Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 20 – Feb 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.

Manchester City vs Monaco ( Tue 21 19:45 )

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If you’re going to watch any match this week – or even this year for that matter – this one would be a worthwhile candidate. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Well, scratch that. It’s this one, my bad. Don’t get me wrong, just look at the 60-second highlight above. It had a fair share of jump-out-of-your-couch-and-do-a-power-lap-of-the-house-because-of-what-you-just-witnessed moments*. Them ones. Insigne and then the CDM Casemeiro!?

 No, it’s not a cup final or a derby, but it’s hard to look past that mountain of goals [161]. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Again, my bad. A 161 goal tally is like Mount Kailash, but the mountain I’m describing here rivals Everest. The combined total goals scored (in all competitions) for these two teams is *drumroll* one hundred and ninety-three, 193 times the ball has hit the back of the net*2. You have the most lethal attack in the world, Monaco (119 goals), against a-uh, less than ideal lineup at the back. The same can go the other way, Manchester City’s attack is more than capable of destroying Monaco’s backline. That’s why if you mapped out Man City performances on a graph it would look like a heart rate monitor of a tachycardia patient, regardless of the relatively stable form. Need I remind you the same team outscored Barcelona (3-1) yet conceded 4 goals against Everton (4-0). Man City is the epitome of the Gym Lad who only works out the chest, arms and shoulders but disregards the legs. Monaco may look like they have a solid defence, but Ligue 1 is generally low scoring, leaving the back 5 relatively untested. This is unmissable, with the potential to go down as one of the great Champions League fixtures. Not to recycle my old material for the 3rd time but

how lucky are we; the reverse fixture will be played in 2 weeks. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

*Coming from personal experience.

*That is an insane goal tally. For the sake of argument, if you take the Bundesliga top 5, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund, and Hoffenheim, then add them together, you would still be 11 goals off the combined total of Man City and Monaco.

Real Betis vs Sevilla ( Sat 25 15:15 )

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So you’re not allowed to play for Sevilla, what do you do? Create your own club of course. That’s the for Dummies version of events but does not do justice to the rich and tumultuous story of this rivalry, 101 years in the making. It’s like describing The Titanic as Everyone tries the Ice Bucket Challenge. For the sake of saving both your and my time, let’s move on. When your opposition chants ‘Viva er Beti manque pierda!’, meaning ‘Long live Betis, even when they lose!’, fear isn’t the go-to emotion your opposition would be feeling. However, Sevilla may be the one exception to that. The rich history that makes the derby so great, also makes it easier for politics and senselessness to bleed onto the pitch:

If by isolated and one-off, León meant that only one large, full bottle connected with Ramos’s head, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that Ramos was the only person who staggered on to the pitch, collapsed into a heap, lost consciousness and was forced to spend last night in hospital, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that the man who threw the bottle was the only fan whose aim was true, he was also right. But in every other way, he was completely and utterly wrong. If there is one thing that last night’s event was not it is isolated. And it was not isolated on so many levels. – Sid Lowe

The game itself has the merit of being one of the most intense in the world. El Clasico is more glamorous in Spain, but the Seville Derby is without question more passionate. A passion you cannot find in most derbies, which permeates throughout the whole city:

Fans of clubs would often sign up their unborn children for club memberships and taxi drivers who support one team have often refused fares that require them to drive them to the other club’s stadium.

The gulf between the two sides is seen clearly in the La Liga table, with Sevilla (3rd) competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona for the title. Betis are 13th, drawing their last 3 but get to boast the fact one of them were Barcelona. Irrespective of the result, the games are unusual in that you’ll witness a strange phenomenon where the players will try to kick the opposition shins instead of the ball.

Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 26 15:15 )

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Mine was Three Little Birds – Bob Marley, but everyone has their own. The first time I heard that song that was the only song I’d listen to for days on end, by which time nor was I exhausted of it but I actively avoided it for years. The reason I mention it is because that’s how I feel about this fixture also. The games themselves are worth the watch, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about them. But that’s why I resent it, how many different ways can you pick at the same fixture before you exhaust yourself? It feels like it’s in the hundreds but in actuality, these two sides have faced each other 6 times in the last 12 months, the 3rd time this month. Volatile would be the word to describe these games. Just two weeks ago, the game played only had 2 goals but had 3 red cards, 11 yellow cards, about 500 fouls, a missed penalty, and a 35-40 yard almost perfect free kick from Messi. Not to mention Atleti were disallowed a clear goal that would have seen them through to extra time and with an extra man:

Beautiful ball played in and that is absolutely onside he’s level, he’s even behind Pique by a foot or so. And that one is *inhales* badly, BADLY refereed by the linesman – Ray Hudson

That one call cost them a game they were on course to win. No love lost there.

Manchester United vs Southampton ( Sun 26 16:30 )

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Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 20.23.10.pngGuys, it’s not that bad.

In terms of prestige, the League Cup sits somewhere between the Community Shield and a Blue Peter badge. – Johnathon Liew, Telegraph

No, seriously it’s not THAT bad.

The EFL Cup is so boring that nobody has shown up for Southampton v Sunderland

Southampton fans clearly fancied staying in for the Great British Bake Off final tonight. To be fair to the Black Cats, around 1,500 away fans made the long trip from Sunderland to the south coast this evening. But the locals should hang their heads in shame.

Nick Elliot, DREAM TEAM FC

Fine, if you’re going to be pessimistic I might as well join in. Southampton is well-accredited with the label boring with frustration building in the home supporters. The stigma of boring Van Gaal still looms of Mourinho’s Manchester United, and we all know it is possible for the Portuguese manager to bring back and park his famous – or infamous – bus. Questions could be asked of whether Man Utd deserved to get here with very favourable draws in the quarter and semi (arguably the final) finals. In terms of form, it is the one time when the form is irrelevant. So why put this on the list you ask? It’s a CUP FINAL. We love cup finals. We love it the same reason you look forward to the series finale of your favourite TV show. This is the conclusion to 8280 minutes of football with an ensemble cast of 92 teams. This is my Felina of Breaking Bad, just with less killing and meth, one would hope.

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

FC Porto vs Juventus ( Wed 22 19:45 )

Sevilla vs Leicester ( Wed 22 19:45 )

Corinthians vs Palmeiras ( Thu 23 00:45 )

Hertha Berlin vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 25 17:30 )

Feyenoord vs PSV Eindhoven ( Sun 26 13:30 )

Inter vs Roma ( Sun 26 19:45 )

 

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Scouting For Fixtures: Oct 24 – Oct 30

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.

There will not be a post for the week of Oct 31 – Nov 6, but regular posts will continue afterwards. 

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Tue 25 19:45 )

Courtesy of Mirror

 

The league cup has gotten a lot of flak over the years. Often described as a B-Tech FA Cup, as Jonathon Liew eloquently sums up ‘In terms of prestige, the League Cup sits somewhere between the Community Shield and a Blue Peter badge.’ The signs point to a very tight match. Both teams have an identical form (DWWWWD), separated by only 1 point and 1 place on the premier league table. The home side will be up for it, as it may be their chance to win their first silverware in 4 years; finally legitimising the famous (or infamous) this is our year meme. Tottenham however, does not have the same luxuries as Liverpool. After this cup game, Spurs have a terrible run of fixtures which include: Leicester, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, West Ham, Monaco and then Chelsea to round off a hectic November. For the most athletic team in the league (covering 114.8km per match on average), not even Pocchetino’s men can go for the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. Fingers crossed, Liverpool and Tottenham treat this match as it should be and we enjoy some entertaining midweek football.

Manchester United vs Manchester City ( Wed 26 20:00 )

Courtesy of GQ

 

Just under seven weeks would have passed since MUFC lost to their local rivals 1-2 at Old Trafford. After the 1-2, the two teams have diverged from their previous string of wins. Man Utd continued their losing streak, first Feyenoord and then Watford. They are yet to lose since; the catch being their only major obstacle was Liverpool until now. Man City continued an increasing winning streak until Celtic started a cascade of draw followed by loss followed by draw followed by a loss, yet to win a game in 32 days and counting. Also, Guardiola now also has Aguero and Gundogan at his disposal. Despite Paul Pogba’s brace against Fenerbache, the thorough scrutiny of his best position, quality and temperament are only getting worse. It’s only exacerbated by the £95.3 million price tag, endless dabbing and Paul’s recent statement: ‘I will need a little time to adapt in Manchester, time for the machine to start working. I am adapting.’ There is one constant, Claudio Bravo. In that 1-2 victory over Manchester United, the home side still nabbed one goal, in part due to Claudio Bravo’s poor clearance. Bravo’s most recent performance against Barcelona could be partially forgiven because 1) It’s Barcelona 2)  The defenders were a mess. What cannot be forgiven is another godawful, bizarre clearance followed by a red card.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Sat 29 19:45 )

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Courtesy of DreamTeamFC

 

When you go from euphoric highs like the spine-tingling rendition of the GONZALO HI-GUI-IIIN chant to realising your most beloved player is defecting to your richer, stronger, more successful rival, it’s enough to push anyone over the edge. In the midst of a tsunami of visceral hate, at least the Napoli fans are getting creative with it. The picture above tells a lot about the sort of reception the €90 million man should expect from the Napoli away support, except for the fact all Napoli fans are banned from attending the game  ‘due to the heated rivalry between the two clubs, which already developed in the past into seriously critical situations for public order’. The problems continue to snowball for Napoli, as they just cannot stop losing. First Atalanta, second is Roma, followed by Besiktas. Even if Napoli beat Crotone today, the psychological boost from winning is unlikely to overcome an inform Juve side, current Serie A champions and holding 1st place.

Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke 04 ( Sat 29 17:30 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Expect the Sudtribune to be bouncing just a bit more, a few more flares and a hell of a lot more security. The 149th Revier derby starts at a time when both teams are going through changes. For Dortmund, their form has fallen off a cliff, as their winning streak has been substituted by a winless streak similar to Schalke. The reverse applies to the away side, who’ve been struggling for points until recently, beating Borussia M. Gladbach 4-0 and drawing their most recent fixture. Lucky for Dortmund, form goes out the window in a game fuelled by passion and an electric atmosphere. Dortmund and Schalke are very similar despite the hatred of their opposition. Both teams are in the Ruhr region, separated by only 20 miles. The origin of both clubs can be found in the local coal and steel factories, both teams forming within five years of each other. If you know how a magnet works, putting two powerful ones of the same charge will only repel.