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: Battle for fourth (or fifth)

Extra places in the bigger Champions League could be up for grabs, or not.

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: Plymouth Argyle v Leicester City
20.00 on Sky Sports Football
Home Park isn’t a happy place for Plymouth these days. A run of seven games on home turf without a win must be soul destroying for the fans and players alike. In fact, form has been an issue for most of the season which is the reason Neil Dewsnip is back for his second stint as interim manager following the dismissal of Ian Foster on April Fools day. A win at bottom club, Rotherham, and a 1-1 at home to QPR has steadied the ship, but today will be quite a challenge for the Pilgrims. Looking beyond today’s fixture, Plymouth have two games against teams in and around them, which, as we’ve seen of late, they are capable of getting something out of. Key in their run-in is to avoid needing to get a result on the final day at Hull. For Leicester, the Championship title is theirs to lose: both Leeds and Ipswich lost and drew games they badly needed to win, handing the Foxes an open run with the added advantage of a game in hand. Still, when they do get promoted, they potentially have a six point deduction waiting for them, making them relegation favourites without kicking a ball - there’s something to look forward to. It says something about the state of the former champions that even when they cheat, they still end up relegated. Away win. JB


La Liga: Atlético Madrid v Girona
13.00 on LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 1
La Liga returns this weekend with a clash in the European spots between Atleti and Girona. The similarities between how these two sides started the season is striking with both throwing down the gauntlet in the early months of the campaign. Of course, Girona’s form is the more startling given the fact that this is just their second season back in the top flight. As recently as December they looked like they might just do a Leicester Leverkusen only for them to drop off the pace at the same time as Real and Barca began to get into their stride. Regardless, they can now be considered as a force in La Liga, which does add a little more spice to proceedings. For the hosts, today’s match comes just a few days after what must have been a draining Champions League tie against Dortmund. Failure to fully take advantage of a BVB side all at sixes and sevens in the first half led to a nervous second and a tough return leg in Germany next week. Not the best preparation, then, for a showdown with the side directly above in third spot. For the neutral, though, this couldn’t be better news - especially given the fact that the reverse fixture was a 4-3 thriller. Morata got a hattrick that day, but Madrid hearts were broken by an Iván Martín goal for the Catalans in the 91 minute. On paper, Atleti look clear favourites given their excellent home form and Girona’s four straight losses on the road. That said, minds may be distracted by that Dormund game. JB

Bundesliga: Stuttgart v Eintracht Frankfurt
17.30 on Sky Sports Football
The last time Bayern finished third in the Bundesliga, back in 2011, the following season they had to go through the ignominy of having to go through a play-off round to get to the group stage of the Champions League. Of course, these days the biggest leagues get as many byes into the group stage as they need, and they’ll soon get even more (more on that next). All of which should make finishing second or third in the table less of a thing; but for Stuttgart - the side that last season sacked two head coaches and needed a play-off against Hamburg to stay in the Bundesliga - finishing above Bayern would put the icing on an incredible turnaround. As it stands only (a large amount of) goal difference separates the two. Serhou Guirassy remains in blistering form with seven goals in his last seven games taking his total for the season to 24. Guirassy’s good form started almost immediately after Sebastian Hoeness took charge this time last year and he would no doubt be challenging Harry Kane for top goalscorer were it not for the Africa Cup of Nations. Frankfurt’s own nepo baby head coach Dino Toppmoeller has had a steady first season after taking over from Oliver Glasner (more on him later). His side has been in sixth place for the majority of the campaign and that should be enough to see them back in the Europa League, which they won in 2022. In the event that Bayern lose earlier in the day to Koln, and Stuttgart lose this, Leverkusen will officially be champions. GS

Serie A: Bologna v Monza
19.45 on TNT Sports 1
The restructuring of the Champions League has opened the way for two extra places in next season’s competition, handed out to the countries who did best this season (based on UEFA’s coefficients). Currently it’s Italy that leads that race with Germany and England close behind. It could get even better for Italy if Roma or Atalanta, already looking comfortable in their Europa League quarter finals, were to go on and win that competition and finish sixth in their domestic league, Serie A would have six teams in next season's expanded Champions League. Bologna may not even need the safety net of a fifth Champions League spot but cannot afford to slip up with a resurgent Roma hot on their heels. With nine potential European places up for grabs, mid-table Monza could harbour ambitions of a debut continental campaign of their own, but a couple of recent defeats to rivals for those Europa and Conference League spots away to Torino and at home to Napoli has left them needing snookers in a tough run in. GS


Women’s FA Cup semi-final: Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City
12.00 on BBC Two & iPlayer
Wembley awaits and, for whoever wins this tie, a first final in a major competition. Semis in the Women’s FA Cup aren’t played at a neutral venue (let alone Wembley) so this match is being played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which although isn’t Spurs Women’s usual home ground (that’s Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road) it will very much be a home game. The only other time they’ve played here this season was their 1-0 win over Arsenal in the WSL in December. Both sides overcame tough quarter finals to get here with Spurs getting the better of Manchester City after a penalty shootout and Leicester beating Liverpool away. That win on the Wirral was all the more impressive considering the turmoil the club was in having suspended their head coach just 24 hours beforehand. Willie Kirk’s suspension for allegedly having a relationship with one of his players has since been upgraded to his dismissal. These matters are an issue across all levels of sport but will come into sharper focus the more professionalism is introduced to the women’s game. Assistant manager Jennifer Foster suppported by coach Stephen Kirby are in charge for the rest of the season. Chelsea face Manchester United away in the other semi, a repeat of last year’s final which you can see on BBC One following after this. The action from Leigh Sports Village starts at 14.35 which should allow you to see most of the second half and any extra time after… GS

Premier League: Liverpool v Crystal Palace
14.00 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
The mood has certainly changed at Selhurst Park since Oliver Glasner became head coach of Crystal Palace in February. The way they went after their opponents, Manchester City was a clear indicator of Glasner’s direction of travel and bodes well for the future, despite the 4-2 defeat. But the present continues to be a concern. Since arriving in South London, Glasner has won only once, against Burnley and only picked up points against struggling sides. So while it’s nice to see Palace playing the vertical, direct attacking football of Glasnerball, it has yet to really glean the points needed to ensure that future. For all the gusto of recent week’s it was stodgy Hodgeball Palace that bounced back from 2-0 down to score a point at the Etihad in the reverse fixture just before Christmas. Liverpool’s season is also hanging in the balance, as is the legacy of the much loved Peloton and Erdinger spokesperson and outgoing coach Jurgen Klopp. Having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United the old enemy put a dent in Liverpool’s title aspirations last week with an entirely unwarranted 2-2 draw that handed the advantage to Arsenal. It’s possible that the narrative weighs heavily on the Reds and the shock 3-0 Europa League defeat to Atalanta, albeit with a rotated side will only increase the pressure. Still, on paper, this should be a relatively straightforward three points for a first choice Liverpool. But if the home side are feeling fragile and the visitors are bold, there could be an upset. To hell with it: 3-3. TD

Premier League: Arsenal v Aston Villa
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Villa’s home win against Arsenal in December sparked the start of a dismal month for the Gunners. That defeat was one of four up to and including their exit from the FA Cup four weeks later, a period in which they won just one of seven games. The two week break Arteta’s men had after that is the stuff fixture congestion narrative is made of. Since then they are unbeaten in the Premier League and the only points they’ve dropped were away to City. For both sides this fixtures sits between European quarter final legs and both had to work hard this week to stay in their respective ties. Arsenal found even a wounded Bayern can still score from very little while restricting chances. With the tie level, Arsenal are still very much in it but will need to show their opposition more respect in the reverse fixture on Wednesday. Lille will count themselves unlucky not to get more from their Conference League game at Villa Park, with a narrow VAR offside and a fine performance in goal from Emiliano Martinez seeing them go into the second leg a goal behind. Unai Emery has shown once again how he can take a team deep into European competition but the strain of competing on multiple fronts has already started to show on results. A midfield already stretched by injuries will again be without Douglas Luiz who missed the 3-3 with Brentford and completes his 10 yellow card suspension here. Given the extra two days recovery and Villa’s selection headache, the only thing between Arsenal and a home win will be themselves and the pressure of the title race. GS

Alternative viewing: Kicking off at the same time, Sky Sports Football will be showing Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen, which should be the game Xabi Alonso’s side clinches the German title with five games to go.

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.
Graham, Terry and Jan

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