Scouting for Fixtures: Dec 26 – Jan 01

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. They come out every Sunday and hand picks upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.

All times are GMT.

El Zamalek vs Al Ahly ( Thu 29 17:00 )

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Alongside spending 90 minutes in the yellow wall of Westfalenstadion, witnessing an Old Firm, Barca-Real and Boca-River, El Zamalek vs Al Ahly is the most elusive game on my football bucket list. It’s not the type of fixture you’d find on SkySports/BT Sports so your best chance of finding the live game is a live stream if you’re not in Egypt, where there is an estimated 50 million domestic TV audience. The Cairo derby has a backstory interwoven with politics, socio-economic changes, religion; the reoccurring theme being violence. You wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually all written up by Quentin Tarintino. Football offers people the precious gift of escapism. If you search Egypt on The New York Times website you will find the most recent stories include: ‘How Egyptian Democracy really works: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has figured out how to maintain a simulacrum of democratic process. For whatever that’s worth.’ and ‘Cathedral Bombing in Cairo leaves Egypt alarmed, and its president scrambling’ Couple the atmosphere created through escapism of those circumstances, with the trend that often what we see off-field is reflected on-field. If that is what is happening off the pitch, imagine the football itself. I dream of watching this game live but until then I will have to continue painstakingly searching through dodgy links to find a good quality live stream. To drive home the significance of this game, here is Scotland’s World Cup referee and Ahly-Zamalek veteran Hugh Dallas: ‘I’ve done 14 or 15 Old Firm matches and even they don’t come close to this. I genuinely believe that this is as big as it gets…’ 

Rangers vs Celtic ( Sat 31 12:15 )

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I know I just slated the Old Firm but it is, in fact, one of the most famous football fixtures in the world. But why? I doubt it’s because it’s the pinnacle of Scottish football (which it is), as my extensive research suggests otherwise:

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So why does a football derby in Glasgow be so far-reaching that it makes headlines in The Economist, The New York Times and Vice; the last news outlet making a 45-minute documentary dedicated to the Old Firm called: Football’s Most Dangerous Rivalry. The title gives it away in part, as there have been a fair few fights and even turning into riots during the game. I’ve watched enough Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle’s stand-up to assume all Scotsman have a dour, bleak outlook on life with an irritable disposition*. But there’s more than that to illicit this mass response. The tension between Celtic and Rangers has roots deep into polarising political ideologies and religion. If you have a basic understanding of Geography, you too realise that Celtic is of Irish heritage, formed by Irish immigrants at the time and therefore have a majority Catholic supporters. Without turning into a full essay on the Irish revolution, there is a deep hate between Rangers and Celtic fans involving the IRA and division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Now I hate to quote myself but, ‘often what we see off-field is reflected on-field’. Not literally (though Rangers did only sign their first Catholic player in 1989), but the passion, regardless of the reason, translates without losing any of its original meaning. The games are end-to-end in a very literal way, with the last match ending 0-1 but had a shot on goal every 2.1 minutes (a scathing stat on the state of Scottish football if there was any). That 0-1 was an outlier in another wise goal-fest of a game, averaging 3.5 goals per game in the last 6. If you’ve got no plans on Christmas eve, follow this fixture with another great game south of the border 3 and a half hours later.

*On the off chance any Scots think I’m being serious, let me clarify I’m not before I get barraged with four-letter words.

Liverpool vs Manchester City ( Sat 31 17:30 )

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If you walk into a pub in England, chances are you’ll find a TV in the corner with Soccer Saturday playing. It’s a pretty big deal here. For those unfamiliar, it could be the father of all reaction videos, like the ones you find on youtube but better. For those who can’t keep up with my very specific references, here’s a link to catch you up to speed. Caught up? Good. So when Liverpool legend and Soccer Saturday presenter Phil Thompson said ‘The best team has been Liverpool and I think we’ve got a better chance than most’ and today Michael Owen agrees ‘I’m going to go for Liverpool to win the league.’ it goes without saying the trolls will come out the woodworks. If they want to be champions these are the crucial games that Liverpool will have to win. The best attack in the league, 41 goals in 17 matches. As well as that, Liverpool is undefeated in 15 at home while scoring some amazing goals resembling prime Dortmund back in the day. So Guardiola walks into Anfield under these circumstances. Just last week Manchester City held Arsenal to 1 goal and 1 shot on target over 90 minutes. Winning at Anfield would be a turnaround for Manchester City after their back to back losses against direct rivals Chelsea, followed by Leicester. It so happens Liverpool have more immediate issues to take care of. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.’ What Klopp is referring to is the time between this game and his team’s next game against Sunderland. What he left out was that they would also play a match 3 days prior to this against Stoke with both Coutinho and Matip injured. Man City also have Aguero and Fernandinho out, but both teams still have the firepower to put on a show this new years eve.

Other Mentions:

Chelsea vs Bournemouth ( Mon 26 15:00 )

Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday ( Mon 26 19:45 )

Southampton vs Tottenham ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Leicester vs West Ham ( Sat 31 15:00 )

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace ( Sun 01 16:00 )

Feel like I missed out any matches or want to give any feedback? Comment Below!

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