Scouting for Fixtures: May 01 – May 07

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

Guy chatting absolutely anything in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention in this football-esque blog. I also do football previews, kinda… 

All times are GMT.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 02 19:45 )

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To sum up the state of affairs in a chant only described as poetic:

Chant:                                                                                                                                      Atleti decime qué se siente, haber perdido la final , te juro, que aunque pasen los años, nunca lo vamos a olvidar… Al 93′ llegó el gol, Sergio Ramos lo metió, el sueño se les murió. Como siempre terminaste segundón

English Translation:                                                                                                             Atleti tell me how it feels, to have lost the final, I swear that even with the years passing, we will never forget, in the 93rd the goal came, Sergio Ramos put it in, and your dream died, as always you ended up second.

To add to the Kafkaesque nature of Atleti in the situation, Luis Aragones famously summed up his frustration in the iconic line: If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse. The literal misplacement of anger is indicative of a side always second place; no more evident than in the champions league. Real Madrid is fighting on 2 fronts, killing it all-around, while Atleti can’t break the duopoly of Real-Barca in La Liga. Can’t really say much in terms of improvement of either side, but Sergio Ramos could make or break any game with the spectrum of brutal tackles to brutal last minute goals (own or otherwise). Though Los RojoBlancos have been transformed by the endearing yet terrifying character of Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone they’re yet to truly break the stigma of Real dominance. But what better place to do it than in Los Blancos’ signature competition.

Monaco vs Juventus ( Wed 03 19:45 )

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If Messi, Neymar and Suarez couldn’t score against Juventus in 180 minutes, what hope does anyone have against – in my opinion – the best team in the world. Statistically speaking Monaco have the best attack in the world, 142 goals in all competitions. But after their most recent 5-0 thrashing by PSG, maybe the defence needs a bit of tightening. In all honesty, it looks like Monaco will get their backside handed to them. Juventus look impenetrable at the moment, but if any team can undo that defence it will be Monaco.

Juventus vs Torino ( Sat 06 19:45 )

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Exactly 3 days – to the millisecond – after Juventus play their pivotal Champions league tie that could make or break their season, they play their biggest rivals in what could, also… make or break their season. With 4 games left in the season, Juventus are 9 points ahead of second place Napoli and are almost at the finish line, though they have played 1 more game than Napoli. Torino is chilling in 9th place, so they’ve really got no skin in the game. Apart from the fact this one of the biggest rivalries on the planet. To sum up the rivalry, I pull up a very convenient anecdote in my failed linguistic attempts:

Did you know I tried learning Italian a few years ago? Failed miserably. What little I still remember was that there are differences between the English alphabet and the Italian. One big difference is that the letter ‘J’ is not present in their alphabet. So, Juventus? What’s going on there? Turns out Juventus derives from Latin, a language only used by the authoritative church at the time (1897) made by aristocratic high-school students, meaning ‘the age of youth’. Torino was made within a division of Juve 9 years later, as people felt it did not represent the city from which it was born: ‘the team of the working class, migrant workers from the provinces or neighbouring countries, the lower middle-class and the poor’. That is the dichotomy of these Turin clubs in a nutshell.

– me about two months ago I don’t know here’s a link

Even though Torino won’t benefit from Juventus winning, their’s always that reasoning of just beating them out of spite, just so they don’t win (a feeling we all wish we didn’t have, but it’s true). The atmosphere of this kind of rivalry is rare, yet universal in rivalries across the world. These are often the games you wish you didn’t miss.

Arsenal vs Manchester United ( Sun 07 16:00 )

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A picture sums up 1000 words. This gif below sums up all of my words and more when it comes to this game, even though I flex at a weak 150 words or less per paragraph.

0hQyd5L

The rivalry is there, both these sides HATE each other, picture the relationship between Roy Keane and Patrick Viera, but without any of the footballing ability or charisma, then multiply that by 1,000,000.

Next up, you gotta look at the table:

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This would be the end of an era if Arsenal stays in the position they are; the last time they finished outside of a European spot was 21 years ago. The content on ArsenalFanTV would be nothing like we’ve seen before. Pandemonium. If Man Utd finish 5th they will also be the but of a multitude of jokes, but 6th is something an MUFC fan keeps in the recesses of their mind. Both sides are notoriously inconsistent and have no semblance of form coming into this game. The outcome of this game will play a huge part in the final standings. You can feel the tension and the vibrations of the oncoming tsunami of memes.

Games I was too lazy to write about:

Ajax vs Lyon ( Wed 03 17:45 )

Celta Vigo vs Manchester United ( Thu 04 20:05 )

Sevilla vs Real Sociedad ( Fri 05 20:00 )

Borussia Dortmund vs Hoffenheim ( Sat 06 14:30 )

Hertha Berlin vs RasenBallsport Leipzig ( Sat 06 17:30 )

Besiktas vs Fenerbahce ( Sun 07 17:00 )

AC Milan vs Roma ( Sun 07 19:45 )

 

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 17 – Apr 23

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

There are so many good fixtures this week. It’s like Christmas, new years, Halloween, Hannukah, Diwali and Chinese new years wrapped into one week of non-stop, top quality, football. 

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 18 19:54 )

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Cristiano has chromosomes bussing about his body that belongs in a Bengal tiger – Ray Hudson on Cristiano Ronaldo

As the old adage goes I suppose… and with those inspiring words by Ray Hudson – football commentator/scouser/poet/philosopher – I horrifically segway into the Ronaldo’s goal against Bayern that only strengthens the point made above.

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That was one of 3 turning points. The 2nd and 3rd, which came 11 and 14 minutes later, were Javi Martinez’s 1st and 2nd yellow card, leaving Bayern 10 men down. That lead to their first loss in the Allianz Arena (in a competitive game) since March the 3rd, of 2016. If it wasn’t for Manuel Neuer the having one of the best games in recent memory, the tie could already be over. But it finished 1-2, holding the tie up nicely into the second leg; now Bayern needs to score at least 2 goals at the Bernabeu which could leave them exposed at the back.

Barcelona vs Juventus ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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This isn’t just Barcelona’s own doing. Juventus are – in my humble opinion – the best team in the world right now, with not only individual quality, but a consistently strong tactical awareness as a group, that I can only say is replicated at a similar rate by, Bayern Munich. They hit Barca like a train. The problems at the back are a well known long term issue for the Catalonians, but that’s not what happened here. Paolo Dyzbala’s what happened here, not to take away from a rare brilliant team performance, with Buffon and Chiellini making world class blocks. Now Barca has to pay another set of referees all over again. Oh no, wait! No, sorry I meant: They have to do one of the greatest comebacks in football history, all over again, to progress to the next round.

Monaco vs Dortmund ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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I can’t talk about this fixture without addressing the extraordinary circumstances of the last leg. There are many arguments for and against holding the game just a day after the attempted bombing of the Dortmund bus, but the decision was made and now we have a vert different game. Who knows? Who knows if Dortmund would have played differently if the game was delayed? As a player, well, for any human being, the idea of an attempt to kill you surely must have an impact on your mind and psyche? Then you’re expected to go out and focus for 90 minutes against one of the best sides in Europe requires tremendous mental fortitude. But nonetheless, we had a game not out of place with the quality you’d expect, ending 2-3. A similar dilemma to Bayern Munich rests on their other German side, as BVB needs to beat Monaco by 2 goals in the next leg. After the first goal goes in, the floodgates will open.

Chelsea vs Tottenham ( Sat 22 17:15 )

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It looks like the magic of the cup is all but been extinguished with the sides left in the competition, exactly what you’d expect. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City. Though at least now we have a more even fixture. We can’t complain too much considering the quality on display in this fixture, Conte’s side already has one hand on the Premier League trophy and only cement their place as one of the most hated clubs in England. But if anyone can stop them, it is Tottenham. They have Guardiola’s backing:

Tottenham are the best team in the league when you let them play. I enjoy watching them play.

They’re the 2 best sides in England and if previous encounters are something to go by, the cards could be flying out like confetti. Though Spurs are hopelessly behind in the league, they have one last chance to trip them up.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 23 19:45 )

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We’re well into the third act of a well versed, but nonetheless captivating story. And this is the climax before the final resolution. The words El Classico is synonymous with the beautiful game, attracting crowds of up to 400 million people, roughly 1/18 people in the world. Touted as one of the greatest games of football one can play, the circumstances surrounding the fixture makes this game even more important. Both sides are in the middle of a tough fixture list. Barca played Sevilla, Malaga, Juventus, Real Sociedad and then Juventus again while Real Madrid had to face Atletico Madrid, FC Bayern, Sporting Gijon and FC Bayern again in the build up to this pivotal tie. The Catalonians are 3 points behind Los Blancos who have a game in hand. After this, they’re only 5 games to decide the league winner. The only realistic way of Barca winning the league, is to win this game. The winner of La Liga rests on the outcome of this game.

It’s also worth mentioning …

Messi is 29 years old, Ronaldo, 32. This is as good as it gets for two of the greatest players of all time, a once in a generation type player. Not to say they suddenly lose all motor functions in the coming years, or there won’t be any more moments of brilliance, but this is usually near the drop off point. This may be one of the last chances to see the 2 in their prime. Enjoy this game for what it is, a competition between two of the best teams – and players – in the world.

Games you should also watch but I was too lazy to write about:

Leicester vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 18 19:54 )

America de Cali vs Deportivo Cali ( Thu 20 01:55 )

Schalke 04 vs Ajax ( Thu 20 20:05 )

Dynamo Kyiv vs Shakhtar Donetsk ( Fri 21 18:00 )

FC Cologne vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 21 19:30 )

Sporting CP vs Benfica ( Sat 22 20:30 )

Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps ( Sat 22 21:00 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 23 12:00 )

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 23 15:00 )

PSV Eindhoven vs Ajax ( Sun 23 15:45 )

Lyon vs Monaco ( Sun 23 20:15 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 10 – Apr 16

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Borrusia Dortmund vs Monaco ( Tue 11 19:45 )

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You may feel underwhelmed by this game, after looking further down this list. If I were a

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The Ferrari 308 GT4 is known as one of the ugliest Ferrari’s ever, but a Ferrari nonetheless.

car salesman, this would be an interesting sell. It’s a Ferrari 308 GT4. Looking at the picture, it’s basically a piece of cardboard come to life. Like a 4-year-olds drawing of a car, and they just went with that. But that’s still a Ferrari engine with the same engine that made the car what it is. And that’s this game. Yes, it isn’t All Star XI or Super-Legends Ultimate United FC. But it’s still Ferrari and still worth watching.

Yes well, bu-bu- the, Dortmund aren’t as good as Bayern and no- they’ve lost all the good players.

Yes, BVB has played the role of the kid who gets their lunch money stolen over the years. But Dortmund has one of the strongest records in the UCL this season, holding their own against Real Madrid and only losing only one game, 1-0 to Benfica before dismantling them in the 2nd leg.

Fine, Monaco’s top of Ligue 1 right now, but PSG are still the best team in France.

  1. I don’t care how good the team is, PSG dropped a 4-0 lead; first time ever in UCL history (what d’you mean 1-4?).
  2. Monaco is the top scorer in the world right now, 135 goals in all competition.

*Mic drop*

Juventus vs Barcelona ( Tue 11 19:45 )

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Imagine the look on the Juventus player’s faces when that final whistle blew and the scoreline read 6-1. In an inexplicable turn of events – or maybe it was explicable  – the Catalonian giants managed to reach the final 16. The Italian side has been hard done by vis a vis their fixture list. Coming into the game, the home side will have played 3 games in the last 8 games, 2 against Napoli who’s attack worked Juve into the ground. Now they have to face one of the best attacks teams in the world. Anlackee.

Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid ( Wed 12 19:45 )

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Sometimes you have games so good that you don’t know how to convey why you should watch it. Did that even make sense? It just is*. If you’ve even scraped the very top layer of football the names Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are supposed to be the best. Just like how when you think basketball your imaginary mind map has Golden State Troopers or the Boston Limericks attached to it. I’m sorry but this is a literal no-brainer.

*Great Journalism rate 10/10

Inter vs AC Milan ( Sat 15 11:30 )

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The identities of these two clubs and what they represent are more resonant than ever in philosophies of football, also echoing the differing ideologies in our political climate. The whole reason this rivalry even exists is because Internazionale was born out of AC Milan not allowing foreign players to join. Thus a rivalry was born, currently in its 109th year. That number itself is indicative of why this game is lauded the way it is. When you have an event that occurs every year, for generations, it becomes part of your life. It becomes more than a game but a celebration or a ritual that’s woven into your culture. It’s almost religious in nature which explains why it is the most famous Italian derby. The name itself, derby Della Madonnina has religious ties; Madonnina takes its name from the golden Virgin Mary statue which overlooks the Duomo in the city centre. Though it doesn’t hold the anticipation it once did, once the crucible that is the San Siro is lit, enjoy the spectacle.

Games I was too lazy to write about:

Atletico Madrid vs Leicester ( Wed 12 19:45 )

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders FC ( Sat 15 03:00 )

Colorado Rapids vs Real Salt Lake ( Sun 16 02:00 )

Manchester United vs Chelsea ( Sun 16 16:00 )

Spartak Moscow vs Zenit St. Petersburg ( Sun 16 18:00 )

Marseille vs Saint-Etienne ( Sun 16 20:00 )

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 20 – Mar 26

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

As I stare across the barren landscape, amiss of Premier League, La Liga or any other big name league, the terrifying realisation finally sinks in. It’s international week. If you too are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, let these games tide you over. But don’t get your hopes up. Think of it as filler; and when you look back on this week it’ll just feel like a bad, forgotten dream.

Millonarios vs Santa Fe ( Mon 20 00:30 )

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Last week we had the Medellin derby and now we travel 419km to the capital derby. Unlike their European counterparts, the South American leagues from what I can see, are indifferent to the international week. It makes less sense considering it’s the same week they are participating in the World Cup Qualifiers, but who cares when you have a derby on the cards. Located in Bogota, football acts as an adhesive in an otherwise divided city. Derbies like this are a great opportunity to experience football outside our bubble. Often a jump off point for superstars; former players that perfected their craft in Bogota includes René Higuita (also known as the scorpion-kick keeper), Carlos Valderrama and the great Alfredo di Stéphano. Both sides have come to represent the rich modern Colombia while Santa Fe sees themselves as a grounded and rougher side of the Capital. A rivalry like this undoubtedly has players going for the oppositions shins as much as they go for the ball. If all else fails you might get a 2-for-1. Football with a chance of WWE.

Germany vs England ( Wed 22 19:45 )

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It’s true that this is more of a rivalry in an Englishman’s eyes than that of a German’s. The champions league fixture between Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (2-10) is a microcosm of the relationship between the English football team and the German one.

In fact the managers are also a microcosm:

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England manager Gareth Southgate (left) visibly distressed by the ferocity of German manager Joachim Lowe’s (right) finger, and the orifice of which it is currently excavating.

x1 League Cup (Aston Villa)

x1 DFB-Pokal (VfB Stuttgart)

x1 League Cup (Middlesborough)

x1 Austrian Football Bundesliga (Tirol Innsbruck)

x1 Championship (Crystal Palace)

x1 Austrian Supercup (Austria Wein)

x1 FIFA World Cup Winner (2014)

x1 Sport Bild German Sports Manager of the Year

x2 German Football Manager of the Year

x1 FIFA World Coach of the Year

x1 IFFHS World’s Best National Coach

x1 L’Équipe Sports Manager of the Year

x3 Finger up the nose

x1 (at least that we know of) cheeky bum sniff

With England’s ever growing injury list, it gives the likes of Defoe, Antonio, Livermore, Ward-Prowse, Keane and Forster the chance to flex their muscles. Though whether it amounts to anything largely depends on if Germany chose to, or not, even bother.

Uruguay vs Brazil ( Thu 23 23:00 )

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The CONMEBOL, otherwise known as the CONfederación SudaMEricana de FútBOL – because that’s how acronyms work – is into its 13th round of fixtures out of 18. How it works is that the top 4 will get a spot in the 2018 World Cup, while the 5th place team will go into an inter-continental play-off between Asia, North  & Central Americas and the Caribbean and Oceania teams.

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Uruaguay winning would be the perogative for a spectator with no stake in the game, as Brazil’s lead would dissipate to 1 point. With potentially Suarez, Neymar, Godin and a number of elite players fielded on Thursday, hopefully, this and a few games listed below could tide you over to the next week.

If your withdrawal symptoms are acting up again:

Argentina vs Chile ( Thu 23 23:00 )

Ireland vs Wales ( Fri 24 19:45 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 13 – Mar 19

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Chelsea vs Manchester United ( Mon 13 19:45 )

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Do we have a treble on the cards? The league cup, FA Cup and Europa League is a treble but to say it’s the same as the treble of ’99. It’s like saying Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger are twins; technically yes, but Danny is just objectively better*. Anyway, that is a possibility for Manchester United this season, and beating Chelsea would move them one step closer to that treble. Though Mourinho’s former side have the upper hand in almost every way possible. Chelsea has won more games, scored more goals, conceded less and are topping the Premier League as of right now. Some would say Mourinho was spiralling downhill at Chelsea but you have to look at the big picture. By finishing 10th last season this disabled any chance of European midweek fixtures so they could have enough recovery time for the domestic cup games.  The very same issue Mourinho now has to deal with in Manchester as the squad had a 17-hour roundtrip flight to FC Rostov and back. Head to Head Chelsea has the Red Devils beat 4 to nothing. As if MUFC could be any more disadvantaged, their main striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a 3 game ban effective immediately, all because ‘he jumped into my elbow’That treble looks like a pipe dream, not even opium could induce. But need I remind you fifth-tier side Preston join Man Utd in the quarter finals and Leicester won the premier league a few months ago. If I were to echo the sentiment of this fixture it would be through the words of my hero:

They never said winning was easy. – DJ Khaled

#Woke.

*Here’s another one.

Monaco vs Manchester City ( Wed 15 19:45 )

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This is unmissable, with the potential to go down as one of the great Champions League fixtures. – Myself, previewing the first leg of this fixture ( Tue 21 19:45 )

Well, after reflecting for 22 days and 8 goals later, it’s time to retract that statement. Because it HAS gone down as one of the great Champions League fixtures.

Why would the second leg be any different?

Monaco needs the goals if they want to progress to the next round. It’s counterproductive for Man City to park the bus, especially with their comedy duo in defence. It would only increase the inflammation that led to Monaco winning 1-3 by the 45′ minute. The thing is if either side could actually defend, the are capable of cake-walking this whole competition. But they can’t. So they won’t. In this case, an attack is the best form of defence, and that is exactly what they plan to do.

So, why would the second leg be any different?

Manchester City vs Liverpool ( Sun 19 16:30 )

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Defence is about the work you put into it. Defensive strategy is absolutely essential if I want to attack a lot. – Pep Guardiola

I know I just described the Man city defence as a comedy duo. With justification might I add (refer to the video above); but as a unit, the citizens are sound, in theory.

While being a preview this is also like a Football Tactics for Dummies, except it’s written by a real life dummy, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

I’m sure you’re familiar with a trampoline (ref fig.1).

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Fig 1: for the incompetent

So think of Man City as the trampoline and Liverpool as the person jumping on the trampoline, if you will.

Guardiola employs the 4-1-4-1 formation for the majority of games, especially against a high calibre side. It allows them to remain compact in defence with virtually no passing lines with tight banks between defence and midfield.

So when Liverpool attack, they are jumping down on the trampoline and compressing the fibres, in this case compressing the Manchester city midfield and defensive lines. If Liverpool fails to see an opening they will lose possession, flinging them uncontrollably in the air. As the fibres return to the original positions Man City can quickly transition into their attack and hit Liverpool on the

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Fig 2: The Mountain stands 6’9 tall, the UFC champion Connor McGreggor pales in comparison, a foot shorter and 115kg lighter

counter-attack. The stronger Liverpool’s intensity of the attack is, the more uncontrollably and higher they are flung into the air.

Or, of course, you could break the trampoline. No mere mortal can break this trampoline, but let us anthropomorphize Liverpool in this scenario. To account for their mountain of goals (highest in the PL), the person who represents them should share the same nickname, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (ref fig 2).

This guy would have very little trouble breaking the trampoline, as does Liverpool with their intensity, is capable of scoring against any defence.

Games I would’ve written about but was too lazy: 

Leicester vs Sevilla ( Tue 14 19:45 )

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC ( Sat 18 20:00 )

Atletico Nacional vs Independiente Medellin ( Sun 19 00:45 )

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sun 19 15:15 )

Paris Saint-Germain vs Lyon ( Sun 19 20:00 )

 

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 06 – Mar 12

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Tue 07 19:45 )

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The last leg left us re-aligning our jaws after they collectively dropped at the 53′ mark. Yes, the game ended 3-1 in favour of Los Blancos. That 1 away goal is what Napoli is holding onto coming into the 2nd leg. In order to progress to the next round of the competition, the Naples have to either win 2-0 or if Los Blancos score, by a 3 goal deficit. If we go further, I wouldn’t bet my house on the idea of Naples keeping a clean sheet. So chances are, it’s going to play out where once Real Madrid score, it’s going to be an all-out attack. The last time we saw that we witnessed one of the best Champions League games ever. If these two could tap into that, we could witness another game akin to the 8 goal thriller we saw just 2 weeks ago.

Genoa vs Sampdoria ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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The blood runs just a bit hotter and the ball is booted with more weight behind it*, literally and figuratively. I may be romanticising the idea of Italian passion when it comes to football, I mean their country is the shape of an actual boot. But, in all the time I’ve been writing on this blog, one thing has been made apparent. The Italians have set the benchmark when it comes to a proper derby. And this is the oldest of them all. Named after the landmark lighthouse, Derby Della Lanterna is not the game for you if you’re more accustomed to intricate passing or superstars. Instead, it is a breath of fresh air, as put eloquently by TheseFootballTimes:

While other games are characterised by violence and animosity, the Derby della Lanterna is all about divided families fighting it out for 90 minutes in the hope that their beloved side will give them something to shout about. It’s what a rivalry should be in football: passionate, loyal and largely friendly.

*Is that a fat joke? No.

Real Sociedad vs Athletic Club ( Sun 12 11:00 )

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A derby by its very nature poses the ideal conditions for aggression and violence. The last paragraph was dedicated to a derby – one of the few – exempt from that stigma. This basque derby so happens to be exempt from that stigma as well. It’s easy to overlook this derby as it falls under the huge shadow of the El Clasico, but these two sides have their own story worth reading. Sociedad is the stronger side on paper, sitting higher on the table and scoring more goals. In fact, Bilbao’s form is the definition of inconsistent: LWLWLW. What makes these 2 sides special is the unwavering approach to every game. The intensity and fast paced style are trademarked by these 2.

Games I wanted to talk about but was too lazy:

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 07 19:45 )

Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Wed 08 19:45 )

Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 11 14:30 )

Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 11 14:30 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 12 12:00 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 27 – Mar 05

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

The Italians do not mess about when it comes to their cup football. In England, you’ve got Lincoln City slapping teams around; in Germany, third division side Sportfreunde Lotte are in the quarter-finals, this would definitely not fly in the Coppa Italia. Napoli, Roma, Juventus, Lazio. Not only the last 4 left in Coppa Italia but ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in goals scored.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Tue 28 19:45 )

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I don’t know what more to say than, it’s Juventus and Napoli. The weight of those names alone is enough to persuade me, but when you put them against each other, you have a real show. People use the term star-studded when describing top teams, but collectively, these two could fill out a Michael Jackson military jacket. Some football teams play the boring game or the rapid game or even flat out take-down bulldog. These two are the few who play in a way you would be justified in calling it the beautiful game. In terms of entertainment value, there are only a handful of games and circumstances that could outdo this game. Having said that, the other semi-final may be one of the select few that fall into that category.

Lazio vs Roma ( Wed 01 19:45 )

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The cherry on top of the tiramisù is that to accompany this heated semi-finals is that of this rivalry. A rivalry spanning 89 years; It has it’s moments, from the good, the bad, to the Mussolini. The famous line ‘you think that’s air your breathing’ from the Matrix was actually inspired by the time the Wachowski’s sat in on a Rome derby. In actuality, it’s part red smoke, part Bovril and part god knows what. To accompany the incandescent red and blue flames are a 50/50 split of Roma and Lazio fans. Unusual you would think, as you wouldn’t expect 50% of tickets for away fans. In actual fact, 0% of tickets go to away fans, as both Roman sides have to share a stadium. From personal experience, I’ve found sharing an Xbox with my brother has led to fights well into the hundreds by now. Take that scenario, add a tonne of beer, and 72,689 fans who can actually throw a proper punch. For a player, that atmosphere is the equivalent of shooting a bucket of adrenaline into your blood stream. Plus, it’s not going to just be a shin-kicking contest out there, as Roma and Lazio have the quality to put on a real show, with 54 and 44 goals scored in Serie A respectively. There is further motivation for the 2 sides – not that they need it – as Lazio hasn’t won this tournament in 5 years, for Roma that number doubles to 10 years.

Liverpool vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 17:30 )

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I don’t know, you don’t know, Gary Neville might think he knows, but he doesn’t know; hell, Paul the Octopus is shrugging with all 8 of his shoulders or whatever the equivalent is because they don’t have bones. Point being, if you want to bet on the score line, don’t. It encompasses the Premier League as a whole right now, just look at the form of the top 5 from England with the top 5 from Italy:

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One shows a neatly organised pile of W’s, with the top sides doing what they do, win. The other side is just a mess. Arsenal lost to Watford and drew to Bournemouth, but Liverpool is even more inexplicable. They drew with Sunderland and Man Utd, lost to Swansea but drew with Chelsea; lost to Hull then beat Tottenham who has the best defensive record in the league. But hey, at least they know how to do one thing. That’s taking the ball and putting it in the back of the net. Being top goalscorers of a league is one thing, but being top goalscorers of the Premier League means you really know what you’re doing (attacking wise only). Both sides share the title of being top goal scorers with 54 each, and these games have a knack of finishing with a high scoreline. Apart from an anomalous 0-0 finish, the rest have been Man-City-versus-Monaco-esque. 3-4, 3-3, 4-1, 2-2, 2-1. Chelsea might already have etched their name on the trophy, but right now only 4 points separate 2nd place Manchester City from 6th place Manchester United.

These are the games I would’ve also written about if I wasn’t so lazy:

Galatasaray vs Besiktas ( Mon 27 17:00 )

Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates ( Sat 04 13:30 )

Roma vs Napoli ( Sat 04 14:00 )

LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas ( Sat 04 21:00 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 06 – Feb 12

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 07 20:00 )

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Atleti looks – not to beat the cliche to death – like a shadow of their former self. Compared to this time last season, they’ve actually scored 4 more goals but doubled down on conceding, with 8 more than last season (twice the amount). Oh my god, 16 goals conceded in 20 games! That only makes them what, only the 6th best defence in the Europe?! That stat would look complementary for most other teams, but by the insanely high standards they set themselves, Atleti is slipping. To compound the pressure, they have one of the best attacking line-ups in the world they now have to face, again, away from home. This is the second leg of a tie already not in their favour. I feel by explaining the last leg a bit more illustrates just how big the mountain Atleti have to climb is. Suarez scored first at 6′.  So he starts just behind the halfway line with 4 Atleti players in front of him; with his first touch he bypasses Godin, the second goes past Savic (by now he’s at the edge of the box) and the third touch puts the ball past the keeper, scoring an incredible solo goal. He’s running at such an immense speed from running the half of the pitch he needs to put his arms out, acting as a parachute would for drag racing, so as to not crash into the advertising board. Amazing. The second is scored by Messi at 32′. A ball played to him from the edge of the box, what do you do? Of course, you rocket it in, curling away from the keeper (and goal) and bounce off the opposite post and nestle it into the net. 2-0, game over. Yes ok, Atleti scored 1 goal but that is beside the point. Point being, both of those goals were unstoppable. It didn’t matter if you had 11 of the best players in the world or 100 Brazilian kids in the 62-15-23 formation, those goals were fixed points in time, they were always going in. That’s the danger Atleti face, the chance that regardless of how well they play, there is a chance Suarez, Neymar or Messi could pull it out the bag at any given moment. Also, Atletico Madrid has to go for the win. Conceding 2 away goals means needing to score twice without response from Barca to ensure they go through.

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Sat 11 17:30 )

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Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now felt like an accurate gauge of the mood.

That quote was in reference to Anfield, after beating Manchester City 1-0 on new years eve and winning 4 in a row, excited in all the possibilities 2017 had to offer. Fast forward to today, Anfield feels Kafkaesque, with Mad World by Gary Jules ringing through the speakers. The phrase wank wank wank wank* isn’t thrown about too often, but it sums up the state of things when referenced by The RedMen TV after losing 2-0 to Hull. I don’t remember a worse start to a year for Liverpool, ever. 36 days in, 10 games played, 5 losses, 4 draws, but 1 win. The 1 win was against League 2 side Plymouth in the 2nd leg of an FA cup tie and ended 0-1, but a win is a win. Even still, Liverpool has a good chance of winning. Stats wise anyway. The last 6 games, Liverpool have not lost a single one. That’s about everything I could find in favour of Liverpool. That, and the fact their playing in Anfield. So Spurs are the closest thing to overthrowing Chelsea right now, 9 points behind the league leaders despite winning 7 of their last 9 Premier League fixtures. Both defences will be tested on Saturday, as Tottenham and Liverpool are 1st and 2nd in shots per game respectively, with 17.6 and 17.1. Couple that with the stat of Tottenham averaging the lowest interceptions per game respectively (11 and 8.4), this could be a high scoring game. While Tottenham can rely on their sound defensive record (best in the league), Liverpool defenders could recontextualise recent events to cope:

*Trust me. It’s not what it seems like. The link is safe to click. Trust. Me.

Osasuna vs Real Madrid ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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If we’re sticking to the music analogy, Minas Morgul is definitely playing through the El Sadar (Osasuna home) stadium speakers as you catch glimpse of the Real Madrid side marching in the distance*. Ironically, Osasuna means health but if you were to personify the club, they would have osteoporosis. I’m definitely being too mean, but when you have the 2nd worst defence in the league, the worst home record in La Liga (haven’t even won a home game yet, after 11 games) and only won 1 league game all season, the home side look out of their league, literally and figuratively. It’s commendable how they climbed the third tier, nicknamed the well, in Christian Bale Dark Knight fashion. But when Phill Ball describes the off-the-pitch issues on sport360 as:

they are under investigation for match-fixing during last season’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation, have an ex-president and ex-director recently released from prison on bail, and financial problems popping up like poisonous mushrooms

sympathy is hard to come by. Then the realisation that Real Madrid is playing begins to contextualise why I picked this game. I am all for competitive unpredictable football, but there is a certain joy that comes with watching a side completely rip apart their opposition (again, sorry Osasuna fans). Los Blancos are top of the table with 2 games in hand, with 51 goals all season, ranked #4 in goals per game. Recent history between the two sides also points to a high scoring game, averaging 3.8 goals per game. Good luck.

*If you don’t get that reference, as a ginger wizard once said, she needs to sort out her priorities*2.

*If you didn’t get that one either, you’re beyond help.

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


Sources:

WhoScored

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/31/liverpool-manchester-city-premier-league-match-report

http://sport360.com/article/football/la-liga/205995/phil-ball-christmas-pickle-or-plight-for-la-liga-clubs-as-we-take-stock-at-the-winter-break/

https://scoutingforfixtures.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/the-most-entertaining-football-teams-statistically-ranked/

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 23 – Jan 29

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Napoli vs Fiorentina ( Tue 24 19:45 )

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The rise of Napoli and steady decline of Fiorentina can be mapped almost in tandem since 2006. At the end of the 2005/06 season Fiorentina finally, after years of crawling through the lower tiers of Italian football, secured a Champions league qualifying spot. Just days later, word gets out of an Italian football scandal involving Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, Reggina and – you guessed it – Fiorentina. While the rigging was orchestrated by Juve, Fiorentina still had their part to play, to which the club was docked 15 points in the following season and stripped of their precious UCL qualifying spot. In an even more bizarre turn of events, the following season they finished as high up as they ever would till this day, securing a spot in the UCL group stages at 3rd*. The following season a newly promoted Napoli burst onto the scene, finishing their first season back in Serie A 9th. Along with the rise of Napoli, Lazio and Roma’s recent resurrection, Fiorentina was pushed out. Now La Viola sits between Torino and Cagliari in 9th place while Napoli is playing some of the best football in the league. Napoli’s stats are those akin to champions, with the most goals scored (45), shots per game (18.2), pass accuracy (87.5%) and possession (59.4%). Now Fiorentina is not to be underestimated. Yes, their league form is shaky, but they are capable of punching well above their weight. When La viola faced Napoli just 1 month ago, they kept up with Napoli’s firing squad up front, retaining a 3-3 draw. But what got heads turning was when last week Fiorentina beat the champions Juventus 2-1. Now Fiorentina is 3 steps away from winning the Coppa Italia, which they haven’t done in 16 years, and along with it arrives a ticket to the Champions league.

*If you though the Serie isn’t competitive enough now, imagine the gulf in 2006/07, where a team deducted 15 points managed to finish 3rd. So let’s take another league which is now stigmatised with the label uncompetitive, Ligue 1. If we go back to the 2006/07 season, turns out if the team who finished 3rd (Rennes) was docked 15 points from their total points at the end of the season, they would finish 18th and be relegated to Ligue 2!

RB Leipzig vs Hoffenheim ( Sat 28 14:30 )

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For those unfamiliar with geomagnetic reversal, it’s the process of the Earth’s magnetic poles, switching, usually every 450,000 years. A similar process is taking place in the Bundesliga as we speak, literally being turned on its head, apart from the unmoving FC Bayern*. You see top teams like Schalke, Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz switch places with sides which would usually be predicted to be lower down the table. In the football equivalent of Freaky Friday*2, RB Leipzig is 2nd, Hoffenheim are 5th. Now usually I would give you a synopsis on how Hoffenheim reached 5th place, but in this case, I found an article by These Football Times explaining it perfectly:

‘A key factor in Nagelsmann’s [Hoffenheim manager] philosophy is lodged in his ability to understand how to use his youth and lack of top-tier professional playing experience to his benefit rather than allow it be a hindrance.’

‘We have a plan for every match situation. It’s an incredibly flexible system. We can switch easily between three, four and five at the back during a game. We’re more unpredictable to play against this season, which is one of our big strengths.’ – Niklas Sule, Hoffenheim defender.

As good as Hoffenheim are, RB Leipzig has scored more goals and conceded fewer goals while also placed higher on the table. The synergy in Leipzig is so successful in part due to having a young, malleable squad, with an age limit on any signings above 24. Promoting youth also is integral to the fuel intensive gegenpress employed by Ragnick. However, even the energetic youth of Leipzig may struggle in the upcoming weeks. On the 21st of January, the home side plays an another rising team, Eintracht Frankfurt. They will kick lumps out of their opposition, accredited as the most aggressive side in the league with 47 yellow cards and 3 red cards so far. The following week they play the ingenious Hoffenheim followed by Dortmund, managed by Tomas Tuchel, the man who gave Nagelsmann’s football education. Both sides are beginning to bear the fruit of their hard work; two separate but equally captivating fairy tales converge for 90 minutes.

*My analogy wasn’t built to withstand any substantial scrutiny.

*2Freaky Friday is a movie about people who switch bodies, subsequently living the lives of the person who’s body they now inhabit. In fairness, these two clubs earned their way to the top instead of simply reading a fortune cookie.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Monaco ( Sun 29 20:00 )

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PSG are so strong compared to the other teams. I do not really take pleasure in matches. Italy is different, you have eight big matches in a season but in France it is two. And that’s coming from a former PSG player (Lavezzi), after they beat Troyes 9-0 in March with 8 games to spare, winning their fourth league title in a row and 25 points ahead of the next closest team. Fair enough. The words competition and Ligue 1 were almost considered antonyms after Lyon collected every league title from 2001-08, then you saw the hallmarks of PSG replicating that success after they collected their 4th title in 4 years. At least now we have 3 sides with a good chance of winning the league this season: Nice, Monaco and PSG. Right now, if you want to be entertained, Monaco is THE side to watch. Most surprising about Monaco’s insane goal tally is the shots per game. When a side scores 60 goals in 20 games, you’d expect a pulp-fiction level of shots fired, yet it’s only 13.2 per game. In shots to goal conversion (STG), Monaco is the most clinical in the world (of first division sides). To compare to the other elite sides (Monaco has an STG of 22.7%), Barcelona has 15.6%, Feyenoord 15.0%, Real Madrid 14.5%, while PSG has a respectable 13.8%. The away side face one of their toughest trips of the year, as PSG are currently undefeated in Parc de Princes. The top 3 are separated by 3 points, and if PSG can beat Monaco they are on equal points as them, while Monaco looks to keep up with Nice, only 1 point ahead.

Other Mentions: 

Juventus vs AC Milan ( Wed 25 19:45 )

Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid ( Wed 25 20:15 )

Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC ( Thu 26 08:50 )

Barcelona vs Real Sociedad ( Thu 26 20:15 )

Lyon vs Lille ( Sat 28 16:00 )

Boca Juniors vs River Plate ( Sun 29 01:10 )

Torino vs Atalanta ( Sun 29 11:30 )

Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad ( Sun 29 19:45 )

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


Sources:

WhoScored

http://thesefootballtimes.co/2016/05/25/juventus-calciopoli-and-a-year-in-serie-b/

http://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/01/10/julian-nagelsmann-and-the-reshaping-of-football-management/

http://www.foxsportsasia.com/news/leipzig-bundesliga-flying-start-analysis/

http://www.goal.com/en/news/1722/ligue-1/2016/03/13/21272902/paris-saint-germain-win-the-ligue-1-title-with-club-record

http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/465/france/2016/03/16/21372472/i-didnt-like-playing-in-ligue-1-says-former-psg-forward

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_football_champions

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 16 – Jan 22

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.

Manchester City vs Tottenham ( Sat 21 17:30 )

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The levels of punditry are about to reach pandemic in the coming weeks as the premier league tapped into a run of top tier fixtures to analyse (at least 1 game between 2 top 6 sides for 6 game weeks). This means the top 6 teams are going to be shifting constantly which also means from now on the top third of the table has the consistency of custard cream. These two are right in the midst of that, with Man City in 5th and Tottenham 2nd as I type. Now Man City will be without Fernandinho, who at this point is channelling either clumsy smurf or prime Vinnie Jones depending on your standpoint. Guardiola gives importance to Fernandinho, starting the most games of any City player (despite being banned for 6 games, 17) as well as the most tackles (2.2) and interceptions (1.8) for a midfielder per game. With Gundogan ruled out due to possible death, to partner Fernando in the favoured 4-2-3-1* are Yaya Toure (only playing 3/31 games together), Delph, Garcia or left back Zabaleta, who are fringe players for a reason. This really could not come at a much worse time as Tottenham are capable of slapping around an inadequate defence like they did last week against West Brom (4-0). From what we saw last week against Burnley, Guardiola still has a few bugs to work in his backline as the pinball haphazard defending is demonstrated here. As if it couldn’t get any more pessimistic for Manchester City, Tottenham are 1 of the only 3 teams to beat City, as well as having the lowest away losses in the league (along with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, but still). While I don’t think that the Man City fans should get the rosary beads out, as they too have a world class side and manager to match; Tottenham are well capable of an upset and continuing their form, (similar to an Olympic diver) which is perfect: WWWWWW.

*Unless Guardiola wants to experiment with other formations against Everton, I don’t know maybe 4-1-2-1-2 could work… nevermind.

AC Milan vs Napoli ( Sat 21 19:45 )

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The Calcio A has teams who can ping uncontrollably within 3rd to 7th position as the 5 are separated by only 3 points. Again, AC Milan (6th) and Napoli (3rd) are in the middle of that whirlwind. So using my knowledge (an amalgam of FIFA player ratings over the years) on the Italian league, my instant prediction was that this would be very tight. Well in retrospect I think more research must be done, but in short, there’s a good chance of Napoli putting a few past the home side. On paper, AC Milan have only lost once at home back in September last year against Udinese. But look up from the paper and onto the red Spartak Moscow scarf held by former AC Milan player Luiz Adriano. Can you make out what it says? It is, in fact, a little heartfelt message for his former club, reading: Thanks, F*ck You. The former attacker flopped hard, and while AC Milan have a not-small-but-nothing-special type of goal tally at 28, the attack needs a lot of work. For all the praise you can laud over Bocca and Suso, they remain the least penetrating attack in the league. You don’t need to have decades of managerial experience to deduce that the closer you are to the goal, the likely you are to score. So when you see that AC Milan have a taken the highest % of shots from outside the box (56%) and the lowest % of shots inside the 6-yard box (3%) in the entire league, you wonder how they are 6th. Partially due to the fact they have a quality side, but also due to the misfortune of other teams (Inter) who as a unit was flopping harder than Adriano ever could for a while. If you also take into account Milan’s good run of fixtures until recently, it makes sense how they remained 3rd for a while until teetering at their current spot, 6th. Now Napoli has superseded AC Milan, and remain the top goalscorers (42). In every other department, they can match or outdo their opposition. The goals conceded is very similar (22 for Napoli, 20 for AC Milan) and Napoli have the most *inhales* shots per game (17.9), possession (59.1%), pass success (87.3%), the least fouls conceded per game (9.9) and are the most disciplined with the lowest card tally (30 yellow, 1 red) in the league. Good luck AC Milan, because they will need it.

RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 21 17:30 )

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Have you seen Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid? The game has one side famous for it’s attacking prowess and the other is known for it’s bullish defending. The same dynamics are present in this fixture, except RB Leipzig take the place of Real while Frankfurt replaces Atleti. Turns out, Leipzig are out-Dortmunding Dortmund, utilising the gegenpress Jurgen Klopp had trademarked during his time in West Germany. It’s in part why their goal tally is so high, scoring the most goals as a result of counter-attacking in the league (7), making up 23% of all their goals. The away side are analogous to Atleti’s defence, conceding the least goals bar Bayern Munich (12). The spotlight has been on the home side with their pigs head, polarising public opinion and what not, but Frankfurt are unrecognisable from last season. The same team who finished 17th last season are holding down a champions league spot in January. Both sides are punching well above their weight, now they face each other.

Other Mentions: 

Torino vs AC Milan ( Mon 16 19:45 )

Twente vs Heracles ( Fri 20 19:00 )

Bordeaux vs Toulouse ( Sat 21 19:00 )

Juventus vs Lazio ( Sun 22 11:30 )

Roma vs Cagliari ( Sun 22 19:45 )

Lyon vs Marseille ( Sun 22 20:00 )

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