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: Into the play-offs

It's a big weekend of EFL action: the start of the play-offs and the final day of the Championship.

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


League One play-off semi-final 1st leg: Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers
19.30 on Sky Sports Football
And so we enter the end of season play-off lottery. By rights, this should be Bolton’s tie. Barnsley haven’t won a match in over a month and stumbled over the line on the final day, with Lincoln and Blackpool failing to take advantage of the Tykes poor form. But it’d be a mistake to assume this one will go the way of the Trotters. Sure, Bolton have some excellent players, play attractive football and have the 3rd highest xG in the league, but they also draw a few too many, which has cost them automatic promotion. Barnsley’s away form has been relatively decent, and scoring goals hasn’t been a problem, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could sneak a lead into the return leg at the aptly- named Toughsheet Community Stadium - Barnsley haven’t kept a clean sheet since a goalless draw with relegated Cheltenham back in March. GA


Championship: Leeds United v Southampton
12.30 on Sky Sports Football
On April Fool’s day, following their 3-1 win over Hull, Leeds sat second, a point behind Ipswich and one ahead of Leicester, while today’s visitors were a distant twelve points away. The disappointing four points they collected since came in the form of a home draw against a rudderless Sunderland and dramatic 4-3 win in the Boro - meanwhile, Southampton cut the points distance in half. If the losses against Coventry and Blackburn were where the wheels started to come off, the Yorkshire side’s 4-0 thumping at QPR last week saw their promotion chances explode like a clown-car. To go up automatically, they now have to hope that any win today coincides with Ipswich losing at home against a Huddersfield side who are all but relegated. It’s not going to happen, is it? Unlikely, but having had my fingers well and truly burned predicting a Leeds triumph at QPR, I’m not ruling anything out. Head coach, Daniel Farke, was in a realistic mood when asked about the situation in his recent prezza. Simultaneously taking the pressure off his side while firing them up he said “we go for it. I'll try everything… if this doesn't work, I'm excited then for the play-offs”. However, his colleagues in charge of the official website appear more optimistic, running with the headline “Please stay off the pitch” - like they’re expecting a promotion party. Hubris, as we discussed on the pod this week, is something the football gods seldom tolerate. JB Alternative viewing: Have your remote control at the ready to switch to where the action is. Sky Sports Main Event will be at Portman Road for Ipswich’s promotion party, or you can watch Birmingham try to escape relegation against an almost play-off bound Norwich on Sky Sports Premier League.

La Liga: Girona v Barcelona
17.30 on ITV4 & ITVX, LaLigaTV and Premier Sports 1
The dream season for Girona is almost at an end. Being part of City Group isn’t a golden ticket to success - just look at Troyes, staring at relegation from Ligue 2 - but Girona have been able to make the most of whatever advantages they have been given to be the success story of the season. Can they continue that success into next season? There’s already talk of 20 year old Brazilian forward Savio heading to Manchester City in the summer (he’s actually on loan from the aforementioned Troyes - you can see how murky this quickly gets). There’s also speculation that Michel is already being primed as the eventual replacement for Pep. Maybe they’ll give Guardiola Girona as a retirement present. Girona seal Champions League football next season with a win but that may have already happened if Athletic Bilbao lose at Getafe on Friday evening (and given their form right now, that’s not unlikely). Real Madrid play immediately before this game, at home to third-bottom Cadiz. A win for Ancellotti’s side will see them crowned champions if this match ends in anything other than a win for Barcelona. GS

League One play-off semi-final 1st leg: Oxford United v Peterborough United
19.45 on Sky Sports Football
Sky clearly thought that this fixture would be Posh taking on Bolton, which can be the only reason for overlooking a delicious 3-3 draw between the two sides on the final day of the season in favour of Derby’s procession to promotion against Carlisle. You suspect Peterborough would have preferred a trip to Lancashire, as it’s less than a month since Oxford put five past Darren Ferguson’s team without reply at the Kassam. Neither side could be said to be flying into the playoffs, but the U’s win away at Exeter on the final day was a thoroughly professional job against an in-form side. This one is likely to be decided by the attacking units. Oxford’s Mark Harris has enjoyed the best season of his career in front of goal since moving to Morse country, while Peterborough can score for fun when they’re in the mood. Don’t expect the Posh to sit back and try and take a slender advantage back to London Road. Do expect plenty of goalmouth action. GA


Women’s Super League: Manchester City v Arsenal
14.15 on BBC One & iPlayer
Defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday night saw Chelsea’s out-going manager Emma Hayes concede the league to City, halting her run of successive titles at four. There is still work to do for Gareth Taylor’s side; mathematically they need four points from this and their final game at Aston Villa but with a better goal difference you would say they effectively take the title with a win here. If they get the win, it will be City’s 15th in a row in the league, a run that will have seen them beat every side in the WSL - certainly the stuff of champions. City will be without league top goal-scorer Bunny Shaw for the rest of the campaign but their biggest strength this season has been their defensive solidity. For me, Alex Greenwood has been the WSL’s player of the season; City have only dropped points when she hasn’t been on the pitch. Arsenal’s third place has already been sealed, and with it Champions League football next season. Given the unseemly touchline spat between Jonas Eidevall and Emma Hayes at the end of the League Cup final, you wouldn’t imagine the Swede will be busting a gut to do her any favours. The title race will be revived should City manage to lose this one, as Chelsea have the chance to claw back their goal difference deficit by running up a score against already relegated Bristol City (which is on Sky Showcase and Sky Sports Football and Premier League from 18.45). GS

Premier League: Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur
16.30 on Sky Sports Premier League, Main Event & Ultra
In this week's podcast, I likened Spurs and Liverpool to two prizefighters in the final round, desperately waiting for the bell. Liverpool in their final season under Jurgen, Klopp and Tottenham in their first season with Ange Postecoglu, have provided tremendous entertainment to neutrals and fans alike. But as the campaign reaches its climax, both teams have run out of steam somewhat. Liverpool having lost to Crystal Palace, being knocked out of the Europa League and then that wholly unsatisfying draw with West Ham, have all but blown their chance of a farewell title for the coach. It was disappointing, albeit somewhat funny to see Klopp and Salah in open disagreement at the London stadium last week and we may look back on that as emblematic of the final weeks of the Klopp era. Spurs, under Postecoglou, have played a brand of football which is inherently chaotic and yet authentically Tottenham or at least what Tottenham fans would consider to be authentic to their club. But it looks like they'll come up short and not qualify for the Champions League. Hopefully, we'll see Angeball back in full flow next season, perhaps with a few key additions to see if they can go the full twelve rounds. We all remember the reverse fixture earlier in the season. It was a terrific game albeit largely down to the intervention of the VAR. However, I would be surprised if this match had the same energy and vivacity. Nevertheless, while both side's goals look beyond them, it's not over until the mathematician sings. TD

Serie A: Roma v Juventus
19.45 on TNT Sports 1
I delayed writing this preview until Friday morning just in case Roma managed to get a win against Leverkusen in their Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday night. As it turns out, they didn’t. Of course they didn’t, it’s Leverkusen, but given the feeling of positivity around Roma since Daniele De Rossi was put in charge, at least it made you think they might. While the club has enjoyed an uplift since he took over, this is still Jose’s team and the platform for De Rossi’s immediate success is the belief that Mourinho gave back to Roma: restoring the heart and confidence of the club which had left after the retirement of club legend Francesco Totti. A poor start and a slump around the turn of the year saw Jose lose his job but he set them up for a third European semi-final in three seasons, and now De Rossi can take them to the Champions League. Italy securing a fifth Champions League place next season has made that task easier but there’s still work to be done. Their rivals for that fifth place are Atalanta (who with Roma can take a lot of credit for earning that extra spot) but given how things are going it could be third-placed Juventus that miss out. When Roma hired De Rossi, Juventus were just two points behind Inter, that gap is now 24! The Old Lady has been in a largely inexplicable slump since the end of January, seemingly doing as little as they possibly can to maintain their Champions League position, taking just 13 points from their last 13 games with just two wins. There would be an irony in Juventus getting to the Champions League by finishing fifth, having done nothing to help the league win that extra place by not being in Europe this season. Allegri’s future as Juve’s head coach could turn on two matches in the Eternal City: this game and their return to the Stadio Olimpico in two weeks time for the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta. GS

Whatever you watch, have a great weekend.

Graham, Terry, Jan and Gary

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