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/

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Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 4 – Apr 10

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

All times are in GMT.

‘Forget Dortmund vs Bayern Munich; this is the biggest derby in Germany.’

  1. Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 05 19:45 )

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Often the CL brings out the best in the world, as shown the last time these two faced each other where Diego produced this atomic rocket strike from distance, swerving into the top corner. What we have here is an even split, the best attack in the world against the best defence in the world. Looking at Atleti, they embody hard work and determination. For a team to concede 14 goals in 30 games is testament to Simeone’s capabilities as a world-class coach. While they’re not as easy on the eye, they get the job done and get results. With one exception. Despite the rock solid defence, and even a considerably threatening attack; the Catalonian giants have won the last 6/6 matches between these 2, 5 of them as recently as last year. What we’re seeing with MSN is 3 players in their prime (debatable with Neymar) and considered by many the best player in their respective positions. They hold their place in a bracket with the likes of the Best-Charlton-Law and Rivaldo-Ronaldo-Ronaldinho trios. If the Madrid side want to beat Barca they have to shut down Mr Peekaboo, Sergio Busquets. He’s the pivot between defence and midfield and is vital to Barca’s success over the years. Shut him down and your halfway there. Will they? Well they’re capable, and done it before, but it’s impossible to sustain that level of pressure for 90 minutes. It’s all up in the air.

 

 

2. Borussia Dortmund vs Liverpool ( Thu 07 20:05 )

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It’s definitely an emotional return for the former Dortmund man, Jurgen and Liverpool travel to Germany, taking on cup favourites Borussia Dortmund. When Klopp took over Dortmund he inspired this mid-table side with his tactical-nous and unique man management, elevating them to European status and leaving a profound impact on players and fans alike. Since the Liverpool move, even in his short tenure we’re seeing the beginnings of that relentless ‘heavy metal’. The disparity between the two sides is apparent. Liverpool are a team in progress but Dortmund are fully realised, with great understanding of Thomas Tuchel’s system and players of a different calibre to most of the Anfield players. BVB (weren’t exactly going for it… but still) comfortably cruised through what looked to be tough opposition Spurs, with a 5-1 win on aggregate. Expect a warm reception from the yellow wall, but a restless 90 minutes as both thrive on the counter with fast, precision play.

 

 

3. West Ham vs Arsenal ( Sat 09 12:45 )

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The premier league is imploding. You’ve got Chelsea in mid-table, Leicester and Tottenham the two tittle challengers and now West Ham have a chance of champions league. Slaven Bilić has gone above and beyond the expectation of even the most optimistic West Ham fans, as they contemplate going into next season with an Olympic stadium and potentially European football. Arsène Wenger’s under the gun to keep Arsenal afloat and hold a slim 4 point hold on a struggling Man City. If one word could describe this Arsenal side, it would be bipolar. Unfortunately for Arsenal they’ve developed a habit of clutching defeat from the jaws of victory; what’s most worrying is that it usually against the grain. They should take a leaf out of Bendtner’s book. Even if Arsenal brings their a-game it doesn’t bode well for the away side. The Hammers have the best home form in the league with 16 points out of a total 18, beating Southampton, Liverpool and Tottenham in the process, which Arsenal never managed when at home. Both teams need the 3 point as insurance for Europe as with 7 weeks left, only a few points separate the window of uncertainty between 3rd to 7th.

 

 

4. Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sun 10 14:30 )

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Forget Dortmund vs Bayern Munich; this is the biggest derby in Germany. The Rivierderby is one of the few that remain un-sedated by the modern game, with an atmosphere that literally shakes the Sudtribune to its foundation. The home side are tucked in neatly in 5th place, insuring Europe, but the current forms suggest anything but an easy end to the season. The downfall for Schalke is their in creative play, as there isn’t any. On paper they should be, with the young flair of Meyer and Sane mixed with the experience of Huntelaar, but what we mostly see is rigid, stale and careless. When they do turn up they produce the best football Bundesliga has to offer, and be sure they’ll bring their best to this derby. We already know how good Dortmund are, but even for them, they’ve been exceptional all season. It’s evident in the league, as for the first time in years Bayern Munich have an actual rival in BVB. As for what to expect; the 2015 resulted in an average of 4 goals a game and with Dortmund being as clinical as they are this season, expectations are high.

 

 

5. Tottenham vs Manchester United ( Sun 10 16:00 )

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If Tottenham want a chance of winning their first ever Premier league title, they have to win every game left to bridge the 7 point gap between them and Leicester. Man Utd hold a different challenge as they sit in the aforementioned ‘window of uncertainty’, the two Manchester clubs and West Ham battle for the 4th and 5th European spot. Tottenham’s spine looks in good shape with Kane, Alli and Dier, crucial to the 3-2 comeback against the world cup winners (what d’you mean Netherlands?) and would give a boost to Pochettino’s men ahead of the fixture. The Man Utd players didn’t have any notable performances during the international break. The Red Devils have gone backwards over the course of the season as Louis Van Gaal’s tenure has been just short of a catastrophe. The team is so deep in disarray, there’s no notable style of play and are now out of Europe, out of the title race and out of ideas. This seems the sort of game where Tottenham can send a statement to the rest of the league with a big performance as Man Utd are technically a ‘big club’. Take from that what you will. Spurs are superior in almost every department apart from the GK spot, but I doubt even De Gea can save United from the impending collapse.

 

Other Mentions:

Bayern Munich vs Benfica ( Tue 05 19:45 )

Wolfsburg vs Real Madrid ( Wed 06 19:45 )

Paris Saint Germain vs Manchester City (Wed 06 19:45 )

Real Salt Lake vs Colorado Rapids ( Sun 10 02:30 )

 

 

Feel like I missed out any matches or wanna give me any feedback? Comment Below.