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 )

 

Advertisements

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 16 – Jan 22

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.

Manchester City vs Tottenham ( Sat 21 17:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 15.38.51.png

The levels of punditry are about to reach pandemic in the coming weeks as the premier league tapped into a run of top tier fixtures to analyse (at least 1 game between 2 top 6 sides for 6 game weeks). This means the top 6 teams are going to be shifting constantly which also means from now on the top third of the table has the consistency of custard cream. These two are right in the midst of that, with Man City in 5th and Tottenham 2nd as I type. Now Man City will be without Fernandinho, who at this point is channelling either clumsy smurf or prime Vinnie Jones depending on your standpoint. Guardiola gives importance to Fernandinho, starting the most games of any City player (despite being banned for 6 games, 17) as well as the most tackles (2.2) and interceptions (1.8) for a midfielder per game. With Gundogan ruled out due to possible death, to partner Fernando in the favoured 4-2-3-1* are Yaya Toure (only playing 3/31 games together), Delph, Garcia or left back Zabaleta, who are fringe players for a reason. This really could not come at a much worse time as Tottenham are capable of slapping around an inadequate defence like they did last week against West Brom (4-0). From what we saw last week against Burnley, Guardiola still has a few bugs to work in his backline as the pinball haphazard defending is demonstrated here. As if it couldn’t get any more pessimistic for Manchester City, Tottenham are 1 of the only 3 teams to beat City, as well as having the lowest away losses in the league (along with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, but still). While I don’t think that the Man City fans should get the rosary beads out, as they too have a world class side and manager to match; Tottenham are well capable of an upset and continuing their form, (similar to an Olympic diver) which is perfect: WWWWWW.

*Unless Guardiola wants to experiment with other formations against Everton, I don’t know maybe 4-1-2-1-2 could work… nevermind.

AC Milan vs Napoli ( Sat 21 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 15.47.51.png

The Calcio A has teams who can ping uncontrollably within 3rd to 7th position as the 5 are separated by only 3 points. Again, AC Milan (6th) and Napoli (3rd) are in the middle of that whirlwind. So using my knowledge (an amalgam of FIFA player ratings over the years) on the Italian league, my instant prediction was that this would be very tight. Well in retrospect I think more research must be done, but in short, there’s a good chance of Napoli putting a few past the home side. On paper, AC Milan have only lost once at home back in September last year against Udinese. But look up from the paper and onto the red Spartak Moscow scarf held by former AC Milan player Luiz Adriano. Can you make out what it says? It is, in fact, a little heartfelt message for his former club, reading: Thanks, F*ck You. The former attacker flopped hard, and while AC Milan have a not-small-but-nothing-special type of goal tally at 28, the attack needs a lot of work. For all the praise you can laud over Bocca and Suso, they remain the least penetrating attack in the league. You don’t need to have decades of managerial experience to deduce that the closer you are to the goal, the likely you are to score. So when you see that AC Milan have a taken the highest % of shots from outside the box (56%) and the lowest % of shots inside the 6-yard box (3%) in the entire league, you wonder how they are 6th. Partially due to the fact they have a quality side, but also due to the misfortune of other teams (Inter) who as a unit was flopping harder than Adriano ever could for a while. If you also take into account Milan’s good run of fixtures until recently, it makes sense how they remained 3rd for a while until teetering at their current spot, 6th. Now Napoli has superseded AC Milan, and remain the top goalscorers (42). In every other department, they can match or outdo their opposition. The goals conceded is very similar (22 for Napoli, 20 for AC Milan) and Napoli have the most *inhales* shots per game (17.9), possession (59.1%), pass success (87.3%), the least fouls conceded per game (9.9) and are the most disciplined with the lowest card tally (30 yellow, 1 red) in the league. Good luck AC Milan, because they will need it.

RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 21 17:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 15.54.11.png

Have you seen Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid? The game has one side famous for it’s attacking prowess and the other is known for it’s bullish defending. The same dynamics are present in this fixture, except RB Leipzig take the place of Real while Frankfurt replaces Atleti. Turns out, Leipzig are out-Dortmunding Dortmund, utilising the gegenpress Jurgen Klopp had trademarked during his time in West Germany. It’s in part why their goal tally is so high, scoring the most goals as a result of counter-attacking in the league (7), making up 23% of all their goals. The away side are analogous to Atleti’s defence, conceding the least goals bar Bayern Munich (12). The spotlight has been on the home side with their pigs head, polarising public opinion and what not, but Frankfurt are unrecognisable from last season. The same team who finished 17th last season are holding down a champions league spot in January. Both sides are punching well above their weight, now they face each other.

Other Mentions: 

Torino vs AC Milan ( Mon 16 19:45 )

Twente vs Heracles ( Fri 20 19:00 )

Bordeaux vs Toulouse ( Sat 21 19:00 )

Juventus vs Lazio ( Sun 22 11:30 )

Roma vs Cagliari ( Sun 22 19:45 )

Lyon vs Marseille ( Sun 22 20:00 )

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