Scouting For Fixtures: Oct 17 – 0ct 23

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.

Liverpool vs Manchester United ( Mon 17 20:00 )

 

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

I suppose Newton’s third law applies to football also. Last Monday night we had the Louis Van Gaal slumber-inducing level of entertainment in the international friendlies. Now we counteract that with Liverpool vs Manchester United, equivalent to the embodiment of anger, frustration and euphoria bundled into this mess of a human being. And isn’t that what football is all about? No? Well, it holds true to this north-west derby, where to loathe your rivals was institutionalised over generations. You might think I’m exaggerating but Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, one of the nicest men in football, sounds more like a sleeper agent than a football player when recollecting his tackle on Ander Herrera: “I couldn’t stop myself. Without even giving myself time to think I brought my left foot stamping down on Herrera. I felt my studs sink into his flesh just above the ankle. It had to have hurt him.”. As for current standings, both teams could and should be doing better with the talent they have, but Mourinho and Manchester United are finding ever more ways to not win a football match. Be it late equalisers, missing easy goal scoring opportunities or amateur goalkeeping errors, and that was just from last week’s game. Liverpool are putting a tidy run together, with 4 consecutive wins, 2 of which came against Leicester and Chelsea. At Anfield, you would hedge your bets on an inform Liverpool, but in a derby of this nature, facing a team managed by Mourinho and lead by Ibrahimovic, you can’t count them out.

Leicester vs FC Copenhagen ( Tue 18 19:45 )

 

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Courtesy of Sky Sports 

 

 

Last month pundits thought it was impressive how FC Copenhagen kept their 37 game record of not losing at home intact, as they held Porto to a 1-1 draw. Fast forward 2 weeks and their home record becomes even more impressive as they thrash Belgium side Club Brugge 4-0; Thomas Delany stealing headlines with his peach of a volley. Leicester are cruising through the group stages so far, thwarting Club Brugge and securing 3 points against FC Porto. The Foxes may be heavy favourites against their counterparts, but The Lions have 10 years of European football experience under their belt. While Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri still believes ‘we are underdogs’ in the UCL, on Tuesday it will be FC Copenhagen causing an upset if they can overthrow the Premier League champions in their own backyard.

Barcelona vs Manchester City ( Wed 19 19:45 )

 

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

‘Stretched like spandex on Miami Beach’ is how football commentator Ray Hudson chose to describe Barcelona’s defending against Celta Vigo while painting a picture you wouldn’t associate with Sunday night football, but here we are. As that game ended 4-3 to Celta Vigo, it became more apparent that Barca couldn’t deal with counter attacking sides. We also saw Manchester City drop their first points in the Premier League, losing 2-0 to Tottenham with a counter-attack of their own. Guardiola is opting for possession based (60% per game) build up play, similar to his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides. If required, the citizens have the players required to execute the potent counter-attacking press that saw Celta Vigo outscore an impressive Barcelona attack. However, the City defenders with have to face a player that the Celta Vigo defenders were fortunate enough not to, Lionel Messi.

Bayern Munich vs Borussia M. Gladbach ( Sat 22 17:30 )

 

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Courtesy of Bundesliga

 

 

Borussia M. Gladbach travels to Munich, tumbling down the table after losing 4-0 to Schalke. SCHALKE. To put that in perspective, Schalke’s league performances up to that point has been the following: L L L L L. Bayern Munich fans were also stunned, as the home side only came away with 1 point after FC Cologne somehow held Ancelotti’s side to 1 goal; goalkeeper Timo Horn made one of the best saves of the year. As we’ve all come to expect, Bayern Munich are dominating the league. As well as topping the league with 16 points, they also have the most shots per game (19), highest possession (66%), pass accuracy (87.2%) and conceded the least amount of goals (2). Just to make it harder for the away side, Bayern Munich haven’t lost in 16 games, while Gladbach only won 1/14 of their last away games. So why bother watching? Every team has a bogey team, for Chelsea, it’s Sunderland, for Barca you have Celta Vigo and for FC Bayern, Borussia M. Gladbach. In their last 6 encounters, Gladbach have won 3, drawn twice, meaning FC Bayern have only won once (in a penalty shootout).

Feyenoord vs Ajax ( Sun 23 13:30 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Remember when I said Liverpool vs Manchester United was a fierce rivalry where loathing your rivals was institutionalised over generations?  Well, that seems more like a pre-season friendly for these guys, who just want to kill each other. No really, here’s what Ajax legend Ruud Kroll had to say on the matter: ‘We wanted to kill them’. As fate would have it, in the late 90’s, the dangerous levels of aggression lead to ‘supporters’ following through on Kroll’s words. When Carlo Picornie was killed in 1997 as a result of the derby riots, it sobered the nation and dutch football, casting a shadow on De Klassiker that lasts till today. Sitting in a packed, freezing cold stadium full of screaming fans is a uniquely terrifying experience I witnessed first hand, as well as being subjected to security before and after the game that makes US border security look relaxed and incomprehensive. It was all worth it, as it was one of the best games of football I witnessed, ending 4-2. Moving on, this derby known as De Klassiker (the classic) is the biggest game in the Netherlands, with its roots dating back to the 13th century. As for the 2016-17 season, Feyenoord tops the table after 8 matches, yet to drop a point*. Ajax aren’t far behind, sitting 2nd and hope to close the 5 point gap. Both teams are aggressively attacking, with Ajax scoring 23 (2.9 per game) and Feyenoord with 20 (2.5 per game). Don’t miss it.

*As I’m typing this up I see Feyenoord losing 1-0 to NEC Nijmegen with 30 minutes left, making my stats redundant approximately 17 minutes after posting the article. Fantastic.

EDIT: Oh wait it’s ended 1-2, with Kramer scoring in the 91′ minute! Oh my god.

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Scouting For Fixtures: Oct 10 – Oct 16

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.

Borussia Dortmund vs Hertha Berlin ( Fri 14 19:30 )

Courtesy of Sky Sports

 

Since Pál Dárdia took over a struggling Hertha BSC (finishing that season at 15th) a year ago, the Berliners finished 7th the following season and expect to continue a dramatic upward trajectory, currently floating above Borussia Dortmund at 2nd place. Both teams play direct football, Dortmund the most direct in the league with 31% of play coming down the middle, Hertha BSC just behind with 29%. Despite the similar playing styles, the disparity in creativity becomes clear with Dortmund attempting a huge 15.2 shots per game, for Hertha BSC the figure drops to only 8.7. Hertha BSC’s clinical striker Ibesivic is pivotal in this great run of form, contributing to 45% of all goals scored by the away side this season. We saw last week that an in-form striker can make all the difference, as a shaky Bayer Leverkusen overcame Tomas Tuchel’s side as start striker Chicharito secured a 2-0 win.

 

Chelsea vs Leicester ( Sat 15 12:30 )

Courtesy of Getty Images

 

The two Italian managers have malignant issues spreading through their respective teams. For Conte, his Chelsea backline is giving way game after game, conceding 9 goals in  7 games. The irony being this was the same man who formed the greatest defence currently in world football at Juventus: Bonnuci, Barzagli and Chiellini. In fairness, this is Conte’s first season in the premier league, experimenting with a 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 and 3-4-3. Their attack is promising, with Costa contributing to 50% of all Chelsea goals. Now looking to Claudio Ranieri, Leicester’s lack of form is in part due to a missing man in midfield. The new Chelsea man N’Golo Kante left a gaping hole in the middle of the park, as the only stats that saw a noticeable change over last season was tackles per game (22.9 last season to 16.1) and interceptions per game (21.6 to 14.6). Despite that loss, the tempo, clinical finishing and excitement in their UCL games are that of last season’s performances. The UCL presents a new territory to conquer while Leicester will never top their first ever premier league win, irrespective of the glory of winning a PL title. As a player how can you motivate yourself to win the PL again after what you achieved last season, and the nature in which it all spectacularly unfolded? So both managers come into the game with issues, yes, but their attacks are their strongest weapon of choice; be it Costa, Willian and Hazard for Chelsea, or Mahrez, Vardy and Slimani for Leicester.

Napoli vs Roma ( Sat 15 14:00 )

 

Roma’s manager Luciano Spalleti hopes his AS Roma side can win silverware this season, as he returns back to his club after 7 years. Roma is yet to win any trophy since his departure in 2009, leaving his club with a good foundation, 2 Coppa Italia’s and a Supercoppa Italiana trophy. Roma may sit 6th after 7 matches, but the attack is the best in the league, with 16 so far, the best of which is Stephan El Sharaarwy’s sweet strike.  While Napoli has just lost to Atalanta, their home record goes like this: WWWWWWWWW. Not bad. Milik, Mertens, Callejon and Hamsik are all targets for Roma defenders, with 13 goals and 3 assists between them. If any occasion were big enough to end the streak it would be this game, also known as de Derby del Sole (Derby of the Sun). As for Roma actually coming away with any points, good luck, but it should be a worthwhile experience watching attack after attack after attack after attack …

Athletic Club vs Real Sociedad ( Sun 16 15:15 )

Courtesy of Reuters

 

It will be the 107th year and 140th derby between the two biggest teams in Basque. Basque is an area of northern Spain with as much history as its representative football clubs, Bilbao and Sociedad. The unfortunate trend of most competitive derbies is division, fights and more violence, the Basque derby is a shining example of how a derby should be a celebration of the local area and bring people together (good luck trying to sell that to Tottenham and Arsenal fans). Nothing exemplifies this idea more that the fact both Real Sociedad and Bilbao fans sit side by side, with no stewards present. The significance of this derby is interwoven deeply between the areas political strain and some would say even religion, as one tourist guide points out: ‘We have two cathedrals in the city. The first where people go to pray; the second is the stadium of Athletic Club’.

Sources:

ESPN FC

FourFourTwo

Getty Images

Reuters

Sky Sports

These Football Times

WhoScored

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