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 )

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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 )

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Nov 7 – Nov 13

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.

International week is one of the few times that football becomes more a chore than fun to watch. I’ve scraped the very bottom of the barrel to do something, anything. In fairness, the cards dealt could have been a lot worse, but chances are some of the matches may be sub-par. If your country is playing and by sheer dumb luck it happens to be a cracker. If you can sit through one week of this, please come back next Monday for a rundown of Prem, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and many more leagues. If not, go watch Game of Thrones or something till Monday.

Brazil vs Argentina ( Fri 11 00:45 )

 

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Courtesy of FourFourTwo

 

They’ll play their 103rd game, celebrating 102 years of the fixture tipped by ESPN FC, The Guardian and The Telegraph as the greatest international football rivalry of all time. This fixture is soaked in history, too much to wring in one paragraph, so here are the most memorable games. Looking at the home side first, Brazil is on the road to redemption from their infamous 7-1 loss after the football team picked up their first ever Olympic gold medals. They started strong in their qualification as well, ‘doing a Germany’ beating Haiti* 7-1, before losing 4 days later to Peru in what was described by Sky Sports as: ‘The defeat left Brazil struggling to digest their worst performance in the Copa America since 1987, the last occasion the five-time world champions failed to make it past the group stage.’ 

One step forward, 29 steps back (one for each year).

Obviously, that last statement was hyperbole, as since that game they’ve won their last five games in their world cup qualifiers. Looking at the current standing they seem to be doing alright for themselves.

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Looking further down the table, you’ll spot an underperforming Argentina in 6th place. With 8 games left there is plenty of time to salvage some points and climb back up the table, but worrying nonetheless that they are 10 games in and still outside the qualifying places (top 5).

More recently the Argentines are still looking for form as the start studded team have only won 1 of their last 5 games.

In response, new coach Bauza believes “The criticism doesn’t bother me at all. It’s normal. What irks me is the lack of respect for me, but also for my players. Some journalists think that’s the way to get a bigger audience.”

Fair Point.

*Granted, Haiti is not the same as Germany but a 7-1 is still as 7-1

England vs Scotland ( Fri 11 19:45 )

 

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Courtesy of The Telegraph

 

I think it’s safe to say that England is the king of mediocrity when it comes to football. Scotland is just doing their thing, be it failing to qualify for Euro 2016, losing 3-0 to Slovakia, or probably fail to qualify for the world cup in Russia 2 years from now. However, unlike England, you can justify giving the Scotland team this ‘at least you tried’ cake.

The difference can be explained using this simple comparison:

Scotland’s current manager Gordan ‘wee Chesney’ Strachan has a 23-year playing career including 5 at Manchester United, 10 years of managing teams like Celtic and Southampton. He’s famously short-tempered, no-nonsense, yet continually mugs off various media outlets:

Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result?
Strachan: You’re spot on! You can read me like a book.

Reporter: This might sound like a daft question, but you’ll be happy to get your first win under your belt, won’t you?
Strachan: You’re right. It is a daft question. I’m not even going to bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you’re spot on there.

Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it?
Strachan: No, I’m just going to crumble like a wreck. I’ll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge. Umm, I think I can take it, yeah.

Reporter: “Gordon, can we have a quick word please?”
Strachan: “Velocity” [walks off]

Reporter: Gordon, if you were English, what formation would you play?
Strachan: If I was English I’d kill myself!

England’s current manager is Gareth Southgate. His playing career is not bad with 18 years, his management career is interesting. His first job was at Middlesborough, getting off to a shaky start as the didn’t have the required coaching qualifications (the UEFA Pro License). A UEFA Pro Licence is a mandatory qualification for managing in the FA Premier League and UEFA competitions. A course to obtain a UEFA Pro Licence is by invitation only.

After that, he’s gone on to manage England under 20 and 21.

I shouldn’t be blaming Gareth Southgate for all of England’s problems, he’s simply a placeholder for the FA who continue to pass off a mediocre team as acceptable.