Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 13 – Mar 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.

Chelsea vs Manchester United ( Mon 13 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 16.05.52.png

Do we have a treble on the cards? The league cup, FA Cup and Europa League is a treble but to say it’s the same as the treble of ’99. It’s like saying Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger are twins; technically yes, but Danny is just objectively better*. Anyway, that is a possibility for Manchester United this season, and beating Chelsea would move them one step closer to that treble. Though Mourinho’s former side have the upper hand in almost every way possible. Chelsea has won more games, scored more goals, conceded less and are topping the Premier League as of right now. Some would say Mourinho was spiralling downhill at Chelsea but you have to look at the big picture. By finishing 10th last season this disabled any chance of European midweek fixtures so they could have enough recovery time for the domestic cup games.  The very same issue Mourinho now has to deal with in Manchester as the squad had a 17-hour roundtrip flight to FC Rostov and back. Head to Head Chelsea has the Red Devils beat 4 to nothing. As if MUFC could be any more disadvantaged, their main striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a 3 game ban effective immediately, all because ‘he jumped into my elbow’That treble looks like a pipe dream, not even opium could induce. But need I remind you fifth-tier side Preston join Man Utd in the quarter finals and Leicester won the premier league a few months ago. If I were to echo the sentiment of this fixture it would be through the words of my hero:

They never said winning was easy. – DJ Khaled

#Woke.

*Here’s another one.

Monaco vs Manchester City ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 16.20.51.png

This is unmissable, with the potential to go down as one of the great Champions League fixtures. – Myself, previewing the first leg of this fixture ( Tue 21 19:45 )

Well, after reflecting for 22 days and 8 goals later, it’s time to retract that statement. Because it HAS gone down as one of the great Champions League fixtures.

Why would the second leg be any different?

Monaco needs the goals if they want to progress to the next round. It’s counterproductive for Man City to park the bus, especially with their comedy duo in defence. It would only increase the inflammation that led to Monaco winning 1-3 by the 45′ minute. The thing is if either side could actually defend, the are capable of cake-walking this whole competition. But they can’t. So they won’t. In this case, an attack is the best form of defence, and that is exactly what they plan to do.

So, why would the second leg be any different?

Manchester City vs Liverpool ( Sun 19 16:30 )

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 16.37.12.png

Defence is about the work you put into it. Defensive strategy is absolutely essential if I want to attack a lot. – Pep Guardiola

I know I just described the Man city defence as a comedy duo. With justification might I add (refer to the video above); but as a unit, the citizens are sound, in theory.

While being a preview this is also like a Football Tactics for Dummies, except it’s written by a real life dummy, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

I’m sure you’re familiar with a trampoline (ref fig.1).

berg__83190.png
Fig 1: for the incompetent

So think of Man City as the trampoline and Liverpool as the person jumping on the trampoline, if you will.

Guardiola employs the 4-1-4-1 formation for the majority of games, especially against a high calibre side. It allows them to remain compact in defence with virtually no passing lines with tight banks between defence and midfield.

So when Liverpool attack, they are jumping down on the trampoline and compressing the fibres, in this case compressing the Manchester city midfield and defensive lines. If Liverpool fails to see an opening they will lose possession, flinging them uncontrollably in the air. As the fibres return to the original positions Man City can quickly transition into their attack and hit Liverpool on the

t9MHXQa.jpg
Fig 2: The Mountain stands 6’9 tall, the UFC champion Connor McGreggor pales in comparison, a foot shorter and 115kg lighter

counter-attack. The stronger Liverpool’s intensity of the attack is, the more uncontrollably and higher they are flung into the air.

Or, of course, you could break the trampoline. No mere mortal can break this trampoline, but let us anthropomorphize Liverpool in this scenario. To account for their mountain of goals (highest in the PL), the person who represents them should share the same nickname, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (ref fig 2).

This guy would have very little trouble breaking the trampoline, as does Liverpool with their intensity, is capable of scoring against any defence.

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

Leicester vs Sevilla ( Tue 14 19:45 )

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC ( Sat 18 20:00 )

Atletico Nacional vs Independiente Medellin ( Sun 19 00:45 )

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sun 19 15:15 )

Paris Saint-Germain vs Lyon ( Sun 19 20:00 )

 

 

Advertisements

Scouting For Fixtures: Oct 17 – 0ct 23

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.

Liverpool vs Manchester United ( Mon 17 20:00 )

 

960
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

I suppose Newton’s third law applies to football also. Last Monday night we had the Louis Van Gaal slumber-inducing level of entertainment in the international friendlies. Now we counteract that with Liverpool vs Manchester United, equivalent to the embodiment of anger, frustration and euphoria bundled into this mess of a human being. And isn’t that what football is all about? No? Well, it holds true to this north-west derby, where to loathe your rivals was institutionalised over generations. You might think I’m exaggerating but Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, one of the nicest men in football, sounds more like a sleeper agent than a football player when recollecting his tackle on Ander Herrera: “I couldn’t stop myself. Without even giving myself time to think I brought my left foot stamping down on Herrera. I felt my studs sink into his flesh just above the ankle. It had to have hurt him.”. As for current standings, both teams could and should be doing better with the talent they have, but Mourinho and Manchester United are finding ever more ways to not win a football match. Be it late equalisers, missing easy goal scoring opportunities or amateur goalkeeping errors, and that was just from last week’s game. Liverpool are putting a tidy run together, with 4 consecutive wins, 2 of which came against Leicester and Chelsea. At Anfield, you would hedge your bets on an inform Liverpool, but in a derby of this nature, facing a team managed by Mourinho and lead by Ibrahimovic, you can’t count them out.

Leicester vs FC Copenhagen ( Tue 18 19:45 )

 

leicester-wes-morgan-southampton_3442213
Courtesy of Sky Sports 

 

 

Last month pundits thought it was impressive how FC Copenhagen kept their 37 game record of not losing at home intact, as they held Porto to a 1-1 draw. Fast forward 2 weeks and their home record becomes even more impressive as they thrash Belgium side Club Brugge 4-0; Thomas Delany stealing headlines with his peach of a volley. Leicester are cruising through the group stages so far, thwarting Club Brugge and securing 3 points against FC Porto. The Foxes may be heavy favourites against their counterparts, but The Lions have 10 years of European football experience under their belt. While Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri still believes ‘we are underdogs’ in the UCL, on Tuesday it will be FC Copenhagen causing an upset if they can overthrow the Premier League champions in their own backyard.

Barcelona vs Manchester City ( Wed 19 19:45 )

 

466725600
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

‘Stretched like spandex on Miami Beach’ is how football commentator Ray Hudson chose to describe Barcelona’s defending against Celta Vigo while painting a picture you wouldn’t associate with Sunday night football, but here we are. As that game ended 4-3 to Celta Vigo, it became more apparent that Barca couldn’t deal with counter attacking sides. We also saw Manchester City drop their first points in the Premier League, losing 2-0 to Tottenham with a counter-attack of their own. Guardiola is opting for possession based (60% per game) build up play, similar to his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides. If required, the citizens have the players required to execute the potent counter-attacking press that saw Celta Vigo outscore an impressive Barcelona attack. However, the City defenders with have to face a player that the Celta Vigo defenders were fortunate enough not to, Lionel Messi.

Bayern Munich vs Borussia M. Gladbach ( Sat 22 17:30 )

 

1058746_toptease_article_desktop_com
Courtesy of Bundesliga

 

 

Borussia M. Gladbach travels to Munich, tumbling down the table after losing 4-0 to Schalke. SCHALKE. To put that in perspective, Schalke’s league performances up to that point has been the following: L L L L L. Bayern Munich fans were also stunned, as the home side only came away with 1 point after FC Cologne somehow held Ancelotti’s side to 1 goal; goalkeeper Timo Horn made one of the best saves of the year. As we’ve all come to expect, Bayern Munich are dominating the league. As well as topping the league with 16 points, they also have the most shots per game (19), highest possession (66%), pass accuracy (87.2%) and conceded the least amount of goals (2). Just to make it harder for the away side, Bayern Munich haven’t lost in 16 games, while Gladbach only won 1/14 of their last away games. So why bother watching? Every team has a bogey team, for Chelsea, it’s Sunderland, for Barca you have Celta Vigo and for FC Bayern, Borussia M. Gladbach. In their last 6 encounters, Gladbach have won 3, drawn twice, meaning FC Bayern have only won once (in a penalty shootout).

Feyenoord vs Ajax ( Sun 23 13:30 )

hi-res-60a12c4ca89faaab532d74eb8ea60f61_crop_north
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Remember when I said Liverpool vs Manchester United was a fierce rivalry where loathing your rivals was institutionalised over generations?  Well, that seems more like a pre-season friendly for these guys, who just want to kill each other. No really, here’s what Ajax legend Ruud Kroll had to say on the matter: ‘We wanted to kill them’. As fate would have it, in the late 90’s, the dangerous levels of aggression lead to ‘supporters’ following through on Kroll’s words. When Carlo Picornie was killed in 1997 as a result of the derby riots, it sobered the nation and dutch football, casting a shadow on De Klassiker that lasts till today. Sitting in a packed, freezing cold stadium full of screaming fans is a uniquely terrifying experience I witnessed first hand, as well as being subjected to security before and after the game that makes US border security look relaxed and incomprehensive. It was all worth it, as it was one of the best games of football I witnessed, ending 4-2. Moving on, this derby known as De Klassiker (the classic) is the biggest game in the Netherlands, with its roots dating back to the 13th century. As for the 2016-17 season, Feyenoord tops the table after 8 matches, yet to drop a point*. Ajax aren’t far behind, sitting 2nd and hope to close the 5 point gap. Both teams are aggressively attacking, with Ajax scoring 23 (2.9 per game) and Feyenoord with 20 (2.5 per game). Don’t miss it.

*As I’m typing this up I see Feyenoord losing 1-0 to NEC Nijmegen with 30 minutes left, making my stats redundant approximately 17 minutes after posting the article. Fantastic.

EDIT: Oh wait it’s ended 1-2, with Kramer scoring in the 91′ minute! Oh my god.

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

Scouting for Fixtures: Sept 26- Oct 2

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.

Leicester vs FC Porto ( Tue 27 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 11.12.58.png
Courtesy of AFP

 

Well, this is weird. Even though it’s been a good 4 months since the Foxes won the Premier League, when the words Leicester and Champions League appear in the same sentence, one of them looks out of place. The feng shui is ruined if you will. And that’s a compliment; the amount of progress made by one team in one year is unprecedented and refreshing. Now they top their group and welcome FC Porto to the King Power on Tuesday. Porto’s first game ended 1-1. A draw which must have felt like a defeat, considering they were against 10 men Copenhagen at home. Copenhagen managed a mere two shots on goal, plus they were on the backfoot with only 43% possession. Porto needs to bring a different game plan to the King Power or Leicester will surely add another 3 points to their name.

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid ( Tue 27 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 11.10.48.png
Courtesy of AFP

 

This is the match to look forward too. Both teams are undoubtedly fun to watch play their brand of football. Dortmund still pioneers gegenpressing and do it better than any other team on the planet. Despite losing Hummels, Mkhitaryan and Gundogan, BVB has done well to sign Gotze back, the french talent Ossosuna Dembele and left back Guerreiro who was exceptional in their first UCL game with a goal, assist and a clean sheet. Real Madrid, on the other hand, is a team that I would make on FIFA 16, just trying to fit every attacking player on the pitch, into something resembling a functional starting XI. Zidane has added some stability with Casemiro playing CDM and they’ve also won the trophy 11 times; so clearly they’re doing something right. When we think Dortmund vs Real Madrid, the 4-1 is what we all remember. Regardless of the scoreline on Tuesday, it’s going to be a good game.

Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 11.23.08.png
Courtesy of Bongarts

 

These types of fixtures have a semblance to those high profile games that on paper should be a ‘cracker’ but ends up being two teams trying their hardest not to concede and never (in the drunk, passionate, slightly slurred speech of a man hamstrung by his heavy dutch accent) think: ‘Yes! We go for it!’. But, go on, give it a chance. Atleti, while admired for their defensive prowess, aren’t usually described as entertaining.  However, this season they’ve shifted into gear and maintain the second highest shots per game in La Liga (18.8), outdoing even Barcelona. Antonie Griezmann is integral to the side, contributing to 40% of the sides goals and will be the target for the Bayern defenders. Simeone’s men have their work cut out as Bayern are the team to beat. After smashing FC Rostov 6-0 without breaking a sweat, Atletico has to deal with Lewandowski, Ribery, Costa, Alcantara, Muller, Renato Sanchez, Robben (maybe), Vid-. You get it. It’s likely the game will be tight as these two battle out for top spot, fingers crossed we can get more than last years 1-0.

Borussia M. Gladbach vs Barcelona ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 11.31.09.png
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

The running theme of this week’s games seems to be La Liga vs Bundesliga, now an underperforming Borussia M. Gladbach side faces Barcelona. The german side is in a tough group: Barcelona, Man City whom they lost to 4-0 and Celtic. Barcelona as we all expected, cruised through their first match, beating Celtic. What wasn’t expected was 7 goals with no response from the away side. Barcelona to win looks obvious. The only stat that inclines otherwise is that Gladbach has won all their home games, which is 2, out of a total 4 games this season. This looks like a cut and paste win for Barcelona, but maybe Gladbach can pull it out the bag.

Valencia vs Atletico Madrid ( Sun 02 11:00 )

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 11.41.24.png
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Atletico Madrid will go to Valencia 3 days after their encounter against Bayern Munich in the Champions league. The away side started with 2 disappointing draws against lesser opposition but since then look like a team possessed. A 4-0 win against Celta Vigo, 5-0 against Sporting Gijon, then holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw which hasn’t been done by Atleti since 2014. Valencia to looks like a team possessed (by the ghost of Gary Neville), losing 4 matches in a row, subsequently sacking their manager Pako Ayesteran. This comes after another blow to their team over the summer seeing integral players like Mustafi, Andre Gomes and Pablo Alcacer leave. One notable stat from this fixture in the past is that a red card has been shown in 5 of the last 6 games. Looks like Atletico are going to thump the struggling home side, but the recovery from the UCL game could play a part in a potential upset.

Tottenham vs Manchester City ( Sun 02 14:15 )

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 11.48.20.png
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

After 5 games, the table is starting to take shape. Manchester City is currently first and their five-game winning streak has incited some bookies to drop the odds of going unbeaten all season from 200/1 to 40/1. Bear in mind the odds (which no one took according to Ladbrokes) for Arsenal to go unbeaten in their 2003-04 season was 500/1, later reduced to 50/1 only towards the end of the season. The citizens have the firepower up front, scoring 14 goals already, but Tottenham has the most shots per game (19). Harry Kane’s injury is still inconclusive as to whether he is fit to start against Man City. Dembele, Dier and Rose are also recovering from injury and despite the holes left in the squad, Spurs are steady at a 3rd place after 5 games.