Scouting for Fixtures: Sep 18 – Sep 24

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. 

A guy chatting absolutely anything in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention in this football-esque blog. I also do football previews, kinda… 

All times are GMT.

Lazio vs Napoli ( Wed 20 19:45 )

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In response to Lazio’s 4-1 win against AC Milan 8 days ago; ‘We have to be like Fantomas,’ Lotito told Corriere della Sera.

Right who is this Lotito guy?

President of Lazio.

But who or what is Fantomas?

So when I googled Fantomas the first image that popped up raised far more questions than I expected:

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OK… cool.

If this first generation blue man group member wasn’t strange enough (I promise this will come back to football) things take another unexpected turn, opening up a new can of worms.

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Hmmmm. Ok, Lazio needs to embody the ways of a French serial killer who dresses like a Bond villain with a blue face.

Lotito continues: ‘We stay hidden and then appear at the right time. In Serie A Lazio dress as a schoolboy from a humble background: he’s in the second row compared to the rich ones, but if his head is screwed on and he’s intelligent will he emerge or not?’

If you look past the rather dark imagery of a serial killer disguised as a schoolboy, I think what Lotito is implying is that Lazio needs to keep their profile low, as a serial killer like Fantomas* would. As the papers focus mainly of the traditional headliners like Juventus or Napoli, Lazio is progressively building up to a noticeable stride. After drawing to newly promoted SPAL they beat Chievo and AC Milan in some style. They are a fun team to watch. The counter-attack and high pressure commit half of the outfield players into the opposition box, leading to goals like this:

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The 3-4-2-1 can be used effectively as a counter-attacking unit but with so many players going forward the defence is more vulnerable to a quick switch in possession. The Lazio defence will be tested to the max against this Napoli attack. The same attack that was highest scorers in Serie A (94 goals) and took 17.7 shots per game last season. Napoli is indebted to their manager Sarri who elevated them 19 points above their last season finish in 2016. In his 3rd season in charge, he has settled into his role. His switch from a 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 allowed for a short and quick passing game that allowed his team to cut through their opposition as smooth as butter. As Lazio show signs of increasing progress, Napoli may be the side to stop Juventus from winning their 7th Serie A title in a row. This game will give an insight into how these two exiting teams fair against a formidable attack.

*Fantômas is the Lord of Terror, the Genius of Evil, the arch-criminal anti-hero of a series of 32 pre-WWI French thrillers written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. He carries out the most appalling crimes: substituting sulfuric acid in the perfume dispensers at a Parisian department store, releasing plague-infested rats on an ocean liner, or forcing a victim to witness his own execution by placing him face-up in a guillotine.

Rangers vs Celtic ( Sat 23 12:00 )

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Well every time I research the Old Firm derby, it always starts with my search on Scottish football, this time I tried Bing instead of Google search:

Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 13.12.58.pngWell, the wide spectrum of pessimism seen on the right only reaffirms the importance of this game in particular.

Last time I looked at this game I summed up the tensions between the two clubs like this:

Without turning into a full essay on the Irish revolution, there is a deep hate between Rangers and Celtic fans involving the IRA and division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Now I hate to quote myself but, ‘often what we see off-field is reflected on-field’. Not literally (though Rangers did only sign their first Catholic player in 1989),

I’d like to point out the majority of the supporters don’t take their religious or political ideologies with them into the stadium. They try not to cross the line; the line which has been crossed so many times over the years there’s a list of ‘shame games’. The 100+ years of a complex rivalry has brewed an atmosphere like no other in the world. Imagine 50,000 drunk, uninhibited supporters cheering you on or ridiculing you in the most creative and cruel ways possible. The unique atmosphere in the stadium creates a unique atmosphere in your mind. There have actually been scientific studies done regarding behavioural changes either correlating to or as a direct result of this game.

With that said I would have to agree with former Celtic manager Jock Stien on the game prediction:

Only a fool would try to predict the score in an Old Firm game!

Other games you should check out:

Leicester vs Liverpool ( Tue 19 19:45 )

Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid ( Wed 20 19:00 )

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sat 23 12:00 )

Fenerbahce vs Besiktas ( Sat 23 17:30 )

Juventus vs Torino ( Sat 23 19:45 )

AEK Athens vs Olympiacos ( Sun 24 18:30 )

 

 

 

 

 

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Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 03 – Apr 09

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

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Roma vs Lazio ( Tue 04 19:45 ) Napoli vs Juventus ( Wed 05 19:45 )

The commentary alone paints a picture. Breaking the mic with screams of joy; hearing a real life Italian man, with genuine angst in his voice shoutMama Mia!’ is one of the best compliments one could receive, and the Roman derby deserves it. Lazio came into this game, yet to beat their rivals since 2013. Roma is also playing their best football in recent years, currently 2nd place and with a mountain [63] of goals. So when Lazio won 2-0 it was time to crack out the beers, and the bald eagle, of course. Take a leaf out of Quentin’s book, there were many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, shots. There should be no reason to expect any different in the 2nd leg.

The Nazzuri may felt the same way Lampard felt when his goal was disallowed, Ireland failed to qualify for the world cup or lamenting the fact you got a C for the fifth time even though you spent hours revising before hand. Underserved is what I’m saying, going the long and scornful way around it. So Juventus scored 3 goals. The first one was a penalty that well, it’s tenuous calling it a foul. The second goal you can have no complaints, no one else is to blame but the goalkeeper who ran towards the ball like a moth to a flame. The third goal (2nd penalty) was unquestionably wrong, as Reina made contact with the ball before the player. So a game that ended 3-1 could’ve ended 1-1 will all to play for. But if any team could turn it around it would be the top goal scorers in Italy.

Barcelona vs Sevilla ( Wed 05 18:30 )

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Maybe Sampaoli saw a litter of black cats, or the team were possessed by the spirit of Goofy the klutz. The players have their part to play, but the quick succession and nature of defeats is a tad cruel. After 25 games were played, Sevilla had 55 points, only 2 behind 2nd place Barcelona. Following that game was a draw to Alaves – who they should be beating – and a draw to Osasuna – who were on a 7 game losing streak. Following that they lost to Atletico, reducing the gap between Sevilla and 4th place to 2 points. As La Liga only has 3 champions league places, Sevilla’s prerogative went from challenging Barca to see out 3rd place*. The gap between Barcelona extended to 6 points, as they look to win a La Liga trophy. To compound the misery, Sevilla exited the champions league is extraordinary circumstances. Barca returns to the Nou Camp with a very well rested Messi, not only banned internationally but domestically too, due to a build up of yellow cards so missed last weeks game.

*3rd place is an achievement. But, no one remembers Tottenham’s last season as a team who won a champions league place for the first time in 4 seasons, they remember them as the side who finished 3rd in a 2-horse race. Granted those were more extreme circumstances, but they were both let downs unless Sevilla can prove me wrong with the 10 games they have left.

Chelsea vs Manchester City ( Wed 05 20:00 )

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We can’t fault him. Guardiola, the man who came with high, if not impossible expectations will probably run out the last quarter of the season seeing out a champions league place. He tried everything. Various systems, formations, players changing position, even banning wifi during training and instigating communal meals. Drawing with Liverpool at home and then calling it ‘one of the proudest days of my coaching career’ is a tad bit pathetic, but bless him, his heart is in the right place. Now he’s left with a roided up attack with a flimsy base. That flimsy base has to face Chelsea. Oh and we all saw what happened the last time. A WWE approach was adopted towards the end of the last match as Fernandinho attempted (but failed) the Undertakers chokeslam, resulting in 2 red cards. Can’t expect anything less than another end-to-end game here.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Sat 08 15:15 )

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If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse.
Forget tactics, it’s Real Madrid. Get out there and stick it up their arses!
– Luis Aragones, former Atleti manager

You may think the man above it crazy, but it’s a build up of frustration and misplaced (literally) rage that comes with following a club defined by their losses for the longest time. That was the before Simeone era. Now we are into the after Simeone era filled with world class defenders, trophies ( well only 2) and new hope. Still, Los Blancos have an air of superiority over their rivals, and Simeone’s men will require a tremendous amount of restraint not to kick the lights out of their opposition players.

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

Hoffenheim vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 04 19:00 )

FC Cologne vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Tue 04 19:00 )

Villarreal vs Athletic Club ( Fri 07 19:45 )

Universidad de Chile vs Colo Colo ( Sat 08 16:00 )

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 08 17:30 )

Lazio vs Napoli ( Sun 09 19:45 )