Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 16 – Jan 22

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.

Manchester City vs Tottenham ( Sat 21 17:30 )

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The levels of punditry are about to reach pandemic in the coming weeks as the premier league tapped into a run of top tier fixtures to analyse (at least 1 game between 2 top 6 sides for 6 game weeks). This means the top 6 teams are going to be shifting constantly which also means from now on the top third of the table has the consistency of custard cream. These two are right in the midst of that, with Man City in 5th and Tottenham 2nd as I type. Now Man City will be without Fernandinho, who at this point is channelling either clumsy smurf or prime Vinnie Jones depending on your standpoint. Guardiola gives importance to Fernandinho, starting the most games of any City player (despite being banned for 6 games, 17) as well as the most tackles (2.2) and interceptions (1.8) for a midfielder per game. With Gundogan ruled out due to possible death, to partner Fernando in the favoured 4-2-3-1* are Yaya Toure (only playing 3/31 games together), Delph, Garcia or left back Zabaleta, who are fringe players for a reason. This really could not come at a much worse time as Tottenham are capable of slapping around an inadequate defence like they did last week against West Brom (4-0). From what we saw last week against Burnley, Guardiola still has a few bugs to work in his backline as the pinball haphazard defending is demonstrated here. As if it couldn’t get any more pessimistic for Manchester City, Tottenham are 1 of the only 3 teams to beat City, as well as having the lowest away losses in the league (along with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, but still). While I don’t think that the Man City fans should get the rosary beads out, as they too have a world class side and manager to match; Tottenham are well capable of an upset and continuing their form, (similar to an Olympic diver) which is perfect: WWWWWW.

*Unless Guardiola wants to experiment with other formations against Everton, I don’t know maybe 4-1-2-1-2 could work… nevermind.

AC Milan vs Napoli ( Sat 21 19:45 )

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The Calcio A has teams who can ping uncontrollably within 3rd to 7th position as the 5 are separated by only 3 points. Again, AC Milan (6th) and Napoli (3rd) are in the middle of that whirlwind. So using my knowledge (an amalgam of FIFA player ratings over the years) on the Italian league, my instant prediction was that this would be very tight. Well in retrospect I think more research must be done, but in short, there’s a good chance of Napoli putting a few past the home side. On paper, AC Milan have only lost once at home back in September last year against Udinese. But look up from the paper and onto the red Spartak Moscow scarf held by former AC Milan player Luiz Adriano. Can you make out what it says? It is, in fact, a little heartfelt message for his former club, reading: Thanks, F*ck You. The former attacker flopped hard, and while AC Milan have a not-small-but-nothing-special type of goal tally at 28, the attack needs a lot of work. For all the praise you can laud over Bocca and Suso, they remain the least penetrating attack in the league. You don’t need to have decades of managerial experience to deduce that the closer you are to the goal, the likely you are to score. So when you see that AC Milan have a taken the highest % of shots from outside the box (56%) and the lowest % of shots inside the 6-yard box (3%) in the entire league, you wonder how they are 6th. Partially due to the fact they have a quality side, but also due to the misfortune of other teams (Inter) who as a unit was flopping harder than Adriano ever could for a while. If you also take into account Milan’s good run of fixtures until recently, it makes sense how they remained 3rd for a while until teetering at their current spot, 6th. Now Napoli has superseded AC Milan, and remain the top goalscorers (42). In every other department, they can match or outdo their opposition. The goals conceded is very similar (22 for Napoli, 20 for AC Milan) and Napoli have the most *inhales* shots per game (17.9), possession (59.1%), pass success (87.3%), the least fouls conceded per game (9.9) and are the most disciplined with the lowest card tally (30 yellow, 1 red) in the league. Good luck AC Milan, because they will need it.

RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 21 17:30 )

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Have you seen Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid? The game has one side famous for it’s attacking prowess and the other is known for it’s bullish defending. The same dynamics are present in this fixture, except RB Leipzig take the place of Real while Frankfurt replaces Atleti. Turns out, Leipzig are out-Dortmunding Dortmund, utilising the gegenpress Jurgen Klopp had trademarked during his time in West Germany. It’s in part why their goal tally is so high, scoring the most goals as a result of counter-attacking in the league (7), making up 23% of all their goals. The away side are analogous to Atleti’s defence, conceding the least goals bar Bayern Munich (12). The spotlight has been on the home side with their pigs head, polarising public opinion and what not, but Frankfurt are unrecognisable from last season. The same team who finished 17th last season are holding down a champions league spot in January. Both sides are punching well above their weight, now they face each other.

Other Mentions: 

Torino vs AC Milan ( Mon 16 19:45 )

Twente vs Heracles ( Fri 20 19:00 )

Bordeaux vs Toulouse ( Sat 21 19:00 )

Juventus vs Lazio ( Sun 22 11:30 )

Roma vs Cagliari ( Sun 22 19:45 )

Lyon vs Marseille ( Sun 22 20:00 )

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

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Scouting for Fixtures: Dec 12 – Dec 18

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.

Melbourne City FC vs Melbourne Victory ( Sat 17 08:50 )

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If you plan on skipping this paragraph watch this video and find out why the Melbourne derby is unmissable! I know that the last sentence looks like one of those click bait adverts: Dermatologists Hate Her. She is 23675234567 but looks 24. Or: I got ripped in 2 weeks using this one weird trick. If you did watch that video you too realise, this is not a scam. It may not hold a candle to the premier league in terms of quality, but is entertaining in its own right. From watching one, and only one Melbourne derby (which ended 4-1); I say it has the sensibilities of a primary school lunchtime football match. It’s where most if not all (somehow) the game was played in either 18-yard box, bypassing the midfield and just punt it forward. It’s where you’re not afraid to lob the keeper from stupid range because he’s only 4’10 or where you can run through 4 defenders and hit the back of the net. An ideal game for anyone looking for something new*.

*If you watch the A-League then it’s not new, and chances are you are Australian. What are you doing here? Bear in mind I’ve only ever had 2 Aussies visit the site ever.

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Hertha Berlin ( Sat 17 14:30 )

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The Bundesliga, with its fan engagement, 50 + 1 rule and cheap ticket prices create the ideal conditions in a petri dish of German football culture to expand. What does any of this have to do with the game? So if we look at RB Leipzig now, they are top of the league and in an 8 game winning streak. The significance of RB Leipzig being they represent everything Bundesliga tries not to be. While there are reasons to be worried, the story behind their name encapsulates why people are up in arms about the rise of Leipzig. The first part: Leipzig. Nothing wrong with that. RasenBallsport? The translation into English reveals ‘Lawn Ball Sports’ which looks more in place if it was the name of a professional Bowl’s club. Originally it was supposed to be Red Bulls Leipzig but Bundesliga does not allow corporate names so a substitute with the same initials RB would have to do. They also go against the 50 + 1 rule which underpins cheap ticket prices and prevents commercial objectives to come before football objectives. This explains in part how Germany are so strong internationally, due to clubs like Hertha Berlin fostering and developing a lot of young talent. It will be interesting to see how these two teams play against each other, and for the rest of the season. While Leipzig takes the headlines, Berlin is quietly climbing the table, now 3rd. If they beat Leipzig the gap between 1st and 3rd will be closed to only 3 points. To outcompete Bayern Munich and Dortmund requires goals, and both teams have scored their fair share of every type, shown here, here, here and also this beauty.

Juventus vs Roma ( Sat 17 19:45 )

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Monday night’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Bologna was a massive blow to Roma’s hopes for snatching second place in Serie A and automatic qualification for the Champions League from Scudetto hopefuls Napoli.‘ That was last Roma last season with 5 games to go. Much like a seasoned professional diver, Roma ended the season with perfect form: WWWWW. After Roma finished 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in the last 3 seasons, frustrations continue to mount much like Juventus’ number of Scudetto’s. After the old Lady added 2015/16 season Capocannoniere Gonzalo Higuain and Roma’s start midfielder Pjanic, it looked like Juventus were forming a full-fledged monopoly of the Calcio A. If any team were to break that monopoly power, a good candidate would be Roma. They currently house the top goal scorer in Calcio A, Edin Dzeko. It’s no mean feat turning a striker who misses an open net to scoring screamers. A major contribution to Dzeko’s success are wingers Salah and Perrotti who have a combined 8 assists, with inexhaustible stamina paying dividends. Now Roma outscores Juventus and everyone else in the league with 35 in 15 games, but Juve is just behind with 32. The roles are reversed when looking at the points tally, with Roma in touching distance only 4 points from Juventus in 1st. If they succeed in closing the gap they have to break Juve’s 6 game winning streak at home.

Manchester City vs Arsenal ( Sun 18 16:00 )

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Sometimes I really pity Arsenal fans. Not in a condescending way, but genuine pity on what they have to go through every season over and over again. Though there is overwhelming evidence to continue the abuse indefinitely, the effect on the psyche of long time fans is summed up quite well by JOE: ‘Their cup isn’t half empty, it was smashed against the wall the day Eduardo broke his leg’. You can see it happening all over again. As we inch closer to the new year Arsenal continues to rise up the table, even the most optimistic Arsenal fans will have their doubts. Is this the real deal? From what we’ve seen it looks positive, undefeated since the first game, 3 points off league leaders Chelsea and smashing teams left, right and centre. Imagine the pandemonium if Arsenal beat Manchester City. The citizens are already on the backfoot after Aguero’s high tackle and Fernandinho throttling Fabregas, both rightfully sent off. Fernandinho has the most minutes (1260) of any Man City player this season, leaving Gundogan/Toure/Delph to fill the vacant midfield role. Ihenacho too has big boots to fill as he may be expected to start now the only other striker has a 3 game ban. The 1-3 loss to Chelsea sounds worse that it actually was, Man City was in the game for a long time, with a chance to turn the game when De Bruyne had a clear goalscoring opportunity at 1-0, hitting the bar. But as things stand they’re 4th place and swamped in fixtures. The game against Arsenal will see the end of a demanding run of fixtures, 5 games in 15 days. If Manchester City beat Arsenal it will be ArsenalFanTV and chill.

Other Mentions: 

Roma vs AC Milan ( Mon 12 20:00 )

Bournemouth vs Leicester ( Tue 13 19:45 )

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund ( Fri 16 19:30 )

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea ( Sat 17 12:30 )

Darmstadt vs Bayern Munich ( Sun 18 14:30 )

Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven ( Sun 18 15:45 )

Barcelona vs Espanol ( Sun 18 19:45 )

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