Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 27 – Mar 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.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

The Italians do not mess about when it comes to their cup football. In England, you’ve got Lincoln City slapping teams around; in Germany, third division side Sportfreunde Lotte are in the quarter-finals, this would definitely not fly in the Coppa Italia. Napoli, Roma, Juventus, Lazio. Not only the last 4 left in Coppa Italia but ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in goals scored.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Tue 28 19:45 )

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I don’t know what more to say than, it’s Juventus and Napoli. The weight of those names alone is enough to persuade me, but when you put them against each other, you have a real show. People use the term star-studded when describing top teams, but collectively, these two could fill out a Michael Jackson military jacket. Some football teams play the boring game or the rapid game or even flat out take-down bulldog. These two are the few who play in a way you would be justified in calling it the beautiful game. In terms of entertainment value, there are only a handful of games and circumstances that could outdo this game. Having said that, the other semi-final may be one of the select few that fall into that category.

Lazio vs Roma ( Wed 01 19:45 )

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The cherry on top of the tiramisù is that to accompany this heated semi-finals is that of this rivalry. A rivalry spanning 89 years; It has it’s moments, from the good, the bad, to the Mussolini. The famous line ‘you think that’s air your breathing’ from the Matrix was actually inspired by the time the Wachowski’s sat in on a Rome derby. In actuality, it’s part red smoke, part Bovril and part god knows what. To accompany the incandescent red and blue flames are a 50/50 split of Roma and Lazio fans. Unusual you would think, as you wouldn’t expect 50% of tickets for away fans. In actual fact, 0% of tickets go to away fans, as both Roman sides have to share a stadium. From personal experience, I’ve found sharing an Xbox with my brother has led to fights well into the hundreds by now. Take that scenario, add a tonne of beer, and 72,689 fans who can actually throw a proper punch. For a player, that atmosphere is the equivalent of shooting a bucket of adrenaline into your blood stream. Plus, it’s not going to just be a shin-kicking contest out there, as Roma and Lazio have the quality to put on a real show, with 54 and 44 goals scored in Serie A respectively. There is further motivation for the 2 sides – not that they need it – as Lazio hasn’t won this tournament in 5 years, for Roma that number doubles to 10 years.

Liverpool vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 17:30 )

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I don’t know, you don’t know, Gary Neville might think he knows, but he doesn’t know; hell, Paul the Octopus is shrugging with all 8 of his shoulders or whatever the equivalent is because they don’t have bones. Point being, if you want to bet on the score line, don’t. It encompasses the Premier League as a whole right now, just look at the form of the top 5 from England with the top 5 from Italy:

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One shows a neatly organised pile of W’s, with the top sides doing what they do, win. The other side is just a mess. Arsenal lost to Watford and drew to Bournemouth, but Liverpool is even more inexplicable. They drew with Sunderland and Man Utd, lost to Swansea but drew with Chelsea; lost to Hull then beat Tottenham who has the best defensive record in the league. But hey, at least they know how to do one thing. That’s taking the ball and putting it in the back of the net. Being top goalscorers of a league is one thing, but being top goalscorers of the Premier League means you really know what you’re doing (attacking wise only). Both sides share the title of being top goal scorers with 54 each, and these games have a knack of finishing with a high scoreline. Apart from an anomalous 0-0 finish, the rest have been Man-City-versus-Monaco-esque. 3-4, 3-3, 4-1, 2-2, 2-1. Chelsea might already have etched their name on the trophy, but right now only 4 points separate 2nd place Manchester City from 6th place Manchester United.

These are the games I would’ve also written about if I wasn’t so lazy:

Galatasaray vs Besiktas ( Mon 27 17:00 )

Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates ( Sat 04 13:30 )

Roma vs Napoli ( Sat 04 14:00 )

LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas ( Sat 04 21:00 )

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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.

Pick of the Week: Feb 8 – Feb 14

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

All times are in GMT.

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Other Mentions:

West Ham vs Liverpool  ( Feb 09 19:45 )

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

Celta Vigo vs Sevilla  ( Feb 11 19:30 )

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

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

Fiorentina vs Inter  ( Feb 14 19:45 )

 


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