Scouting for Fixtures: Dec 26 – Jan 01

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.

El Zamalek vs Al Ahly ( Thu 29 17:00 )

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Alongside spending 90 minutes in the yellow wall of Westfalenstadion, witnessing an Old Firm, Barca-Real and Boca-River, El Zamalek vs Al Ahly is the most elusive game on my football bucket list. It’s not the type of fixture you’d find on SkySports/BT Sports so your best chance of finding the live game is a live stream if you’re not in Egypt, where there is an estimated 50 million domestic TV audience. The Cairo derby has a backstory interwoven with politics, socio-economic changes, religion; the reoccurring theme being violence. You wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually all written up by Quentin Tarintino. Football offers people the precious gift of escapism. If you search Egypt on The New York Times website you will find the most recent stories include: ‘How Egyptian Democracy really works: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has figured out how to maintain a simulacrum of democratic process. For whatever that’s worth.’ and ‘Cathedral Bombing in Cairo leaves Egypt alarmed, and its president scrambling’ Couple the atmosphere created through escapism of those circumstances, with the trend that often what we see off-field is reflected on-field. If that is what is happening off the pitch, imagine the football itself. I dream of watching this game live but until then I will have to continue painstakingly searching through dodgy links to find a good quality live stream. To drive home the significance of this game, here is Scotland’s World Cup referee and Ahly-Zamalek veteran Hugh Dallas: ‘I’ve done 14 or 15 Old Firm matches and even they don’t come close to this. I genuinely believe that this is as big as it gets…’ 

Rangers vs Celtic ( Sat 31 12:15 )

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I know I just slated the Old Firm but it is, in fact, one of the most famous football fixtures in the world. But why? I doubt it’s because it’s the pinnacle of Scottish football (which it is), as my extensive research suggests otherwise:

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So why does a football derby in Glasgow be so far-reaching that it makes headlines in The Economist, The New York Times and Vice; the last news outlet making a 45-minute documentary dedicated to the Old Firm called: Football’s Most Dangerous Rivalry. The title gives it away in part, as there have been a fair few fights and even turning into riots during the game. I’ve watched enough Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle’s stand-up to assume all Scotsman have a dour, bleak outlook on life with an irritable disposition*. But there’s more than that to illicit this mass response. The tension between Celtic and Rangers has roots deep into polarising political ideologies and religion. If you have a basic understanding of Geography, you too realise that Celtic is of Irish heritage, formed by Irish immigrants at the time and therefore have a majority Catholic supporters. 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), but the passion, regardless of the reason, translates without losing any of its original meaning. The games are end-to-end in a very literal way, with the last match ending 0-1 but had a shot on goal every 2.1 minutes (a scathing stat on the state of Scottish football if there was any). That 0-1 was an outlier in another wise goal-fest of a game, averaging 3.5 goals per game in the last 6. If you’ve got no plans on Christmas eve, follow this fixture with another great game south of the border 3 and a half hours later.

*On the off chance any Scots think I’m being serious, let me clarify I’m not before I get barraged with four-letter words.

Liverpool vs Manchester City ( Sat 31 17:30 )

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If you walk into a pub in England, chances are you’ll find a TV in the corner with Soccer Saturday playing. It’s a pretty big deal here. For those unfamiliar, it could be the father of all reaction videos, like the ones you find on youtube but better. For those who can’t keep up with my very specific references, here’s a link to catch you up to speed. Caught up? Good. So when Liverpool legend and Soccer Saturday presenter Phil Thompson said ‘The best team has been Liverpool and I think we’ve got a better chance than most’ and today Michael Owen agrees ‘I’m going to go for Liverpool to win the league.’ it goes without saying the trolls will come out the woodworks. If they want to be champions these are the crucial games that Liverpool will have to win. The best attack in the league, 41 goals in 17 matches. As well as that, Liverpool is undefeated in 15 at home while scoring some amazing goals resembling prime Dortmund back in the day. So Guardiola walks into Anfield under these circumstances. Just last week Manchester City held Arsenal to 1 goal and 1 shot on target over 90 minutes. Winning at Anfield would be a turnaround for Manchester City after their back to back losses against direct rivals Chelsea, followed by Leicester. It so happens Liverpool have more immediate issues to take care of. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.’ What Klopp is referring to is the time between this game and his team’s next game against Sunderland. What he left out was that they would also play a match 3 days prior to this against Stoke with both Coutinho and Matip injured. Man City also have Aguero and Fernandinho out, but both teams still have the firepower to put on a show this new years eve.

Other Mentions:

Chelsea vs Bournemouth ( Mon 26 15:00 )

Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday ( Mon 26 19:45 )

Southampton vs Tottenham ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Leicester vs West Ham ( Sat 31 15:00 )

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace ( Sun 01 16:00 )

Feel like I missed out any matches or want to give any feedback? Comment Below!

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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.

A derby celebrated worldwide and part of most fans lifelong bucket-list.

  1. Real Madrid vs Wolfsburg ( Tue 12 19:45 )

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What we’ve seen from Real Madrid over the last week encapsulates most of the problems facing the club over the years. On April 2nd we see them beating Barcelona in their own backyard, a feat no other club in the world managed this season. Fast forward 4 days later and they lose a key champions league fixture against the worst side left in the competition (on paper, i’ll take my chances on the impending backlash). The sudden change is so drastic and frustrating, continuing for years and parallel’s the mismanagement by Florentino Pérez, ensuring a managerial change per annum. Looking forward to the game, the onus is on Wolfsburg to see out a win, or carry it through to extra time. Attacking wise the german side aren’t reliable but they don’t need to be with a 2 goal cushion. Madrid on the other hand will, and expect to come out in an all out attack mindset if they want a chance of winning their 11th European cup. With the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale, Madrid are anything but finished.

 

 

2. West Ham vs Manchester United ( Wed 13 19:00 )

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The second leg of the FA cup continues at Upton Park as Anthony Martial’s unquestionably legal goal canceled out Dimitri Payet’s sublime, perfect free kick from distance, but to be fair, ‘I think he should get across and save it’-Scholesy. The only reason West Ham aren’t already through to the next round isn’t due to Man United trying to play dazzling, fast, intricate football but more along the lines of a series of unfortunate events. This second leg leaves very little hope left of Man Utd going through and facing Everton in the next round. For the Hammers though, they look the strongest team left in the competition and have a good chance of winning it for the first time in 36 years. West ham will dominate the match, but the question is, is that enough to secure a win? The Red Devils motivation and desire to win games, to even be want to play games; is nothing short of disgraceful to watch. Where’s the heart, thunder, passion, sweat. Gone, gone out the door with Sir Alex. Despite all of it, somehow they’ve got this far, and ‘the magic of the cup’ and all that malarkey… having said that you’d have to be deranged to bet anything other a West Ham win.

 

 

3. Liverpool vs Borussia Dortmund ( Thu 14 20:05 )

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A pivotal tie in the Europa league takes place this Thursday evening as Liverpool are given a lifeline for Europe, drawing 1-1 against firm favourites Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion. The 2nd leg takes place at Anfield where the men in red will face an even tougher task containing the Dortmund 11, as goals are the only option if they want to remain in the competition. With nothing to play for in the league, all the attention from Klopp and Liverpool is on this match. Dortmund however have to balance the Europa league with their Bundesliga endeavours. With Champions League more or less secured, the question is; win the Europa league or Bundesliga title? Both doors are open for them but which will lead them to silverware? Europa league, while has easier opponents, is fundamentally a tournament. By it’s very nature, luck plays a much larger role here, where you only have to have a string of good games to win. On the other hand, Bayern Munich are dominating the german league, establishing a winning routine in recent years. If any team were to break that, it would be Dortmund. While the chances of winning the league are faint, it’s not dead yet. Of course there’s always the option of winning both.

 

 

4. Rangers vs Celtic ( Sun 17 12:00 )

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The Old Firm. A derby celebrated worldwide and part of most fans lifelong bucket-list. Aptly named, as the first Old Firm game was played before the existence of the Scottish Football League in 1888. Since 2012 when Rangers were dissolved and sent to the third tier it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the intensity and importance of the fixture dissolved with it. But like all great rivalries, for better or worse, things never seem to change. The passion and pride never faded, in fact it may have even heightened the significance of the game due to it being less common now. The quality of the football stayed the same despite the new players. The Derby however is littered with a dark history. Again, unfortunately the very nature of the two clubs creations resulted in a bitter hatred of one another and lead to various riots and tragedy before, during and after the Old Firm over the years. More recently it’s improved but the danger remains. As for the game itself, well it’s Scotland. What d’you think? Averaging 3.4 goals a game (last 5 games) expect a few ‘liberal’ challenges, the extreme pressure producing moments of magic.  

 

 

5. Leicester vs West Ham ( Sun 17 13:30 )

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The odds on favourite to win the league, Leicester City, are almost at the finish line, facing a resolute West Ham. The foxes are playing the football we love to watch. The neat intricate passing from Arsenal and Pellegrini’s complex system can produce choreographed spells of amazing football. But there’s something different, to see a relentless attack at the turn of a dime at a frightening pace and with such potency. That’s what the Hammers have to contend with at the King Power. When you think West Ham right now, it’s all about Dimitri Payet. Arguably the signing of the season, they’ve unearthed a gem and Bilić is putting him to good use. While the Hammers are a tough opposition without the frenchman, there’s a good case to be made that without him, the chances of West Ham reaching Europe would be something of a pipe dream than a real possibility. The only problem for the London club is the absence of Kouyate in the midfield, protecting the backline from that Leicester attack. With a hand full of match winners playing, it’s near impossible to call and as the season comes to a close; the stakes have just got higher.

 

 

Other Mentions:

Manchester City vs Paris Saint Germain ( Tue 12 19:45 )

Galatasaray vs Fenerbahce ( Wed 13 17:30 )

Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona ( Wed 13 19:45 )

Benfica vs Bayern Munich ( Wed 13 19:45 )

Inter vs Napoli ( Sat 16 19:45 )

 

 

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