Scouting for Fixtures: May 08 – May 14

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.

Juventus vs Monaco ( Tue 09 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 14.29.45.png

The end is near for Monaco, as hopes dwindle for the chance for the Champions League. Hats off to Monaco, as they’re the first French team in the semi-finals in 7 years, but winning the trophy has not been accomplished by France since 1993. The first leg ended 0-2 to Juve so Monaco has to score at least three times at San Siro. Might as well pack your bags and call it a night as the last time that happened was the 3rd of November 2012 against a legendary Inter Milan side. But yet again, I reiterate, Monaco is the best-attacking side in the world as of now.  Expect a do-or-die attitude from the away side on Tuesday, with a good chance of ending up a high scoring game.

Boca Juniors vs River Plate ( Sat 13 22:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 19.36.46.png

There is only a handful of times where 22 men kicking a ball around for an hour and a half can bring a city to a grinding halt. Milan, Glasgow, Rome, Cairo and Buenos Aires. To some football is a religion but in this case, Scientology is a more accurate description, because they are as crazy and hardcore as fans come (in a good way).

Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about

– The Guardian

Usually when your dishing out nicknames, its creative, like the Red Devils or the Gunners. These guys don’t hold back. River Plate is known as Las Gallinas for choking throughout the years. Pretty tame to be honest. In an act of vengeance, Boca Juniors are known as Los Bosteros, which roughly translates to livestock faeces or crap dwellers. Literally shits and giggles with these guys. There have been some truly blockbuster level games over the years, with 5 players sent off in the game last year. Buenos Aires has been an incubator for great talent over the years, needless to say, it’s worth staying up late for this one.

Tottenham vs Manchester United ( Sun 14 16:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 20.01.13.png

Oh, how the tables have turned, literally. Five years ago you would’ve seen Manchester United chasing for the title and Tottenham hoping to get into the champions league. The sad thing for Tottenham fans is that even though they’re playing the best football I’ve seen in my lifetime; there is no silverware – probably – to show for it. Their opponents are in the semi-finals of the Europa league. Even their rivals Arsenal, as bad as their season has been, is in an FA cup final. The psychological value of physically holding that trophy is one which is invaluable for a player, justifying the hard work they put in. More of a long term consideration for Spurs players. The current situation at Old Trafford could be the plot points of the next A Series of Unfortunate Events novel. Rashford and Young limped off the field on Thursday, joining Ibrahimovic, Shaw, Rojo and Mensah on the sidelines, as Bailly and Smalling continue recovery. This late in the season, games like this make or break it.

Side note: This was written before Arsenal played Manchester United.

Real Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sun 14 19:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 20.56.19.png

Real Madrid is one of the best teams in the world. According to the UEFA coefficient, they are THE best team, followed by Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Juventus (in that order). However the last time Los Blancos won La Liga was 5 years ago, while the others won their leagues 1, 1, 3 and 1 year ago respectively. If Real Madrid wins their two games in hand they will win the league. Real Madrid has Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Malaga left to play. Sevilla is undoubtedly the toughest opponents, as Los Blancos have won, drawn and lost with Sevilla this year already. Madrid can’t afford a loss, and neither can Sevilla. The away side is chasing their own hopes of champions league, holding onto the last qualifiers spot. Losing this game could shrink the gap to 3 point cliff with a game to go. If past visits are anything to go by, this is going to be an eventful game. And one Sergio Ramos will be at the centre of it, probably.

Games I would have written about but was too lazy:

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid ( Wed 10 19:54 )

Manchester United vs Celta Vigo ( Thu 11 20:05 )

Lyon vs Ajax ( Thu 11 20:05 )

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Bayern Munich ( Sat 13 14:30 )

Atalanta vs AC Milan ( Sat 13 19:45 )

Crystal Palace vs Hull ( Sun 14 12:00 )

Roma vs Juventus ( Sun 14 19:45 )

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 19.32.50.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 19.47.28.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 20.06.34.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 20.19.30.png

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:

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 22.21.58.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 11.56.21.png

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.

ezgif.com-video-to-gif.gif

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 12.13.05.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 12.30.39.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 12.43.22.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 13.09.54.png

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 03 – Apr 09

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:

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 14.07.53.png

Roma vs Lazio ( Tue 04 19:45 ) Napoli vs Juventus ( Wed 05 19:45 )

The commentary alone paints a picture. Breaking the mic with screams of joy; hearing a real life Italian man, with genuine angst in his voice shoutMama Mia!’ is one of the best compliments one could receive, and the Roman derby deserves it. Lazio came into this game, yet to beat their rivals since 2013. Roma is also playing their best football in recent years, currently 2nd place and with a mountain [63] of goals. So when Lazio won 2-0 it was time to crack out the beers, and the bald eagle, of course. Take a leaf out of Quentin’s book, there were many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, shots. There should be no reason to expect any different in the 2nd leg.

The Nazzuri may felt the same way Lampard felt when his goal was disallowed, Ireland failed to qualify for the world cup or lamenting the fact you got a C for the fifth time even though you spent hours revising before hand. Underserved is what I’m saying, going the long and scornful way around it. So Juventus scored 3 goals. The first one was a penalty that well, it’s tenuous calling it a foul. The second goal you can have no complaints, no one else is to blame but the goalkeeper who ran towards the ball like a moth to a flame. The third goal (2nd penalty) was unquestionably wrong, as Reina made contact with the ball before the player. So a game that ended 3-1 could’ve ended 1-1 will all to play for. But if any team could turn it around it would be the top goal scorers in Italy.

Barcelona vs Sevilla ( Wed 05 18:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 14.59.01.png

Maybe Sampaoli saw a litter of black cats, or the team were possessed by the spirit of Goofy the klutz. The players have their part to play, but the quick succession and nature of defeats is a tad cruel. After 25 games were played, Sevilla had 55 points, only 2 behind 2nd place Barcelona. Following that game was a draw to Alaves – who they should be beating – and a draw to Osasuna – who were on a 7 game losing streak. Following that they lost to Atletico, reducing the gap between Sevilla and 4th place to 2 points. As La Liga only has 3 champions league places, Sevilla’s prerogative went from challenging Barca to see out 3rd place*. The gap between Barcelona extended to 6 points, as they look to win a La Liga trophy. To compound the misery, Sevilla exited the champions league is extraordinary circumstances. Barca returns to the Nou Camp with a very well rested Messi, not only banned internationally but domestically too, due to a build up of yellow cards so missed last weeks game.

*3rd place is an achievement. But, no one remembers Tottenham’s last season as a team who won a champions league place for the first time in 4 seasons, they remember them as the side who finished 3rd in a 2-horse race. Granted those were more extreme circumstances, but they were both let downs unless Sevilla can prove me wrong with the 10 games they have left.

Chelsea vs Manchester City ( Wed 05 20:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 15.14.09.png

We can’t fault him. Guardiola, the man who came with high, if not impossible expectations will probably run out the last quarter of the season seeing out a champions league place. He tried everything. Various systems, formations, players changing position, even banning wifi during training and instigating communal meals. Drawing with Liverpool at home and then calling it ‘one of the proudest days of my coaching career’ is a tad bit pathetic, but bless him, his heart is in the right place. Now he’s left with a roided up attack with a flimsy base. That flimsy base has to face Chelsea. Oh and we all saw what happened the last time. A WWE approach was adopted towards the end of the last match as Fernandinho attempted (but failed) the Undertakers chokeslam, resulting in 2 red cards. Can’t expect anything less than another end-to-end game here.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Sat 08 15:15 )

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 15.32.01.png

If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse.
Forget tactics, it’s Real Madrid. Get out there and stick it up their arses!
– Luis Aragones, former Atleti manager

You may think the man above it crazy, but it’s a build up of frustration and misplaced (literally) rage that comes with following a club defined by their losses for the longest time. That was the before Simeone era. Now we are into the after Simeone era filled with world class defenders, trophies ( well only 2) and new hope. Still, Los Blancos have an air of superiority over their rivals, and Simeone’s men will require a tremendous amount of restraint not to kick the lights out of their opposition players.

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

Hoffenheim vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 04 19:00 )

FC Cologne vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Tue 04 19:00 )

Villarreal vs Athletic Club ( Fri 07 19:45 )

Universidad de Chile vs Colo Colo ( Sat 08 16:00 )

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 08 17:30 )

Lazio vs Napoli ( Sun 09 19:45 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 27 – Apr 02

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.

Check out the Other Mentions at the bottom as this week there was an unprecedented amount of heavyweight games, enjoy.

Liverpool vs Everton ( Sat 01 12:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 16.14.52.png

It may sound sadistic, but these are the sort of rivalries where you relish inflicting any pain possible on your opposition. It’s exacerbated for Everton seeing that – let’s be honest – European football is as likely for them this season, as is me getting with Cara Delevigne. If someone came up to you and described a game as:

You want to hurt each other. The tackles are more brutal, the challenges wilder. It’s meatier than other matches.

I am immediately on board. I don’t know why this phenomenon occurs, but it is synonymous with entertainment. When you wish, just horrific thoughts on your opposition players, 1. you need help and 2. you are witnessing a derby worth watching. For a neutral, if there is a favourable turn of events, it’s like watching everyone morph into Connor McGregor for a few minutes. All it takes is one ‘liberal’ challenge and the fuse has been set. Everton has more or less reached the ceiling in terms of their position. Breaking through the wall of Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal is too big a challenge this season. Liverpool is hanging on to that last Champions league spot for dear life. Man Utd and Arsenal within a stone’s throw away, plus they have 2 games in hand on Liverpool. If Everton contributed to Liverpool’s downfall from European football, it would be even more comical considering the last time Everton won a Merseyside derby was 7 years ago.

Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 01 14:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 16.55.18.png

The unexpected enormity of this fixture is something to behold. The picture above compresses tens of thousands of simultaneous emotions onto a few pixels. In actuality, the 22 men are playing for the Revierderby. For the layman, you’d probably heard of the Revierderby in the fringes of Bundesliga talk, or not at all. Under the radar in recent years due to a recent lack of silverware and big name players (until recently), but this is as big as it gets in Germany. It’s a hallmark trait of these derbies, the atmosphere is different, you can feel it through the TV or computer screen. Those who are more up to date with German football know that both these clubs are flopping. Maybe harsh considering Dortmund is only in 3rd place, but many pinned hopes on BVB leading the charge on pulling FC Bayern down of their throne. Instead, Dortmund is fighting it out with rising clubs like RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin for champions league. Those rising clubs have pushed Schalke down to 9th, where from what I can see are twiddling their thumbs till next season arrives. But all the built up frustration and form is washed away with the arrival of this derby.

Monaco vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Sat 01 20:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 17.17.08.png

Blessed be the name of the lord, blessed be your name, for God has given the holy grail of fixture lists this week – Revelations 10:66

I didn’t fact check that* but I’m pretty sure that was in Revelations. Makes sense to, if you look at the Expendables-esque lineup ahead. This one included. To steal another weighty proverb:

Onions have layers – Shrek

Not only do we have Monaco, who has the strike force equivalent to a roided up SEAL team; they face the current champions of France, PSG. Not only that, but they face each other in a Coupe de la Ligue fixture. Not only that. It’s the final. Monaco is showing PSG how it is done so far. None of this 6-1 loss to Barcelona crap and cry about it after (though they may have a point). Domestically, Monaco has the upper hand, 8 games left and holding the top spot. It’s impossible to do what PSG have done and maintained it. Now with Europe out the question and Monaco in line to win Ligue 1, this is their most likely and immediate chance of winning silverware this season.

*I’m not fake news please no hate.

Benfica vs FC Porto ( Sat 01 20:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.12.18.png

With 10 games left, I can say with confidence that one of these 2 teams will win Liga NOS. As things stand, Benfica is 1st with 64 points, Porto is 1 place and 1 point behind them. The next closest are Sporting CP who are 9 points behind. And the name of this game: O Clássico. With a name like that you come to expect a certain level of football that is a given. With a combined 9 international titles between them, the weight is justified. WWWWWWD. WWWWWWD. One of those is the form of Porto, the other is the form of Benfica. Geographically is the only distinct difference between these 2. Clearly, on paper, there is very difficult to distinguish who is the better side. Not to resort to the wine cliche, so I’ll opt for the less used cheese analogy. Like a finely aged cheese (E.g. Monterey Jack), the derby has had over 100 years to affinage. the game itself predates the league it currently resides in by 22 years. That’s 1 Wisconsin cheddar older than Liga Nos. Not to undercut (please don’t click off) the tension with all this cheese talk, it really is one of the biggest derbies in the world, we expect grate things (please, please don’t click off).

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 02 16:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.30.13.png

For better or worse – depending on your perspective – Arsenal is making bigger strides in the meme community than in the football community. The most recent loss to West Brom only adds more wood to a bonfire set alight months ago. WLLWLL. The Gunners form is horrific, and the gut instinct is change. But who? There are some shouts of Allegri but at this point, there is no way of distinguishing fact from fiction. You don’t want to end up with the next David Moyes, followed by Louis ‘philosophy’ Van Gaal*. Look at Man City. They knew Pep Guardiola was coming from the point Mancini left 4 years ago. While both currently reside in the tornado that formed between 2nd and 7th place, Man City unquestionably hold the upper hand. There is some hope for the home side, as the last 2 encounters in Emirates, Arsenal won both against Man City. That is the only positive thing I could find.

*I miss this man so much.

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

France vs Spain ( Tue 28 20:00 )

Hertha Berlin vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 31 19:30 )

Ajax vs Feyenoord ( Sun 02 13:30 )

Napoli vs Juventus ( Sun 02 19:45 )

 

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 13.29.56.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 13.44.16.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 14.04.43.png

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 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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 10.55.35.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 11.11.38.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 11.25.23.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 15.33.59.png

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: Feb 13- Feb 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.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona ( Tue 14 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 15.47.48.png

One would greet you with a bonjour while the other prefers a holla. Apart from that, they are more or less identical. Like how identical twins are made up of different individual molecules,  but they have the exact outward appearance. The individual molecules, in this case, is each player. The outward appearance is (almost) everything else. The fact they play the same formation (4-3-3) is only the beginning*. Both sides rarely give up possession with Barca: 61.7% and PSG: 60.9%, the highest % in their respective leagues; an extremely high pass accuracy go hand in hand (Barca: 86.3% and PSG: 88.7%). Both sides can slice a team in half, with a relatively high 29% of attacks coming from the middle for both sides. Defensive wise, the differences are negligible: 0.6% difference in tackles per game, 1.5% in interceptions and 0.2% in fouls per game. Position wise in their leagues, both are 2nd. EVEN THE FORM. Both sides are identical (all competitions) in their last 8 matches: WWWWWDWW. But, after painstaking research, I’ve finally found one difference. Barcelona has a much higher % of the time in the opposition third (32%) than PSG (26%), it’s only 6% but please let me have this. The ability to sustain pressure could be a factor in how lopsided the results have been, with PSG only winning 1 of the last 6 encounters. So it’s on Cavani, Draxler and Moura to keep up with MSN.

*You know when you play rock-paper-scissors against someone and every time you both give the same item? Every. Single. Time. That’s how it felt writing this paragraph.

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 15.57.30.png

Do you think God watches ArsenalfanTV*? For the first time in 6 years, Arsenal finally finishes 1st in their group. They don’t have to face FC Bayern, again. Because you can’t get drawn with a team who finishes the same place as you. And, surely Bayern finished 1st? For the first time in 8 years, FC Bayern finishes 2nd. Be it Murphy’s law or divine intervention, Arsenal faces FC Bayern for the 4th time in 5 seasons. Arsenal has never progressed to the quarter-finals when drawn with Bayern Munich in the round of 16. It goes without saying that the German champions are heavy favourites, as they won the tournament 5 times, 5 more than Arsenal did. The English side just cannot compete at the highest level. Physically and technically, the premier league takes a Darwinian approach, making sure only the fittest can survive. But mentally is where Arsenal falter almost consistently. Good sides can beat an inferior opposition, but great sides have the mental capacity or winning mentality’ which the Germans have in abundance. Arsenal has only lost 3 of their 7 games played against the top 6, but Bayern has only lost 3 all season. The Arsenal fan base is like a pressure cooker with the lid stuck; if Wenger doesn’t fix it soon, it’s only a matter of time before it explodes. Getting knocked out the champions league only adds heat to the flame underneath the pot.

*For those unacquainted with this gem of a youtube channel, it started off well intentioned, ‘It was set up by Arsenal Fans for Arsenal Fans.’ in their own words. For Arsenal fans, it’s catharsis to watch a fellow fan blow their frustration or debate opinions. For everyone else, ‘It’s like watching an Internet comment section come to life’ as put by Paul Tamburro on Crave.

Real Madrid vs Napoli ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 16.04.03.png

This game encapsulates why I started this blog (just over a year ago now), to a tee. Read the description: ‘Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.’ One hundred and sixty-one.  Since the start of this season, collectively, both sides have a combined total of 161 goals in all competitions. If you’re going to watch any match this week – or even this year for that matter – this one would be a worthwhile candidate. And how lucky are we; the reverse fixture will be played in 2 weeks. No, it’s not a cup final or a derby, but it’s hard to look past that mountain of goals. Hats off to Napoli manager Sarri, as many were sceptical of Napoli remaining an attacking powerhouse after their 36-time goalscorer Higuain left for Juventus. In fact, the Azzurri have scored more goals this season (53) relative to this time last season (53). Then there’s the matter of Real Madrid. The guys who are top of their league with 51 goals in 19 games. Los Blancos look the favourites to progress to the next round, winning 11 Champions league trophies, why not a 12th? Los Blancos have only won 50% of their matches since the New Year, as well as ending their 40 matches unbeaten run since the start of the season. Ending that unbeaten run and losing back to back may not seem like much, but consider that the last time Real Madrid lost was February. February 2016 that is, 12 months ago. Well, the reason why seems pretty obvious to me. Those familiar to zodiacs like me, know full well that 2017 marks the year of the Rooster. Everyone knows that the year of the Rooster’s unlucky colour is white. What is Real Madrid classic home kit colour? White. Need I say more? Something has also happened to the away side, as Napoli games act as a magnet for red cards. There have been more red cards in 2017 for games involving Napoli already (6 red cards in 7 games) than there was since the start of the season in 2016 (5 red cards in 24 matches). After hyping up this game so much, fingers crossed I haven’t just jinxed it.

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 30 – Feb 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.

Liverpool vs Chelsea ( Tue 31 20:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 16.26.54.png

If you’re a Chelsea fan you must be on cloud 9 considering you were the biggest laughing stock of last season. The rest of us are worried. We all know full well that a few more points to Chelsea’s considerable lead mark the beginning of the end of Arsenal’s, Tottenham’s, Liverpool’s, Manchester City’s and – let’s be inclusive – even Manchester United’s title race. If I had to pick the team most likely to beat Chelsea, it would be Liverpool. Why? Mainly because:

1. They are the only side to beat Chelsea at Stanford Bridge so far

2. Liverpool has the best record of playing the top 6 sides

3. Chelsea have yet to beat Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp became Liverpool manager

But looking at their seasons overall, Liverpool have been slipping (no pun intended*) where Chelsea remain on firm footing. Now I attempt to explore what is believed to be the most elusive aspect of a footballer… the brain. Instead of the analytical, logical left brain, the focus is on the emotion-centred right brain. Now I make a clear distinction between self-help faff and science when I say positivity is a precursor to success. Costa may have had his falling out but overall it’s smiles all round at Stanford Bridge, outlined by Thibaut Courtois recently stating I have never felt so good since I arrived in Chelsea’,’There’s a good atmosphere in the group. Lots of jokes and banter but we work hard and enjoy it.’ On top of that Antonio Conte ‘spent the evening getting to know the relatives of his players.’ How can that not put a smile on your face if you’re a Chelsea player? Looking to the home side, it wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp injected dopamine in his bloodstream by the buckets, but his side is struggling to find the same mentality.The Guardian reported Klopp stating ‘The feeling around the club is not quite as positive as it was, and it’s our job to bring that positivity back.’ Are these tenuous links? Of course, they are, as I am not a psychologist and this more is an obscure type of analysis not common in the mainstream, not to mention I don’t know the inner workings of these 2 clubs. But when you have 2 sides as good as Liverpool and Chelsea, it is the difference in mentality that can determine the share of the points.

*I lied.

Chelsea vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 12:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 16.30.25.png

In an otherwise simple Super-Sunday match between 2 premier league heavyweights has been overcomplicated by a fixture list. The task of planning a year of football is taken for granted; they have to juggle the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup in conjunction with the Champions League, Europa League and any international tournament that year.‘They think names go into a hat and it’s almost like a draw.’ says, the officer of football league fixtures Paul Snellgrove, but that’s what it feels like for Arsenal. The Gunners played Southampton on the 28th of January, 3 days later they face Watford in the league and 4 days later they travel to Stanford Bridge. You could say that it evens out to an extent, as Chelsea would have played Liverpool only 4 days prior to this game. Hopefully, the packed fixture list is not going to infringe on the quality of football we expect from these two sides. As for any scenarios of consequence, there are too many variables to give you anything with substance. It depends on Chelsea’s result against Liverpool and if Arsenal can keep winning games that on paper they should be. For a neutral, if Arsenal could hold back Chelsea from collecting 3 more points, may keep the competition for the Premier League title alive, barely. But I, nor anyone, can call with any certainty whether that will happen because Arsenal remains – to their advantage, or to their detriment  – unpredictable.

Monaco vs Nice ( Sat 04 16:00 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 16.38.37.png

We have only just crossed the halfway point of the Ligue 1 season, but at 21 games in, it looks like these two are the frontrunners (along with PSG) for the French title. For Nice especially, this is a long time coming. The last time they won a Ligue 1 title was all the way back in 1959. The idea of Nice breaking does not look promising, even though they are 2nd. 3 game weeks ago Nice was 1st, 4 points ahead of Monaco. Now, Nice have been superseded by Monaco who edges them by 2 points. While the away side maintain their status of being the best defence in the league (conceded 14 goals all season), they have only won 1 of their last 6 games in all competitions. This is in part, due to their huge stack of injuries, 11 out in total. You also have to account that Nice play a 3 back defence, with wingbacks who need to be at their physical prime to carry out their defensive and offensive responsibilities. To exacerbate issues, they play Monaco, who look like they can score goals at will. The diametrically opposing approaches of these 2 clubs stand out most in this stat: Monaco spends the most time of any team in the league in their opposition third (32%) and the least amount of time in their own third (24%). Nice spend the most amount of time of any team in the league, in their own third ( 31%) and the least amount of time in the opposition third (19%). While Monaco’s stat looks more productive than Nice, it really isn’t. Both teams are neck and neck, and on Saturday we will see the best French attack against the best French defence.

Other Mentions: 

Inter Milan vs Lazio ( Tue 31 19:45 )

Marseille vs Lyon ( Tue 31 20:05 )

Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City FC ( Sat 04 08:50 )

Bayern Munich vs Schalke 04 ( Sat 04 14:30 )

Barcelona vs Athletic Club ( Sat 04 15:15 )

Borussia Dortmund vs RasenBallsport Leipzig ( Sat 04 17:30 )

FC Porto vs Sporting Club Portugal ( Sat 04 20:30 )

Juventus vs Inter Milan ( Sun 05 19:45 )

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


Sources:

https://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/diego-costa-left-out-of-chelsea-squad-to-face-leicester-city-after-furious-row-with-antonio-conte-a7526816.html

http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11668/10740724/thibaut-courtois-loving-life-at-chelsea-and-not-interested-in-move-to-china

http://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/747781/Chelsea-Antonio-Conte-Christmas-Premier-League

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/23/jurgen-klopp-liverpool-southampton-efl-cup

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/jun/15/fixtures-premier-league-football-league-compiled

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OGC_Nice#Honours

http://outsideoftheboot.com/2016/11/22/ogc-nice-a-revolution-in-ligue-1/

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-21 at 16.41.47.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-21 at 16.34.38.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-21 at 16.54.27.png

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