flick, demonstrates this young coach’s pedigree. With five wins in their last six, Wednesday will be a headache for Leeds tonight. Watch out for Canadian forward, Iké Ugbo, who’s on loan from French club, Troyes. His six goals in five have rightfully earned him a player of the month nomination and will test the best defence in the Championship tonight. JB


Scottish Cup quarter-final: Aberdeen v Kilmarnock
12.15 on BBC One Scotland & iPlayer
Is it that much of surprise that interim manager Neil Warnock hasn’t performed a miracle at Aberdeen? His only win in the month that he’s been there was against League Two mid-tablers Bonnyrigg Rose at home in the previous round. Their form in the league has shown no improvement since then and they are just four points above the relegation play-off place - a gap that has halved over the last three games. Not even the presence of Gianni “Bald FIFA Guy” Infantino could summon up a win for the Dons when he attended their recent defeat at St Mirren. 33 year old Canadian international Junior Hoilett, who played under Warnock at Cardiff in the Championship, has joined the club and has played but still needs a few games to get up to full fitness having joined as a free agent, his most recent club being Vancouver Whitecaps. Killies manager Derek McInnes took Aberdeen into Europe in each of his eight seasons in charge at Pittodrie, up to when he and the club parted ways in 2021. European football next season for Kilmarnock is already a very realistic ambition with them comfortably placed fifth in the league, which will be the Conference League place if the eventual Cup winner is in the top four. GS

Bundesliga: Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
Borussia Dortmund bounced back from a 3-2 defeat to Hoffenheim with a solid 2-0 win at Union Berlin. Karim Adeyemi, who is returning from a lengthy injury, showed the Dortmund fans what they were missing. The other scorer was Ian Maatsen. The Dutch full-back played a full season at Burnley, on loan from Chelsea earning a Championship winners medal and promotion to the Premier League. He joined Borussia with Jadon Sancho in the winter but with considerably less fanfare than the United player. The 21-year-old has fast become a fan favourite slipping seamlessly into what has been a problem position recently. Assuming the Blues can’t use him, Dortmund would do well to make the move permanent in the summer. Die Schwarzgelben’s primary goal this season must be to solidify another Champions League spot for the next while trying not to cringe while they watch Bayer Leverkusen run away with the title that Dortmund should have won last season. Their opponents meanwhile are also looking to European football. The first three months of the season were pretty ghastly for Werder. Dumped out of the Cup in Round 1, and with just two wins in nine. Top scorer Niclas Füllkrug left the scene for Dortmund and all seemed bleak on the River Weser. But the team has rallied and sit eighth in the Bundesliga. This is thanks in large part to the goals of Marvin Ducksch who has scored ten goals this season and is outshining his fellow striker Rafael Borre who has netted five times. Ducksch is a Dortmund native and briefly broke into the first team in the middle of last decade before embarking on a journeyman career. He’ll be anxious to score his first goal against his old club. TD

Ligue 1: Lens v Brest
20.00 on TNT Sports 1
As with Germany, Italy and Spain, the title race in France has become un cheval, with PSG still nine points clear despite dropping points in their last two games. Brest are the team that sit second in the table but, having never finished higher than eighth, this is very new territory for the club from Brittany. Les Pirates have lost just one game since the November international break, and in their 13 unbeaten league games in that time they’ve conceded just five goals - two of which were in the 2-2 with PSG. The sides last met in a humdinger in the opening weekend. The match started with Lens looking like they would pick up from where they left the previous season, taking a 2-0 lead by the midpoint of the first half, but Brest recovered to win the game 3-2 with the help of two penalties from Romain Del Castillo. The 27 year old is an eye-catching player who loves a dribble and has never missed from the penalty spot. In a smart move by the club, in November he signed a new four year deal along with other in-form players Pierre Lees-Melou and Jeremy Le Douran. Now, when the inevitable talent raid comes in the summer, the club should be well placed to cash-in. That opening weekend defeat led to a slow start for Lens but they’ve since recovered and now sit just two points from fourth place and another shot at the Champions League. Lens’ rivals for that fourth spot include Lille and Rennes, who also face-off on Sunday afternoon in a game Terry and I will be attending. We’ll let you know how that goes when the podcast returns. GS


Premier League: Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
13.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Last season these sides were fighting over who would be the English representative in the Europa Conference League. Of course, that’s not how it looked like it would end up when Unai Emery took over from Steven Gerrard at the start of November 2022. At that point Tottenham, under Antonio Conte, were third and Villa were sat amongst the sides that would eventually be relegated. It was Villa that took the third-tier European slot last season (helped by winning this fixture in their penultimate home game) and they look best placed to snatch the fourth Champions League spot this time around. Everyone now seems to be noticing how good Ollie Watkins is for Villa. The 24 year old is in the form of his life and deserves to be a starter for England at Euro 2024. Giving a performance against this Spurs side should put even more pressure on Gareth Southgate to create a partnership for him with skipper Harry Kane. Should Spurs lose this one, it may not be all over for their Champions League ambitions. The new format of next season’s competition means there could be an extra Champions League spot if English clubs do well this in Europe this campaign - it’s all down to coefficients, see. That could leave Spurs fans in the uncomfortable position of wanting Arsenal to do well in this season’s Champions League. GS

Premier League: Liverpool v Manchester City
15.45 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
While the title chase in every other major league in Europe is turning into a procession, the Premier League is offering one of the most exciting in years. At this point after 27 games in 2019, these two sides were in the position they find themselves now, with City a point behind Liverpool (although each side had two more points). Having already played each twice that season, the run-in became a matter of who would blink first. It turned out to be Liverpool, when they failed to win the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Despite Klopp’s side winning their final nine games, they couldn’t recover from that one draw and City’s run of 14 wins. We could certainly be looking at a similar situation here but that time they didn’t have a third team in blistering form sat on their shoulders. If they can beat Brentford at home on Saturday evening, Arsenal will be top of the table by the time this game kicks off. They will stay there on goal difference if this game ends in a draw. On current form, the draw looks the most likely: City’s only win at Anfield in the last 20 years was the 4-1 in 2021 against a Liverpool that were in the kind of fug champions often find themselves in. Champions who aren’t a side managed by Pep that is. GS

La Liga: Real Betis v Villarreal
20.00 on LaLigaTV and Viaplay Sports Online
Although still mid-table, Villarreal are enjoying something of a renaissance. After a god-awful December they began picking up points, including that 5-3 win at Barça that forced Xavi to call it a day. An impressive 3-1 at Real Sociedad was followed by an absolute demolition of relegation-threatened Granada in which former Palace man, Alexander Sørloth, grabbed a hattrick. Prior to this run of form, the Yellow Submarine was sailing dangerously close to the relegation sandbanks, but while a repeat of last season’s fifth seems highly unlikely, at least they’ll stay afloat. For Manuel Pellegrini’s Verdiblancos, last week’s 2-1 loss at Atletico Madrid was their first in six. Despite a decent performance, Atletico’s keeper, Jan Oblak, was in no mood to allow Betis to continue their run of form which was among the best in La Liga. This left them eight points from the final (at the moment at least) European place, which could easily have been theirs had they managed to convert just a few of their twelve draws ground out across the season. That said, they’ve only lost once at home all season which I think will be enough to see them winners tonight. JB

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry and Jan

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