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: Rivals and revivals



Rivalries get ramped up when you're in the business end of the season.

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

UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualifying group A3: England v Sweden
20.00 on ITV & ITVX and STV & STV Player
With little over a year before it takes place, qualification for next summer’s Women’s Euros starts this weekend. As we mentioned on last week’s podcast, the format for this qualification has changed; replacing the traditional format with the Nations League model. By keeping countries of similar ranking together, this should see more competitive matches and no more of the unhelpful scorelines we saw in England’s World Cup qualification campaign. For top tier sides it means they only need to be in the top two of the four team groups to qualify directly, and if they don’t manage that they are already guaranteed the safety net of play-offs. The only real jeopardy will be for the side that finishes bottom, who will be relegated for the next Nations League. This group is arguably the toughest, with three of the top six nations in world football: England, Sweden and France along with the Republic of Ireland. This is the first time England and Sweden have faced each other since the semi-finals of the Euros. England won that 4-0 but the scoreline didn’t tell the full story. In the recent World Cup, Sweden knocked out both Japan and the USA, and arguably gave Spain a closer game in their semi final than England did in the final. Sweden’s top scorer at the World Cup, Arsenal’s Amanda Ilestedt, is unavailable having stepped back from playing after her announcement, last month, that she is expecting her first child. GS


Saturday

A League: Melbourne Victory v v Melbourne City
09.45 on TNT Sports 2
Melbourne City’s struggles this season are as baffling as they are welcome to all except City fans. By rights, it’s a squad helmed by experienced manager Aurelio Vidmar who should be challenging at the top of the table again. Instead, the City Football Group outpost seem to still be scarred from last season’s 6-1 grand final thrashing at the hands of Central Coast Mariners and currently sit four points outside of the post-season finals spot. City need all the points they can get, so now is the wrong time to be facing their resurgent cross city rivals. The Premier’s Plate may be out of reach for Victory but second place and a finals bye is very much in play, and Victory fans would love to strengthen their credentials while keeping their noisy neighbours down. If there’s one criticism of Tony Popovic’s side, it’s that they’ve let too many wins turn into draws. Nevertheless, Victory don’t lose many games and will need very little motivation on Saturday night, while City just need to go for it. Neutrals should find plenty to enjoy here. GA


Championship: Norwich City v Ipswich Town
12.30 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
The Old Farm derby returns to the Boxset for round two this Saturday lunchtime where both sides have everything to play for. Canaries boss, David Wagner, lamented his side’s performance last time out against promotion contenders, Leicester, while simultaneously describing this encounter as just another three points and a game where form counts for nothing. To be fair, this may be just mind games aimed at his opposite number, Kieran McKenna - maybe he’ll have better luck understanding it than I did! Speaking of form, Norwich have bags of the stuff at home; you have to go back to November to find a defeat, and their last seven have all been wins. A fine test, then, for McKenna who this week was nominated for EFL Championship Manager of the Season. A fitting reward for the man is looking to achieve back-to-back promotions with Ipswich. With the exception of an away loss to Cardiff, the Tractor Boys, currently top of the league, have been imperious of late and go into this game off the back of an impressive win at home to fourth place Southampton. This one really is too close to call. Another high scoring draw looks likely, so be sure to tune in for the best game of the day in the most entertaining league in England. JB


Serie A: Roma v Lazio
17.00 on TNT Sports 3
The Derbi della Capitale remains one of football’s most compelling fixtures and the Olympic stadium will be alive with colour and passion as these great rivals of the eternal city face off for the third time this season. Their first encounter was in Serie A in December and finished goalless. The second was in January: a Coppa Italia quarter- final that Lazio won 1-0 in the last knockings of the Jose Mourinho era. Six days after that defeat and the loss to Milan, Mourinho was fired and club legend, Daniele De Rossi, replacing him for the rest of the season. The 40-year-old De Rossi had a previous unsuccessful spell as coach at SPAL last season, but results have improved since he took over. From ninth place under Mourinho, the Giallorossi have risen to fifth, albeit still five points off Bologna in fourth. The club also welcome back Tammy Abraham who has been out all season with a torn ACL. The Englishman will need to be patient with his chances given the form of strikers Romelu Lukaku and Paolo Dybala. Lazio too have changed their coach since the last derby. Maurizio Sarri led his team to the Champions League last season, but after a poor run of results the 65-year-old decided that his work was done and resigned just over a fortnight ago. Igor Tudor, most recently of Marseille, replaced him and he oversaw a 1-0 win over Juve only to lose this week in the cup semi-final first leg, 2-0 to the same opposition. TD

Sunday

Scottish Premiership: Rangers v Celtic
12.00 on Sky Sports Football, Main Event & Ultra
Celtic may have retaken the lead in the table but it’s Rangers who are favourites to win the title. When Phillippe Clement took over after the dismissal of Michael Beale at the start of October, Rangers had already lost three league games, including a home defeat to Celtic, and were seven points behind the champions. Clement is a three times title winner in Belgium, while in charge of Genk and Club Bruges, and has transformed Beale’s misfiring and misshapen squad and now has them on course for a domestic treble (their first since 2003). Brendan Rodgers, himself a treble-winner twice in his previous spell as Celtic manager, knows that winning the title is still in his hands. He already has a win against Clement when the side’s met in a fiery encounter in December (10 yellows, 1 red) and they will face each other again before the end of the season, after the table splits in two following the next round of fixtures (they could also meet each other in the final of the Scottish Cup - which would be the first Old Firm final in more than 20 years). For Rangers, a win in this and their game in hand at Dundee could see them go into the five match clausura with a five point lead. Draw or a defeat keeps the title race on a knife-edge until the old rivals meet again in a few weeks. GS


Premier League: Manchester United v Liverpool
15.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
Compounding the dizzying effects of the switch to British Summer Time, United meet arch-rivals, Liverpool, an hour earlier than usual, presumably to allow the shoe-horning of Spurs v Forest into the schedule at 18.00. Playing on Sunday also allowed both sides to play their previous games on Thursday night, which never feels right, but, hey, it works for the TV guys. To be fair, it was quality watching, especially United’s epic 4-3 defeat at Chelsea which showed they can put away their chances even if they can’t stop conceding penalties against a side determined to get in behind them. Garnacho took both of his goals well and will be one to watch as Liverpool look to take revenge for the dramatic 4-3 last time these two met at Old Trafford, only a few weeks ago in the FA Cup. Klopp, with the Premier and Europa Leagues still realistic prospects in this, his final season, can’t afford to slip up today with Arsenal and City right on his shoulders and both facing potentially winnable fixtures this weekend. While they do have some injuries to contend with, going forward Liverpool have few concerns. Despite criticism from some, I think Nunes is having a decent season and looks like a real headache to defend against. Salah too, in what may well be his last season on Merseyside, is just too good to discount. On paper, you’d expect Liverpool to run out winners, but you just never know in this fixture. JB


Ligue 1: Nantes v Lyon
19.45 on TNT Sports 3
This season has been a wild ride for these clubs with both on their third manager of the campaign. Lyon had a shocking start under Laurent Blanc and things didn’t improve when he was replaced by Fabio Grosso. The Italian lasted just seven games before he too got the boot with Les Gones bottom of the table. Running out of options, the club installed their academy coach, Pierre Sage, as an interim to try to salvage something from the season. It’s now a Ligue 1 trope: put the youth team coach in the big chair, pay the fines because he doesn’t have the requisite coaching badges, go on a tear up the table. “Wise Stone” as he’s nicknamed by the fans (a literal English translation of his name) has done a Will Still and turned Lyon’s season from a relegation fight to one where they could finish with a European place, either via the league or by winning the Coupe de France (where they will face PSG in the final). Having reached the last two finals of that competition, Nantes’ cup journey ended early this season with defeat to Ligue 2 Laval - who they could meet again in a relegation play-off if they slip back to 16th, where they were before last weekend’s win at Nice. That win was the first game back in charge for Antoine Kombour√©, re-hired by the club having been dismissed at the tail-end of last season. Their last home win was also against Nice back at the start of December - a run of seven straight defeats at home under Jocelyn Gourvennec. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry, Jan and Gary

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