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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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.

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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

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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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!

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 12 – Dec 18

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.

Melbourne City FC vs Melbourne Victory ( Sat 17 08:50 )

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If you plan on skipping this paragraph watch this video and find out why the Melbourne derby is unmissable! I know that the last sentence looks like one of those click bait adverts: Dermatologists Hate Her. She is 23675234567 but looks 24. Or: I got ripped in 2 weeks using this one weird trick. If you did watch that video you too realise, this is not a scam. It may not hold a candle to the premier league in terms of quality, but is entertaining in its own right. From watching one, and only one Melbourne derby (which ended 4-1); I say it has the sensibilities of a primary school lunchtime football match. It’s where most if not all (somehow) the game was played in either 18-yard box, bypassing the midfield and just punt it forward. It’s where you’re not afraid to lob the keeper from stupid range because he’s only 4’10 or where you can run through 4 defenders and hit the back of the net. An ideal game for anyone looking for something new*.

*If you watch the A-League then it’s not new, and chances are you are Australian. What are you doing here? Bear in mind I’ve only ever had 2 Aussies visit the site ever.

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Hertha Berlin ( Sat 17 14:30 )

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The Bundesliga, with its fan engagement, 50 + 1 rule and cheap ticket prices create the ideal conditions in a petri dish of German football culture to expand. What does any of this have to do with the game? So if we look at RB Leipzig now, they are top of the league and in an 8 game winning streak. The significance of RB Leipzig being they represent everything Bundesliga tries not to be. While there are reasons to be worried, the story behind their name encapsulates why people are up in arms about the rise of Leipzig. The first part: Leipzig. Nothing wrong with that. RasenBallsport? The translation into English reveals ‘Lawn Ball Sports’ which looks more in place if it was the name of a professional Bowl’s club. Originally it was supposed to be Red Bulls Leipzig but Bundesliga does not allow corporate names so a substitute with the same initials RB would have to do. They also go against the 50 + 1 rule which underpins cheap ticket prices and prevents commercial objectives to come before football objectives. This explains in part how Germany are so strong internationally, due to clubs like Hertha Berlin fostering and developing a lot of young talent. It will be interesting to see how these two teams play against each other, and for the rest of the season. While Leipzig takes the headlines, Berlin is quietly climbing the table, now 3rd. If they beat Leipzig the gap between 1st and 3rd will be closed to only 3 points. To outcompete Bayern Munich and Dortmund requires goals, and both teams have scored their fair share of every type, shown here, here, here and also this beauty.

Juventus vs Roma ( Sat 17 19:45 )

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Monday night’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Bologna was a massive blow to Roma’s hopes for snatching second place in Serie A and automatic qualification for the Champions League from Scudetto hopefuls Napoli.‘ That was last Roma last season with 5 games to go. Much like a seasoned professional diver, Roma ended the season with perfect form: WWWWW. After Roma finished 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in the last 3 seasons, frustrations continue to mount much like Juventus’ number of Scudetto’s. After the old Lady added 2015/16 season Capocannoniere Gonzalo Higuain and Roma’s start midfielder Pjanic, it looked like Juventus were forming a full-fledged monopoly of the Calcio A. If any team were to break that monopoly power, a good candidate would be Roma. They currently house the top goal scorer in Calcio A, Edin Dzeko. It’s no mean feat turning a striker who misses an open net to scoring screamers. A major contribution to Dzeko’s success are wingers Salah and Perrotti who have a combined 8 assists, with inexhaustible stamina paying dividends. Now Roma outscores Juventus and everyone else in the league with 35 in 15 games, but Juve is just behind with 32. The roles are reversed when looking at the points tally, with Roma in touching distance only 4 points from Juventus in 1st. If they succeed in closing the gap they have to break Juve’s 6 game winning streak at home.

Manchester City vs Arsenal ( Sun 18 16:00 )

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Sometimes I really pity Arsenal fans. Not in a condescending way, but genuine pity on what they have to go through every season over and over again. Though there is overwhelming evidence to continue the abuse indefinitely, the effect on the psyche of long time fans is summed up quite well by JOE: ‘Their cup isn’t half empty, it was smashed against the wall the day Eduardo broke his leg’. You can see it happening all over again. As we inch closer to the new year Arsenal continues to rise up the table, even the most optimistic Arsenal fans will have their doubts. Is this the real deal? From what we’ve seen it looks positive, undefeated since the first game, 3 points off league leaders Chelsea and smashing teams left, right and centre. Imagine the pandemonium if Arsenal beat Manchester City. The citizens are already on the backfoot after Aguero’s high tackle and Fernandinho throttling Fabregas, both rightfully sent off. Fernandinho has the most minutes (1260) of any Man City player this season, leaving Gundogan/Toure/Delph to fill the vacant midfield role. Ihenacho too has big boots to fill as he may be expected to start now the only other striker has a 3 game ban. The 1-3 loss to Chelsea sounds worse that it actually was, Man City was in the game for a long time, with a chance to turn the game when De Bruyne had a clear goalscoring opportunity at 1-0, hitting the bar. But as things stand they’re 4th place and swamped in fixtures. The game against Arsenal will see the end of a demanding run of fixtures, 5 games in 15 days. If Manchester City beat Arsenal it will be ArsenalFanTV and chill.

Other Mentions: 

Roma vs AC Milan ( Mon 12 20:00 )

Bournemouth vs Leicester ( Tue 13 19:45 )

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund ( Fri 16 19:30 )

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea ( Sat 17 12:30 )

Darmstadt vs Bayern Munich ( Sun 18 14:30 )

Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven ( Sun 18 15:45 )

Barcelona vs Espanol ( Sun 18 19:45 )

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

Scouting For Fixtures: Dec 05 – Dec 11

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.

Benfica vs Napoli ( Tue 06 19:45 )screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-15

Envision yourself as Benfica manager Rui Vitória. So it’s half-time, good news your side is 0-3 up away from home at Beşiktaş. ‘Great work’ and ‘keep up the pressure’ would have been the crux of the half time talk. Fast forward to the final whistle blowing and you hear a roaring crowd of Beşiktaş fans. What? Oh, wait that’s right, you’ve just let a 3 goal lead slip and drawn 3-3. Instead of securing a spot in the knockout stages of the champions league you now have to beat Napoli on the last day or pray that a struggling FC Dynamo Kyiv can contain a Beşiktaş team that just rinsed your side. While a rising list of four-letter words is bubbling in your head for what you just witnessed, an utter shambles, think of the players. Left frustrated and anxious from an indefensible performance, only intensified by the FIFA Street-Esque goals you’ve conceded. Now it’s your job to rebuild their confidence and figure out how it all fell apart. Napoli experienced a lesser version of that when they were held to a draw with Dynamo Kyiv. Due to Napoli beating Benfica already (4-2), there is no room for errors for the home side if they wish to remain in the competition, a sentiment shared by Benfica striker Guedes who believes ‘It is going to be a difficult match against Napoli, but we are counting on the fans to help us win.’ 

Lyon vs Sevilla ( Wed 07 19:45 )screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-15

Will Sevilla finally make it past the group stage or will they do what the always do? Get knocked out, into the Europa League, win the Europa league, qualify for the Champions league… Unfortunately for Lyon, winning is not enough. The home side needs to beat Sevilla by a difference of at least 2 goals if they are to qualify for the group stages. So when one team is incentivised to score as many goals as possible (because no one with any sense is going to sit back after scoring 2 in these circumstances) either: The home side will pelt shots at the goal until it ends up like this amazing/horrific scene. Or the game would be stretched by Lyon’s lopsided press, leaving gaps in the middle for either side to exploit and score multiple times. Either way, it looks like a win-win for the neutral viewer.

Real Madrid vs Dortmund ( Wed 07 19:45 )screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-15

Real Madrid is a side riddled with injuries, held by an impulsive owner described as ‘an idiot, at least it when comes to matters on the field,’ yet remain undefeated in and top of La Liga. Even more impressive being that all of this is done as the home side is deep into a brutal run of fixtures. Since Nov 19 till Dec 10 Los Blancos will play 7 matches, averaging a game every 3 days, against the likes of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Meanwhile Real are on a 6 game winning streak. In the Bundesliga, Dortmund continues their mixed season, losing and drawing half of their games. In a situation like, it’s tempting for managers or players to not invest too much into the outcome of the game, seeing as both teams are already guaranteed qualification. In the last 10 years, only 1 team finished 2nd in the group stages and went on to win the UCL (Inter Milan 2009/10). If Dortmund keeps their top spot after going to the Bernabeu they would be the 3rd side to do draw with Real/ end Madrid’s 21-game unbeaten run.

Toronto FC vs Seatle Sounders FC ( Sun 11 01:00 )

Well, this is odd. Amidst football giants like Real Madrid and Juventus is sandwiched Toronto and Seatle. In the 20 years the MLS Cup has been running, Toronto has never won it. The same goes for Seatle Sounders. In fact, this is the first time either side has even qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs – this is THE FINAL. I’m also wondering how this happened as I almost overlooked this fixture thinking it was just another normal MLS game. Because I don’t know as much as I should about the MLS, here is what MLS Soccer had to say on these two MLS teams. If you read that link then you understand how crazy this all is. Though most of you are in GMT you should definitely check out the highlights because history will be made.

Torino vs Juventus ( Sun 11 14:00 )

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. It’s the winning formula that runs in a lot of great football rivalries like Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid, Manchester United vs Manchester City and Liverpool vs Everton. Most casual football fans not in Italy conjure up Perez’s amazing goal for Torino when thinking about the Turin Derby (also known as Derby Della Mole), but in actual fact continues to be dominated by Juventus. The Old Lady is without Dani Alves, Bonnuci, Dybala and Barzagli while floating 4 points above Roma at the top of the league. Torino is currently 7th, but form goes out the window when it comes to a derby like this.

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 24 – Oct 30

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.

There will not be a post for the week of Oct 31 – Nov 6, but regular posts will continue afterwards. 

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Tue 25 19:45 )

Courtesy of Mirror

 

The league cup has gotten a lot of flak over the years. Often described as a B-Tech FA Cup, as Jonathon Liew eloquently sums up ‘In terms of prestige, the League Cup sits somewhere between the Community Shield and a Blue Peter badge.’ The signs point to a very tight match. Both teams have an identical form (DWWWWD), separated by only 1 point and 1 place on the premier league table. The home side will be up for it, as it may be their chance to win their first silverware in 4 years; finally legitimising the famous (or infamous) this is our year meme. Tottenham however, does not have the same luxuries as Liverpool. After this cup game, Spurs have a terrible run of fixtures which include: Leicester, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, West Ham, Monaco and then Chelsea to round off a hectic November. For the most athletic team in the league (covering 114.8km per match on average), not even Pocchetino’s men can go for the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. Fingers crossed, Liverpool and Tottenham treat this match as it should be and we enjoy some entertaining midweek football.

Manchester United vs Manchester City ( Wed 26 20:00 )

Courtesy of GQ

 

Just under seven weeks would have passed since MUFC lost to their local rivals 1-2 at Old Trafford. After the 1-2, the two teams have diverged from their previous string of wins. Man Utd continued their losing streak, first Feyenoord and then Watford. They are yet to lose since; the catch being their only major obstacle was Liverpool until now. Man City continued an increasing winning streak until Celtic started a cascade of draw followed by loss followed by draw followed by a loss, yet to win a game in 32 days and counting. Also, Guardiola now also has Aguero and Gundogan at his disposal. Despite Paul Pogba’s brace against Fenerbache, the thorough scrutiny of his best position, quality and temperament are only getting worse. It’s only exacerbated by the £95.3 million price tag, endless dabbing and Paul’s recent statement: ‘I will need a little time to adapt in Manchester, time for the machine to start working. I am adapting.’ There is one constant, Claudio Bravo. In that 1-2 victory over Manchester United, the home side still nabbed one goal, in part due to Claudio Bravo’s poor clearance. Bravo’s most recent performance against Barcelona could be partially forgiven because 1) It’s Barcelona 2)  The defenders were a mess. What cannot be forgiven is another godawful, bizarre clearance followed by a red card.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Sat 29 19:45 )

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Courtesy of DreamTeamFC

 

When you go from euphoric highs like the spine-tingling rendition of the GONZALO HI-GUI-IIIN chant to realising your most beloved player is defecting to your richer, stronger, more successful rival, it’s enough to push anyone over the edge. In the midst of a tsunami of visceral hate, at least the Napoli fans are getting creative with it. The picture above tells a lot about the sort of reception the €90 million man should expect from the Napoli away support, except for the fact all Napoli fans are banned from attending the game  ‘due to the heated rivalry between the two clubs, which already developed in the past into seriously critical situations for public order’. The problems continue to snowball for Napoli, as they just cannot stop losing. First Atalanta, second is Roma, followed by Besiktas. Even if Napoli beat Crotone today, the psychological boost from winning is unlikely to overcome an inform Juve side, current Serie A champions and holding 1st place.

Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke 04 ( Sat 29 17:30 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Expect the Sudtribune to be bouncing just a bit more, a few more flares and a hell of a lot more security. The 149th Revier derby starts at a time when both teams are going through changes. For Dortmund, their form has fallen off a cliff, as their winning streak has been substituted by a winless streak similar to Schalke. The reverse applies to the away side, who’ve been struggling for points until recently, beating Borussia M. Gladbach 4-0 and drawing their most recent fixture. Lucky for Dortmund, form goes out the window in a game fuelled by passion and an electric atmosphere. Dortmund and Schalke are very similar despite the hatred of their opposition. Both teams are in the Ruhr region, separated by only 20 miles. The origin of both clubs can be found in the local coal and steel factories, both teams forming within five years of each other. If you know how a magnet works, putting two powerful ones of the same charge will only repel.

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