Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 27 – Apr 02

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.

Check out the Other Mentions at the bottom as this week there was an unprecedented amount of heavyweight games, enjoy.

Liverpool vs Everton ( Sat 01 12:30 )

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It may sound sadistic, but these are the sort of rivalries where you relish inflicting any pain possible on your opposition. It’s exacerbated for Everton seeing that – let’s be honest – European football is as likely for them this season, as is me getting with Cara Delevigne. If someone came up to you and described a game as:

You want to hurt each other. The tackles are more brutal, the challenges wilder. It’s meatier than other matches.

I am immediately on board. I don’t know why this phenomenon occurs, but it is synonymous with entertainment. When you wish, just horrific thoughts on your opposition players, 1. you need help and 2. you are witnessing a derby worth watching. For a neutral, if there is a favourable turn of events, it’s like watching everyone morph into Connor McGregor for a few minutes. All it takes is one ‘liberal’ challenge and the fuse has been set. Everton has more or less reached the ceiling in terms of their position. Breaking through the wall of Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal is too big a challenge this season. Liverpool is hanging on to that last Champions league spot for dear life. Man Utd and Arsenal within a stone’s throw away, plus they have 2 games in hand on Liverpool. If Everton contributed to Liverpool’s downfall from European football, it would be even more comical considering the last time Everton won a Merseyside derby was 7 years ago.

Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 01 14:30 )

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The unexpected enormity of this fixture is something to behold. The picture above compresses tens of thousands of simultaneous emotions onto a few pixels. In actuality, the 22 men are playing for the Revierderby. For the layman, you’d probably heard of the Revierderby in the fringes of Bundesliga talk, or not at all. Under the radar in recent years due to a recent lack of silverware and big name players (until recently), but this is as big as it gets in Germany. It’s a hallmark trait of these derbies, the atmosphere is different, you can feel it through the TV or computer screen. Those who are more up to date with German football know that both these clubs are flopping. Maybe harsh considering Dortmund is only in 3rd place, but many pinned hopes on BVB leading the charge on pulling FC Bayern down of their throne. Instead, Dortmund is fighting it out with rising clubs like RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin for champions league. Those rising clubs have pushed Schalke down to 9th, where from what I can see are twiddling their thumbs till next season arrives. But all the built up frustration and form is washed away with the arrival of this derby.

Monaco vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Sat 01 20:00 )

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Blessed be the name of the lord, blessed be your name, for God has given the holy grail of fixture lists this week – Revelations 10:66

I didn’t fact check that* but I’m pretty sure that was in Revelations. Makes sense to, if you look at the Expendables-esque lineup ahead. This one included. To steal another weighty proverb:

Onions have layers – Shrek

Not only do we have Monaco, who has the strike force equivalent to a roided up SEAL team; they face the current champions of France, PSG. Not only that, but they face each other in a Coupe de la Ligue fixture. Not only that. It’s the final. Monaco is showing PSG how it is done so far. None of this 6-1 loss to Barcelona crap and cry about it after (though they may have a point). Domestically, Monaco has the upper hand, 8 games left and holding the top spot. It’s impossible to do what PSG have done and maintained it. Now with Europe out the question and Monaco in line to win Ligue 1, this is their most likely and immediate chance of winning silverware this season.

*I’m not fake news please no hate.

Benfica vs FC Porto ( Sat 01 20:30 )

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With 10 games left, I can say with confidence that one of these 2 teams will win Liga NOS. As things stand, Benfica is 1st with 64 points, Porto is 1 place and 1 point behind them. The next closest are Sporting CP who are 9 points behind. And the name of this game: O Clássico. With a name like that you come to expect a certain level of football that is a given. With a combined 9 international titles between them, the weight is justified. WWWWWWD. WWWWWWD. One of those is the form of Porto, the other is the form of Benfica. Geographically is the only distinct difference between these 2. Clearly, on paper, there is very difficult to distinguish who is the better side. Not to resort to the wine cliche, so I’ll opt for the less used cheese analogy. Like a finely aged cheese (E.g. Monterey Jack), the derby has had over 100 years to affinage. the game itself predates the league it currently resides in by 22 years. That’s 1 Wisconsin cheddar older than Liga Nos. Not to undercut (please don’t click off) the tension with all this cheese talk, it really is one of the biggest derbies in the world, we expect grate things (please, please don’t click off).

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 02 16:00 )

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For better or worse – depending on your perspective – Arsenal is making bigger strides in the meme community than in the football community. The most recent loss to West Brom only adds more wood to a bonfire set alight months ago. WLLWLL. The Gunners form is horrific, and the gut instinct is change. But who? There are some shouts of Allegri but at this point, there is no way of distinguishing fact from fiction. You don’t want to end up with the next David Moyes, followed by Louis ‘philosophy’ Van Gaal*. Look at Man City. They knew Pep Guardiola was coming from the point Mancini left 4 years ago. While both currently reside in the tornado that formed between 2nd and 7th place, Man City unquestionably hold the upper hand. There is some hope for the home side, as the last 2 encounters in Emirates, Arsenal won both against Man City. That is the only positive thing I could find.

*I miss this man so much.

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

France vs Spain ( Tue 28 20:00 )

Hertha Berlin vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 31 19:30 )

Ajax vs Feyenoord ( Sun 02 13:30 )

Napoli vs Juventus ( Sun 02 19:45 )

 

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Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 20 – Feb 26

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

All times are GMT.

Manchester City vs Monaco ( Tue 21 19:45 )

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If you’re going to watch any match this week – or even this year for that matter – this one would be a worthwhile candidate. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Well, scratch that. It’s this one, my bad. Don’t get me wrong, just look at the 60-second highlight above. It had a fair share of jump-out-of-your-couch-and-do-a-power-lap-of-the-house-because-of-what-you-just-witnessed moments*. Them ones. Insigne and then the CDM Casemeiro!?

 No, it’s not a cup final or a derby, but it’s hard to look past that mountain of goals [161]. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Again, my bad. A 161 goal tally is like Mount Kailash, but the mountain I’m describing here rivals Everest. The combined total goals scored (in all competitions) for these two teams is *drumroll* one hundred and ninety-three, 193 times the ball has hit the back of the net*2. You have the most lethal attack in the world, Monaco (119 goals), against a-uh, less than ideal lineup at the back. The same can go the other way, Manchester City’s attack is more than capable of destroying Monaco’s backline. That’s why if you mapped out Man City performances on a graph it would look like a heart rate monitor of a tachycardia patient, regardless of the relatively stable form. Need I remind you the same team outscored Barcelona (3-1) yet conceded 4 goals against Everton (4-0). Man City is the epitome of the Gym Lad who only works out the chest, arms and shoulders but disregards the legs. Monaco may look like they have a solid defence, but Ligue 1 is generally low scoring, leaving the back 5 relatively untested. This is unmissable, with the potential to go down as one of the great Champions League fixtures. Not to recycle my old material for the 3rd time but

how lucky are we; the reverse fixture will be played in 2 weeks. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

*Coming from personal experience.

*That is an insane goal tally. For the sake of argument, if you take the Bundesliga top 5, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund, and Hoffenheim, then add them together, you would still be 11 goals off the combined total of Man City and Monaco.

Real Betis vs Sevilla ( Sat 25 15:15 )

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So you’re not allowed to play for Sevilla, what do you do? Create your own club of course. That’s the for Dummies version of events but does not do justice to the rich and tumultuous story of this rivalry, 101 years in the making. It’s like describing The Titanic as Everyone tries the Ice Bucket Challenge. For the sake of saving both your and my time, let’s move on. When your opposition chants ‘Viva er Beti manque pierda!’, meaning ‘Long live Betis, even when they lose!’, fear isn’t the go-to emotion your opposition would be feeling. However, Sevilla may be the one exception to that. The rich history that makes the derby so great, also makes it easier for politics and senselessness to bleed onto the pitch:

If by isolated and one-off, León meant that only one large, full bottle connected with Ramos’s head, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that Ramos was the only person who staggered on to the pitch, collapsed into a heap, lost consciousness and was forced to spend last night in hospital, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that the man who threw the bottle was the only fan whose aim was true, he was also right. But in every other way, he was completely and utterly wrong. If there is one thing that last night’s event was not it is isolated. And it was not isolated on so many levels. – Sid Lowe

The game itself has the merit of being one of the most intense in the world. El Clasico is more glamorous in Spain, but the Seville Derby is without question more passionate. A passion you cannot find in most derbies, which permeates throughout the whole city:

Fans of clubs would often sign up their unborn children for club memberships and taxi drivers who support one team have often refused fares that require them to drive them to the other club’s stadium.

The gulf between the two sides is seen clearly in the La Liga table, with Sevilla (3rd) competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona for the title. Betis are 13th, drawing their last 3 but get to boast the fact one of them were Barcelona. Irrespective of the result, the games are unusual in that you’ll witness a strange phenomenon where the players will try to kick the opposition shins instead of the ball.

Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 26 15:15 )

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Mine was Three Little Birds – Bob Marley, but everyone has their own. The first time I heard that song that was the only song I’d listen to for days on end, by which time nor was I exhausted of it but I actively avoided it for years. The reason I mention it is because that’s how I feel about this fixture also. The games themselves are worth the watch, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about them. But that’s why I resent it, how many different ways can you pick at the same fixture before you exhaust yourself? It feels like it’s in the hundreds but in actuality, these two sides have faced each other 6 times in the last 12 months, the 3rd time this month. Volatile would be the word to describe these games. Just two weeks ago, the game played only had 2 goals but had 3 red cards, 11 yellow cards, about 500 fouls, a missed penalty, and a 35-40 yard almost perfect free kick from Messi. Not to mention Atleti were disallowed a clear goal that would have seen them through to extra time and with an extra man:

Beautiful ball played in and that is absolutely onside he’s level, he’s even behind Pique by a foot or so. And that one is *inhales* badly, BADLY refereed by the linesman – Ray Hudson

That one call cost them a game they were on course to win. No love lost there.

Manchester United vs Southampton ( Sun 26 16:30 )

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Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 20.23.10.pngGuys, it’s not that bad.

In terms of prestige, the League Cup sits somewhere between the Community Shield and a Blue Peter badge. – Johnathon Liew, Telegraph

No, seriously it’s not THAT bad.

The EFL Cup is so boring that nobody has shown up for Southampton v Sunderland

Southampton fans clearly fancied staying in for the Great British Bake Off final tonight. To be fair to the Black Cats, around 1,500 away fans made the long trip from Sunderland to the south coast this evening. But the locals should hang their heads in shame.

Nick Elliot, DREAM TEAM FC

Fine, if you’re going to be pessimistic I might as well join in. Southampton is well-accredited with the label boring with frustration building in the home supporters. The stigma of boring Van Gaal still looms of Mourinho’s Manchester United, and we all know it is possible for the Portuguese manager to bring back and park his famous – or infamous – bus. Questions could be asked of whether Man Utd deserved to get here with very favourable draws in the quarter and semi (arguably the final) finals. In terms of form, it is the one time when the form is irrelevant. So why put this on the list you ask? It’s a CUP FINAL. We love cup finals. We love it the same reason you look forward to the series finale of your favourite TV show. This is the conclusion to 8280 minutes of football with an ensemble cast of 92 teams. This is my Felina of Breaking Bad, just with less killing and meth, one would hope.

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

FC Porto vs Juventus ( Wed 22 19:45 )

Sevilla vs Leicester ( Wed 22 19:45 )

Corinthians vs Palmeiras ( Thu 23 00:45 )

Hertha Berlin vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 25 17:30 )

Feyenoord vs PSV Eindhoven ( Sun 26 13:30 )

Inter vs Roma ( Sun 26 19:45 )