Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 06 – Feb 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.

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 07 20:00 )

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Atleti looks – not to beat the cliche to death – like a shadow of their former self. Compared to this time last season, they’ve actually scored 4 more goals but doubled down on conceding, with 8 more than last season (twice the amount). Oh my god, 16 goals conceded in 20 games! That only makes them what, only the 6th best defence in the Europe?! That stat would look complementary for most other teams, but by the insanely high standards they set themselves, Atleti is slipping. To compound the pressure, they have one of the best attacking line-ups in the world they now have to face, again, away from home. This is the second leg of a tie already not in their favour. I feel by explaining the last leg a bit more illustrates just how big the mountain Atleti have to climb is. Suarez scored first at 6′.  So he starts just behind the halfway line with 4 Atleti players in front of him; with his first touch he bypasses Godin, the second goes past Savic (by now he’s at the edge of the box) and the third touch puts the ball past the keeper, scoring an incredible solo goal. He’s running at such an immense speed from running the half of the pitch he needs to put his arms out, acting as a parachute would for drag racing, so as to not crash into the advertising board. Amazing. The second is scored by Messi at 32′. A ball played to him from the edge of the box, what do you do? Of course, you rocket it in, curling away from the keeper (and goal) and bounce off the opposite post and nestle it into the net. 2-0, game over. Yes ok, Atleti scored 1 goal but that is beside the point. Point being, both of those goals were unstoppable. It didn’t matter if you had 11 of the best players in the world or 100 Brazilian kids in the 62-15-23 formation, those goals were fixed points in time, they were always going in. That’s the danger Atleti face, the chance that regardless of how well they play, there is a chance Suarez, Neymar or Messi could pull it out the bag at any given moment. Also, Atletico Madrid has to go for the win. Conceding 2 away goals means needing to score twice without response from Barca to ensure they go through.

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Sat 11 17:30 )

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Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now felt like an accurate gauge of the mood.

That quote was in reference to Anfield, after beating Manchester City 1-0 on new years eve and winning 4 in a row, excited in all the possibilities 2017 had to offer. Fast forward to today, Anfield feels Kafkaesque, with Mad World by Gary Jules ringing through the speakers. The phrase wank wank wank wank* isn’t thrown about too often, but it sums up the state of things when referenced by The RedMen TV after losing 2-0 to Hull. I don’t remember a worse start to a year for Liverpool, ever. 36 days in, 10 games played, 5 losses, 4 draws, but 1 win. The 1 win was against League 2 side Plymouth in the 2nd leg of an FA cup tie and ended 0-1, but a win is a win. Even still, Liverpool has a good chance of winning. Stats wise anyway. The last 6 games, Liverpool have not lost a single one. That’s about everything I could find in favour of Liverpool. That, and the fact their playing in Anfield. So Spurs are the closest thing to overthrowing Chelsea right now, 9 points behind the league leaders despite winning 7 of their last 9 Premier League fixtures. Both defences will be tested on Saturday, as Tottenham and Liverpool are 1st and 2nd in shots per game respectively, with 17.6 and 17.1. Couple that with the stat of Tottenham averaging the lowest interceptions per game respectively (11 and 8.4), this could be a high scoring game. While Tottenham can rely on their sound defensive record (best in the league), Liverpool defenders could recontextualise recent events to cope:

*Trust me. It’s not what it seems like. The link is safe to click. Trust. Me.

Osasuna vs Real Madrid ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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If we’re sticking to the music analogy, Minas Morgul is definitely playing through the El Sadar (Osasuna home) stadium speakers as you catch glimpse of the Real Madrid side marching in the distance*. Ironically, Osasuna means health but if you were to personify the club, they would have osteoporosis. I’m definitely being too mean, but when you have the 2nd worst defence in the league, the worst home record in La Liga (haven’t even won a home game yet, after 11 games) and only won 1 league game all season, the home side look out of their league, literally and figuratively. It’s commendable how they climbed the third tier, nicknamed the well, in Christian Bale Dark Knight fashion. But when Phill Ball describes the off-the-pitch issues on sport360 as:

they are under investigation for match-fixing during last season’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation, have an ex-president and ex-director recently released from prison on bail, and financial problems popping up like poisonous mushrooms

sympathy is hard to come by. Then the realisation that Real Madrid is playing begins to contextualise why I picked this game. I am all for competitive unpredictable football, but there is a certain joy that comes with watching a side completely rip apart their opposition (again, sorry Osasuna fans). Los Blancos are top of the table with 2 games in hand, with 51 goals all season, ranked #4 in goals per game. Recent history between the two sides also points to a high scoring game, averaging 3.8 goals per game. Good luck.

*If you don’t get that reference, as a ginger wizard once said, she needs to sort out her priorities*2.

*If you didn’t get that one either, you’re beyond help.

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


Sources:

WhoScored

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/31/liverpool-manchester-city-premier-league-match-report

http://sport360.com/article/football/la-liga/205995/phil-ball-christmas-pickle-or-plight-for-la-liga-clubs-as-we-take-stock-at-the-winter-break/

https://scoutingforfixtures.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/the-most-entertaining-football-teams-statistically-ranked/

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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!