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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 14.06.02.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 14.38.24.png

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 )

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 14.55.38.png

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:

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 20.png

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 )

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 17.20.46.png

And if we zoom out even further…

Rareness scale 2.jpg

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 ] )

millonarios-y-atletico-nacional
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 )

manchester-city-v-chelsea-premier-league-sergio-aguero-goal_3338363
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 )

El_Clásico_corner.jpg
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 )

30srt01f4
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: Mar 28 – Apr 3

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

All times are in GMT.

tumblr_ncmal1yksh1tm4k9po1_1280

 Hendrik Johannes Cruijff ( April 25 1947 – March 24 2016 )

  1. Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg ( Fri 01 19:30 )

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 18.08.52

The two teams sit shy of the 4 champions league spots up for grab and with the final weeks of the season are underway, this is a last big push for both teams to jump into the top 4 while simultaneously putting the other team out of their misery. Both teams have been disappointing in the games they’ve lost and in the manner they achieved the ‘biggest bottlers in the bundesliga’ title. For Wolfsburg, who knows what’s going to happen during the 90 minutes? When you beat a formidable Borussia M.Gladbach side and the following week lose to prime relegation candidates Hoffenheim; it’s hard to see how the sporadic form equates to a definite win for the away side with the 3rd worst away form in the league with 4L 1D 1W (last 6 games). Bayer aren’t in a much better state themselves. Throughout the season they’ve been kindly donating points to those in need, but it’s come to a do or die as the season comes to a close. Bayer need to shift a couple gears up if they want to catch the others, and from what we’ve seen they’re doing just that. The form has picked up and wins are coming back with Chicharito the man leading the charge. It should be mentioned that the game is a goal magnet, for the last 3 years it’s managed an average of a remarkable 4.5 goals a game. That’s helped further by both defences riddled with injuries and attack minded coaches at the brim.

 

 

 

2. Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Sat 02 17:30 )

prop150210-073-liverpool_tottenham-600x384

Klopp’s got his work cut out as the Liverpool bunch face the title challengers Tottenham at Anfield. It may be both teams separated by 7 places; both stand in the way of accomplishing the others season goal, of winning the PL title or reaching the top 4. Liverpool in the top 4? Well, I mean theoretically (with a huge dollop of luck) it’s possible, Liverpool are only 7 points behind Man City with a game in hand. The Manchester derby left only more questions unanswered on how they’re planning to turn this awful run of form around. Leaving Liverpool very much in the mix with an underperforming Man Utd and and inexperienced but in-form West Ham (and Southampton & Stoke but really … I wouldn’t count on it) to contest with. It will be an important and tense match to those clubs in the upper end of the Premier league, this late on into the season. Looking ahead to the fixture itself, it’s easy to see that Spurs will dominate the match, but the potent counter attack is capable (but unreliable) to devastating effect.

 

 

 

3. Barcelona vs Real Madrid ( Sat 02 19:30 )

Alejandro Ramos

If you want one single fixture that encapsulates modern football and the beautiful game in 90 minutes; you can’t look past, El Clasico! The rivalry is unlike any other in the world, immersed in rich history and amplified by the endless conveyor belt of superstars at disposal. Throughout the years it has transformed into a global event by just the unfathomable, sheer weight of the two clubs. Literally, they are the 2 biggest clubs in the world, with a combined value of $6.4 billion (bear in mind the GDP of Monaco is only $6 billion) and a conservative estimate of $670 million of talent starting at the Nou Camp. Barcelona are favourites to take all 3 points, 1st in the league. Real Madrid and Zidane, while shifting the style of play is yet to move the team forward substantially and challenge the Catalonian giants. Averaging a 4 goals a game ratio for 3 years, and with the best attacking players in the world playing, it looks like another goal fest this Saturday night.

 

 

 

4. Lazio vs Roma ( Sun 03 14:00 )

mauricio-red-card-leverkusen-lazio-717x478

For those outside Italy if I asked you: What’s the biggest derby in Italy? 9/10 people would probably say the Milan derby; but within the borders, the Roman derby takes on that role, in what is a uniquely fierce Derby della Capitale. The derby itself has a deep, dark and hidden past behind it. Roma was actually built by Mussolini who combined 3 of the Roman clubs in a fascist regimen to challenge the established Italian clubs. Lazio was the only large club to resist and from there flourished one of the most violent derbies in the world. The fascist roots, while wiped clean from the internal structure of both clubs, is still prevalent among both sets of fans and brews a very tense atmosphere. The violence and hatred in the derby is truly underrated, on the derby day roads are closed in a 20 block radius! Rome transforms from a buzzing capital tourist attraction to a quiet and reserved city in the days leading up to the fixture. This weight of the occasion is felt by the players and with Roma legend Totti playing his last ever Roman derby, the impotence is on Roma to do their captain proud, and for Lazio to ruin the party. The league standings do not matter. Form is irrelevant. Simply put, losing is not an option.

 

 

 

5. Palmeiras vs Corinthians ( Sun 03 20:00 )

palmeirasvcorinthiansbrasileiraoseriesyg1a8pfnxdbl

The oldest derby in Sao Paolo returns for it’s 99th year anniversary in a fixture that ranks the tenth greatest rivalry of all time. Throughout the years it’s maintained a competitive edge despite Palmeiras having fallen from the top tier of Brazilian teams in Paulista A1. With the 350th match being played in the Allianz Parque the record currently stands with the home side just edging at 122 wins compared to Corinthians 120 wins. Palmeiras was originally formed out of Corinthians as the European faction within the club split and were known within the city as ‘traitors’. There are many memorable moments over the years, most recently the 3-3 thriller; and in-fact inspired a Romeo and Juliet film based on the two clubs (yikes). Brazil being as big a footballing nation as they come, the day is an event in Sao Paolo, with passion running high, vibrancy and endless colour, as with all Brazilian classics.

 

 

 

Other Mentions:

Germany vs Italy ( Tue 29 19:45 )

Arsenal vs Watford ( Sat 02 15:00 )

Leicester vs Southampton ( Sun 03 13:30 )

Manchester United vs Everton ( Sun 03 16:00 )

 

 

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