Scouting for Fixtures: Dec 26 – Jan 01

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.

El Zamalek vs Al Ahly ( Thu 29 17:00 )

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Alongside spending 90 minutes in the yellow wall of Westfalenstadion, witnessing an Old Firm, Barca-Real and Boca-River, El Zamalek vs Al Ahly is the most elusive game on my football bucket list. It’s not the type of fixture you’d find on SkySports/BT Sports so your best chance of finding the live game is a live stream if you’re not in Egypt, where there is an estimated 50 million domestic TV audience. The Cairo derby has a backstory interwoven with politics, socio-economic changes, religion; the reoccurring theme being violence. You wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually all written up by Quentin Tarintino. Football offers people the precious gift of escapism. If you search Egypt on The New York Times website you will find the most recent stories include: ‘How Egyptian Democracy really works: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has figured out how to maintain a simulacrum of democratic process. For whatever that’s worth.’ and ‘Cathedral Bombing in Cairo leaves Egypt alarmed, and its president scrambling’ Couple the atmosphere created through escapism of those circumstances, with the trend that often what we see off-field is reflected on-field. If that is what is happening off the pitch, imagine the football itself. I dream of watching this game live but until then I will have to continue painstakingly searching through dodgy links to find a good quality live stream. To drive home the significance of this game, here is Scotland’s World Cup referee and Ahly-Zamalek veteran Hugh Dallas: ‘I’ve done 14 or 15 Old Firm matches and even they don’t come close to this. I genuinely believe that this is as big as it gets…’ 

Rangers vs Celtic ( Sat 31 12:15 )

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I know I just slated the Old Firm but it is, in fact, one of the most famous football fixtures in the world. But why? I doubt it’s because it’s the pinnacle of Scottish football (which it is), as my extensive research suggests otherwise:

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So why does a football derby in Glasgow be so far-reaching that it makes headlines in The Economist, The New York Times and Vice; the last news outlet making a 45-minute documentary dedicated to the Old Firm called: Football’s Most Dangerous Rivalry. The title gives it away in part, as there have been a fair few fights and even turning into riots during the game. I’ve watched enough Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle’s stand-up to assume all Scotsman have a dour, bleak outlook on life with an irritable disposition*. But there’s more than that to illicit this mass response. The tension between Celtic and Rangers has roots deep into polarising political ideologies and religion. If you have a basic understanding of Geography, you too realise that Celtic is of Irish heritage, formed by Irish immigrants at the time and therefore have a majority Catholic supporters. Without turning into a full essay on the Irish revolution, there is a deep hate between Rangers and Celtic fans involving the IRA and division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Now I hate to quote myself but, ‘often what we see off-field is reflected on-field’. Not literally (though Rangers did only sign their first Catholic player in 1989), but the passion, regardless of the reason, translates without losing any of its original meaning. The games are end-to-end in a very literal way, with the last match ending 0-1 but had a shot on goal every 2.1 minutes (a scathing stat on the state of Scottish football if there was any). That 0-1 was an outlier in another wise goal-fest of a game, averaging 3.5 goals per game in the last 6. If you’ve got no plans on Christmas eve, follow this fixture with another great game south of the border 3 and a half hours later.

*On the off chance any Scots think I’m being serious, let me clarify I’m not before I get barraged with four-letter words.

Liverpool vs Manchester City ( Sat 31 17:30 )

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If you walk into a pub in England, chances are you’ll find a TV in the corner with Soccer Saturday playing. It’s a pretty big deal here. For those unfamiliar, it could be the father of all reaction videos, like the ones you find on youtube but better. For those who can’t keep up with my very specific references, here’s a link to catch you up to speed. Caught up? Good. So when Liverpool legend and Soccer Saturday presenter Phil Thompson said ‘The best team has been Liverpool and I think we’ve got a better chance than most’ and today Michael Owen agrees ‘I’m going to go for Liverpool to win the league.’ it goes without saying the trolls will come out the woodworks. If they want to be champions these are the crucial games that Liverpool will have to win. The best attack in the league, 41 goals in 17 matches. As well as that, Liverpool is undefeated in 15 at home while scoring some amazing goals resembling prime Dortmund back in the day. So Guardiola walks into Anfield under these circumstances. Just last week Manchester City held Arsenal to 1 goal and 1 shot on target over 90 minutes. Winning at Anfield would be a turnaround for Manchester City after their back to back losses against direct rivals Chelsea, followed by Leicester. It so happens Liverpool have more immediate issues to take care of. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.’ What Klopp is referring to is the time between this game and his team’s next game against Sunderland. What he left out was that they would also play a match 3 days prior to this against Stoke with both Coutinho and Matip injured. Man City also have Aguero and Fernandinho out, but both teams still have the firepower to put on a show this new years eve.

Other Mentions:

Chelsea vs Bournemouth ( Mon 26 15:00 )

Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday ( Mon 26 19:45 )

Southampton vs Tottenham ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Leicester vs West Ham ( Sat 31 15:00 )

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace ( Sun 01 16:00 )

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

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Pick of the Week: Feb 8 – Feb 14

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

All times are in GMT.

  1. Al Ahly vs El Zamalek ( Feb 09 17:30 )

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Crazy fans, savage rivalry, packed stadium, now it makes more sense why they call it ‘the worlds most violent derby’. One of the lesser known world fixtures in world football almost flew over my head, but this is a gem of a game. The Cairo Derby’s animosity is something unique in it’s own right, attracting huge crowd as last year the match commanded a staggering 40 million viewers in Egypt alone, over half the population! This monumental fixture means foreign referees always officiates the match and has to played in a neutral stadium, in the futile attempt to prevent riots kicking of. The two most successful clubs in the continent are separated by 1 point; both the front-runners to win the league, the stakes are as high as they can get. 

 

 

2.  Juventus vs Napoli ( Feb 13 19:45 )

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While Juventus recovered miraculously to revive their tittle hopes; they face the toughest test to date, in what could be a season defining match for both clubs. The two best teams currently sit 6 points above their nearest competitors and separated by only 2 points. Napoli are playing beautiful football, with Insigne tearing through the right side with 10 goals and assists so far, the unstoppable Higuain is Napoli’s most valuable asset with 23 goals already, and if he continues this form, he can break the copacannoniere record of 36 goals, set 87 years ago by Gino Rosetti. Interesting battles all around the pitch, with Juventus’ defence conceded a resounding 1 goal in the last 9 matches, facing Napoli who scored just under 4 goals in their last 5 league fixtures. The intensity will be that of a cup final, with a ‘win at all costs necessary’ attitude as the potential winner takes huge strides in winning this years Scudetto.

 

 

3.  Borussia Dortmund vs Hannover 96 ( Feb 13 14:30 )

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Dortmund take on Hannover 96 after a disappointing match against Hertha Berlin with chances far and few between, but despite the anomaly, BVB remain one of the best attacking sides in the league with Aubameyang ripping up defences with an impressive 20 goals, with Mkhitaryan also delivering with 7 goals, 9 assists. Marco Reus returning after his long time injury and currently at 9 goals. From ruthless to toothless, Hannover haven’t gained any points in 6 games. A lethargic team with a serious lack of communication and finishing skills, sit bottom of the table. A hopeless Hannover side take on the hungry Dortmund side at the Signal Iduna Park who look to bounce back after the goalless draw in the capital in a potentially high-scoring game.

 

 

4.  AEK Athens vs Olympiacos ( Feb 13 17:30 )

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Expect a fiery battle in the capital between the two Athens clubs in this league fixture. The game will be under heavy security as both players and fans ready themselves for the start of the match; where all hell brakes loose. Flares, riots, fights, goals, and the occasional ‘mistimed tackle’ ,the whole lot, in what makes this one of the most watched derbies in Greece.

 

 

5.  Arsenal vs Leicester ( Feb 14 12:00 )

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An interesting match in the Premier League, as current front runners Leicester take on Arsenal, who slipped down to 4th place after being favourites with Leicester and Man City to win the league, separated by 8 points. The foxes look more like Premier League winners every week, with a comfortable win over Manchester City away from home and now create a 5 point gap next to 2nd place Tottenham. A big game for both teams as if Arsenal don’t win, Leicester’s remaining fixtures include no teams in the top 6, and Arsenal need to begin to close the gap by first beating Leicester and going on a run. Time is running out for Arsenal, with no win in 4 games their hopes of winning the tittle is slipping fast, and with Guardiola arriving in Manchester next season, Chelsea and Man United out of the picture, this is the window of opportunity, and it’s closing fast.

 

 

6.  Manchester City vs Tottenham ( Feb 14 16:15 )

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The other two tittle challengers play each other hours after Leicester face Arsenal in what will be a crucial week for the top 4 as both teams separated by 1 point and challenging each other for the title, this is a great opportunity for catching up to the foxes. Pochettino has got this Spurs side in great shape as he holds one of the few complete teams in the league, a great spine with a good mix of youth and experience, face an underwhelming Man City. After a comprehensive defeat to Leicester and key players not performing against the big sides, it looks more and more unlikely how city will turn this around, but who knows this season, with Leicester sitting top, Chelsea in 13th place and newly promoted side Watford in mid-table?

 

 

Other Mentions:

West Ham vs Liverpool  ( Feb 09 19:45 )

Paris Saint Germain vs Lyon  ( Feb 10 19:45 )

Celta Vigo vs Sevilla  ( Feb 11 19:30 )

Real Madrid vs Athletic Club  ( Feb 13 15:00 )

Melbourne City FC vs Melbourne Victory  ( Feb 13 08:00 )

Fiorentina vs Inter  ( Feb 14 19:45 )

 


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