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 )

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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.

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 10 – Apr 16

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.

Borrusia Dortmund vs Monaco ( Tue 11 19:45 )

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You may feel underwhelmed by this game, after looking further down this list. If I were a

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The Ferrari 308 GT4 is known as one of the ugliest Ferrari’s ever, but a Ferrari nonetheless.

car salesman, this would be an interesting sell. It’s a Ferrari 308 GT4. Looking at the picture, it’s basically a piece of cardboard come to life. Like a 4-year-olds drawing of a car, and they just went with that. But that’s still a Ferrari engine with the same engine that made the car what it is. And that’s this game. Yes, it isn’t All Star XI or Super-Legends Ultimate United FC. But it’s still Ferrari and still worth watching.

Yes well, bu-bu- the, Dortmund aren’t as good as Bayern and no- they’ve lost all the good players.

Yes, BVB has played the role of the kid who gets their lunch money stolen over the years. But Dortmund has one of the strongest records in the UCL this season, holding their own against Real Madrid and only losing only one game, 1-0 to Benfica before dismantling them in the 2nd leg.

Fine, Monaco’s top of Ligue 1 right now, but PSG are still the best team in France.

  1. I don’t care how good the team is, PSG dropped a 4-0 lead; first time ever in UCL history (what d’you mean 1-4?).
  2. Monaco is the top scorer in the world right now, 135 goals in all competition.

*Mic drop*

Juventus vs Barcelona ( Tue 11 19:45 )

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Imagine the look on the Juventus player’s faces when that final whistle blew and the scoreline read 6-1. In an inexplicable turn of events – or maybe it was explicable  – the Catalonian giants managed to reach the final 16. The Italian side has been hard done by vis a vis their fixture list. Coming into the game, the home side will have played 3 games in the last 8 games, 2 against Napoli who’s attack worked Juve into the ground. Now they have to face one of the best attacks teams in the world. Anlackee.

Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid ( Wed 12 19:45 )

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Sometimes you have games so good that you don’t know how to convey why you should watch it. Did that even make sense? It just is*. If you’ve even scraped the very top layer of football the names Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are supposed to be the best. Just like how when you think basketball your imaginary mind map has Golden State Troopers or the Boston Limericks attached to it. I’m sorry but this is a literal no-brainer.

*Great Journalism rate 10/10

Inter vs AC Milan ( Sat 15 11:30 )

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The identities of these two clubs and what they represent are more resonant than ever in philosophies of football, also echoing the differing ideologies in our political climate. The whole reason this rivalry even exists is because Internazionale was born out of AC Milan not allowing foreign players to join. Thus a rivalry was born, currently in its 109th year. That number itself is indicative of why this game is lauded the way it is. When you have an event that occurs every year, for generations, it becomes part of your life. It becomes more than a game but a celebration or a ritual that’s woven into your culture. It’s almost religious in nature which explains why it is the most famous Italian derby. The name itself, derby Della Madonnina has religious ties; Madonnina takes its name from the golden Virgin Mary statue which overlooks the Duomo in the city centre. Though it doesn’t hold the anticipation it once did, once the crucible that is the San Siro is lit, enjoy the spectacle.

Games I was too lazy to write about:

Atletico Madrid vs Leicester ( Wed 12 19:45 )

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders FC ( Sat 15 03:00 )

Colorado Rapids vs Real Salt Lake ( Sun 16 02:00 )

Manchester United vs Chelsea ( Sun 16 16:00 )

Spartak Moscow vs Zenit St. Petersburg ( Sun 16 18:00 )

Marseille vs Saint-Etienne ( Sun 16 20:00 )

 

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:

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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 13 – Mar 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.

Chelsea vs Manchester United ( Mon 13 19:45 )

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Do we have a treble on the cards? The league cup, FA Cup and Europa League is a treble but to say it’s the same as the treble of ’99. It’s like saying Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger are twins; technically yes, but Danny is just objectively better*. Anyway, that is a possibility for Manchester United this season, and beating Chelsea would move them one step closer to that treble. Though Mourinho’s former side have the upper hand in almost every way possible. Chelsea has won more games, scored more goals, conceded less and are topping the Premier League as of right now. Some would say Mourinho was spiralling downhill at Chelsea but you have to look at the big picture. By finishing 10th last season this disabled any chance of European midweek fixtures so they could have enough recovery time for the domestic cup games.  The very same issue Mourinho now has to deal with in Manchester as the squad had a 17-hour roundtrip flight to FC Rostov and back. Head to Head Chelsea has the Red Devils beat 4 to nothing. As if MUFC could be any more disadvantaged, their main striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a 3 game ban effective immediately, all because ‘he jumped into my elbow’That treble looks like a pipe dream, not even opium could induce. But need I remind you fifth-tier side Preston join Man Utd in the quarter finals and Leicester won the premier league a few months ago. If I were to echo the sentiment of this fixture it would be through the words of my hero:

They never said winning was easy. – DJ Khaled

#Woke.

*Here’s another one.

Monaco vs Manchester City ( Wed 15 19:45 )

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This is unmissable, with the potential to go down as one of the great Champions League fixtures. – Myself, previewing the first leg of this fixture ( Tue 21 19:45 )

Well, after reflecting for 22 days and 8 goals later, it’s time to retract that statement. Because it HAS gone down as one of the great Champions League fixtures.

Why would the second leg be any different?

Monaco needs the goals if they want to progress to the next round. It’s counterproductive for Man City to park the bus, especially with their comedy duo in defence. It would only increase the inflammation that led to Monaco winning 1-3 by the 45′ minute. The thing is if either side could actually defend, the are capable of cake-walking this whole competition. But they can’t. So they won’t. In this case, an attack is the best form of defence, and that is exactly what they plan to do.

So, why would the second leg be any different?

Manchester City vs Liverpool ( Sun 19 16:30 )

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Defence is about the work you put into it. Defensive strategy is absolutely essential if I want to attack a lot. – Pep Guardiola

I know I just described the Man city defence as a comedy duo. With justification might I add (refer to the video above); but as a unit, the citizens are sound, in theory.

While being a preview this is also like a Football Tactics for Dummies, except it’s written by a real life dummy, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

I’m sure you’re familiar with a trampoline (ref fig.1).

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Fig 1: for the incompetent

So think of Man City as the trampoline and Liverpool as the person jumping on the trampoline, if you will.

Guardiola employs the 4-1-4-1 formation for the majority of games, especially against a high calibre side. It allows them to remain compact in defence with virtually no passing lines with tight banks between defence and midfield.

So when Liverpool attack, they are jumping down on the trampoline and compressing the fibres, in this case compressing the Manchester city midfield and defensive lines. If Liverpool fails to see an opening they will lose possession, flinging them uncontrollably in the air. As the fibres return to the original positions Man City can quickly transition into their attack and hit Liverpool on the

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Fig 2: The Mountain stands 6’9 tall, the UFC champion Connor McGreggor pales in comparison, a foot shorter and 115kg lighter

counter-attack. The stronger Liverpool’s intensity of the attack is, the more uncontrollably and higher they are flung into the air.

Or, of course, you could break the trampoline. No mere mortal can break this trampoline, but let us anthropomorphize Liverpool in this scenario. To account for their mountain of goals (highest in the PL), the person who represents them should share the same nickname, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (ref fig 2).

This guy would have very little trouble breaking the trampoline, as does Liverpool with their intensity, is capable of scoring against any defence.

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

Leicester vs Sevilla ( Tue 14 19:45 )

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC ( Sat 18 20:00 )

Atletico Nacional vs Independiente Medellin ( Sun 19 00:45 )

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sun 19 15:15 )

Paris Saint-Germain vs Lyon ( Sun 19 20:00 )

 

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 02 – Jan 08

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.

Tottenham vs Chelsea ( Wed 04 20:00 )

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If you’ve just recovered from the turkey-induced coma from Christmas, you’re in luck as nothing much has changed for these two clubs. Tottenham have been stuck in fifth like they were Jeremy Clarkson getting his face pulled off, for 9 game weeks. Since rising to the top in game week 12, Chelsea stays afloat while extending the winning streak to 9 games, 5 away from equalling the record made by Arsenal in 2002. Another year passed (if you hadn’t noticed) accompanied by another Christmas fancy dress by Tottenham. To be fair they did it justice, with Delli Ali-G, Harry ‘Bane’ and Christian Eriksen as Harry Potter. But it’s going to take more than a few wingardium leviosa’s for Spurs to rise to the top. Despite only recently being the only team alongside Real Madrid and Hoffenheim (go figure) in Europe who are undefeated, Spurs lost 2 in quick succession, one of whom were to Chelsea themselves. In fact, I think they could also do better attacking-wise. Tottenham have the most shots on goal per game (18.6) but 50% of their shots come from outside of the box (highest % in the PL), while having the lowest % of shots in the league from inside the 18-yard box and 6-yard box (45% and 5% respectively). That has lead to scoring some rockets, but the increase in penetration from the attack may be what’s needed to climb up the table. It may be harsh considering they just beat Southampton 1-4, also compound that they have 33 goals and conceded only 13. However, the team they are playing have scored more, conceded less and won more games. Chelsea look unbeatable at the moment and if any team can stop them, it’s the one who have been undefeated at home all season.

Real Madrid vs Sevilla ( Wed 04 20:15 )

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Jorge Sampaoli. If you’re a moron like me in your little premier league bubble you wouldn’t recognise that name. I only looked into him because he manages Sevilla*, finding that he only took over in late June. He’s already making waves in Spain. Aside from bringing Sevilla to 3rd place in December (not achieved by Sevilla in 9 years), Jorge finally took them out of the Europa League loop** and are into the round of 16 against Leicester in the UCL. If you look further into the side, they implement an array of formations: 3-5-1-1, 5-4-1, 4-4-1-1 and even 3-1-4-2. But it works and they play some wonderful football. Similar to Chelsea but better, Real Madrid too are unstoppable. Undefeated and top goal scorers with a game in hand can leave a strong impression on any opponent. Both sides are recovering well from injuries with Bale out for Madrid and Sevilla having Escudero and Mercado out, but probably inconsequential to the final result.

*Actually after looking him up I also want to say that I remembered he was the manager of Chile during the 2014 world cup if that jogs anyone else’s memory.

**Those unfamiliar with the Europa League loop which Sevilla have been enslaved under, it’s where a team enters the Champions League, then gets knocked into the Europa league, win the Europa league securing a place in the UCL group stages, then you get knocked out of the UCL again…

Napoli vs Sampdoria ( Sat 07 19:45 ) & Sassuolo vs Torino ( Sun 08 14:00 )

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The reason I didn’t separate these into their own paragraphs was that I felt I was treading the same path as I picked these two for very similar reasons. Every league has a team where goals follow. Not specifically goals for the team itself, but it happens more often than not the game ends up high scoring. The marker is goals scored plus goals conceded. If you were to take every single team in the top 5 leagues and order them according to that stat, Torino would be 4th (63) and Sassuolo 14th (54). Pretty impressive considering Torino are 8th in Calcio A and Sassuolo are 16th. Now they play each other. That is the only reason I picked this game, in the hope this would be high scoring. It’s also the same reason I picked Napoli vs Sampdoria. If we use the same stat as before, Napoli is 6th and Sampdoria I’m guessing in the mid 30’s (I never got that far) with 45 goals. On top of that, this fixture has averaged a whopping 4.5 goals per match, over 6 fixtures. It’s not a skewed stat either, with each 4 games ending with 4 goals scored or more*. There is no deep rivalry or high stakes, but due to the cup games in Spain, England and France, I decided to take a punt on these games.

*That is the first time I ever put my Maths A-level (a very proud moment for me considering I bagged a grade C) to any good use outside of Maths class. So yeah, quit complaining because there is a use of Maths in everyday life.

Other Mentions:

Manchester City vs Burnley ( Mon 02 15:00 )

Athletic Club vs Barcelona ( Thu 05 20:15 )

Monaco vs AC Ajaccio ( Fri 06 20:00 )

Celta Vigo vs Malaga ( Sun 08 17:30 )

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

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!

Scouting for Fixtures: Nov 28 – Dec 04

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.

The stars have aligned to make up for last weeks debacle.

Usually, when making these articles, I sort out the fixtures in my head into 3 main types. Good games (it would be worth your while if you invested in either team), great games (you would watch just because of its build up) and the unmissable games. This week we have an unprecedented 3 (arguably 4) games that fall into the last category.

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And if we zoom out even further…

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But seriously, this is one of the best lists of fixtures I’ve seen in months.

Atletico Nacional vs Millonarios ( Mon 28 00:05 [ 1st leg ] ) (Wed 30 19:00 [ 2nd leg ] )

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Courtesy of Mundonets

Behind the obscurity of Colombian football and overwhelming links to organised crime, lies a truly worthwhile watch. The rivalry between the two clubs is doused in corruption and violence, as Bogota council secretary Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo laments: “We cannot celebrate goals while our children are being killed over the colour of a football shirt”. This Colombian rivalry fuelled by corruption and violence sets alight the passion and authenticity which earned the name: Super Clasico of Colombian football. The most famous moment was during the 1989 Copa Libertadores quarter-finals; both teams were looking to win Colombia’s first ever Copa Libertadores trophy. The games themselves were filled with short tempers, even shorter shorts and a questionable refereeing decision after Millonarios striker was taken out by Nacional goalkeeper Higuita in the penalty box. Thanks to that obviously honest mistake by the referee, Nacional won the game on aggregate and went on to be Colombia’s first ever Copa Libertadores champions. The fixtures are just as fierce now as they were in 1989, with 4 red cards in their last 6 games. Here we are again 27 years later. Atletico Nacional vs Millonarios, this time in the quarter-finals of the Primera A playoffs.

Manchester City vs Chelsea ( Sat 03 12:30 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images Europe

Let’s forget about winning, losing or drawing for a second. After the final whistle blows one of two things will happen. One, Manchester City will end their season-long unbeaten run at home. Two, Chelsea will end their 6 game winning streak without conceding, 1 game off breaking their current record. If you’re literally anyone but a Chelsea fan, it’s universally accepted that one would choose scenario two over one, as Chelsea remain the most hated club in the league. That doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon, as aforementioned thrashing is likely to continue, in part because Antonio Conte is a genius. And Italian. Previously managing the current greatest three back defence in the world (Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci) means Conte knows his 3-4-3 formation inside out. Add that to 10 years of managing Italian sides, where three at the back is bread and butter. Pep Guardiola would also join Conte in that small category of football geniuses. However, Manchester City is yet to regain that dominance that saw them surge into a noticeable lead till game week 6. The seventh game finished with Tottenham taking all 3 points from Man City, remaining the only side to do so in a league fixture. Bear in mind Tottenham is equivalent to a team of Jack Russel terriers on Red Bull with the amount of ground they cover per game. However, in that same vein, Chelsea possess N’Golo Kante who was nicknamed ‘The Rash’ by his teammates. Simply put, these are the two most polished sides in the league. If there was any way to undercut the tension of the game it would be through their nicknames. So let’s get ready for the spectacle that will be the Citizens vs the Pensioners!

Barcelona vs Real Madrid ( Sat 03 15:15 )

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Courtesy of Flickr

There are no amount of superlatives or hyperboles that I can use to justify the enormity of this game. Instead, I’ll let the stats do the talking for me. 500 million viewers. Imagine the population if Mexico and the USA joined together and formed a country* and all of them watched El Clasico, the viewership figures would still be short by the whole population of Italy. Of course, you have Messi vs Ronaldo, the incredible amount of money, history and success to marvel at. Back to the game itself, injuries leave Iniesta, Umtiti, Bale, Kroos, Mathieu and Casemiro unable to start for either team come Saturday. If you’re a football or sports fan you will end up watching this game regardless of anything I’ve stated because El Clasico is what football is all about.

*After re-reading I realise how much you’d have to suspend your disbelief, but just go with the analogy please and thank you.

Lazio vs Roma ( Sun 04 14:00 )

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Courtesy of Corriere Della Sera

It might not seem obvious from the picture above but Francesco Totti is in fear for his life. The men surrounding him are some angry Roma Ultra’s and off-frame is a thick sweeping red mist from the flares being set off and fights breaking out at various parts of the stadium, all during the 49’th minute. As soon as he could, the Roma captain told Fabio Capello ‘If we play on now, they’ll kill us’. The ominous security also hints at the importance of the occasion. This all adds more reason to believe that the Derby Della Capitale is the fiercest derby in Italy. There are reams of work dedicated to how a rivalry as visceral as this develops, which can be found here. As things stand, Roma has bragging rights in the capital as Lazio fail to win a game in their last 6 encounters. This may be Lazio’s chance to end the unbeaten streak as Roma are missing Totti, Florenzi and El Sharaaway all injured. Roma also comes into the derby after losing to Atalanta, shortening the point gap to 1. Though the point gap is unlikely to matter to the Roma and Lazio supporters as Paulo Di Canio states ‘Roma and Lazio fans care more about winning the derby than where they finish in the league.’ 

Scouting For Fixtures: Oct 10 – Oct 16

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

All times are GMT.

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

Courtesy of Sky Sports

 

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

 

Chelsea vs Leicester ( Sat 15 12:30 )

Courtesy of Getty Images

 

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

Napoli vs Roma ( Sat 15 14:00 )

 

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

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

Courtesy of Reuters

 

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

Sources:

ESPN FC

FourFourTwo

Getty Images

Reuters

Sky Sports

These Football Times

WhoScored

Youtube