Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 30 – Feb 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.

Liverpool vs Chelsea ( Tue 31 20:00 )

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If you’re a Chelsea fan you must be on cloud 9 considering you were the biggest laughing stock of last season. The rest of us are worried. We all know full well that a few more points to Chelsea’s considerable lead mark the beginning of the end of Arsenal’s, Tottenham’s, Liverpool’s, Manchester City’s and – let’s be inclusive – even Manchester United’s title race. If I had to pick the team most likely to beat Chelsea, it would be Liverpool. Why? Mainly because:

1. They are the only side to beat Chelsea at Stanford Bridge so far

2. Liverpool has the best record of playing the top 6 sides

3. Chelsea have yet to beat Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp became Liverpool manager

But looking at their seasons overall, Liverpool have been slipping (no pun intended*) where Chelsea remain on firm footing. Now I attempt to explore what is believed to be the most elusive aspect of a footballer… the brain. Instead of the analytical, logical left brain, the focus is on the emotion-centred right brain. Now I make a clear distinction between self-help faff and science when I say positivity is a precursor to success. Costa may have had his falling out but overall it’s smiles all round at Stanford Bridge, outlined by Thibaut Courtois recently stating I have never felt so good since I arrived in Chelsea’,’There’s a good atmosphere in the group. Lots of jokes and banter but we work hard and enjoy it.’ On top of that Antonio Conte ‘spent the evening getting to know the relatives of his players.’ How can that not put a smile on your face if you’re a Chelsea player? Looking to the home side, it wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp injected dopamine in his bloodstream by the buckets, but his side is struggling to find the same mentality.The Guardian reported Klopp stating ‘The feeling around the club is not quite as positive as it was, and it’s our job to bring that positivity back.’ Are these tenuous links? Of course, they are, as I am not a psychologist and this more is an obscure type of analysis not common in the mainstream, not to mention I don’t know the inner workings of these 2 clubs. But when you have 2 sides as good as Liverpool and Chelsea, it is the difference in mentality that can determine the share of the points.

*I lied.

Chelsea vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 12:30 )

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In an otherwise simple Super-Sunday match between 2 premier league heavyweights has been overcomplicated by a fixture list. The task of planning a year of football is taken for granted; they have to juggle the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup in conjunction with the Champions League, Europa League and any international tournament that year.‘They think names go into a hat and it’s almost like a draw.’ says, the officer of football league fixtures Paul Snellgrove, but that’s what it feels like for Arsenal. The Gunners played Southampton on the 28th of January, 3 days later they face Watford in the league and 4 days later they travel to Stanford Bridge. You could say that it evens out to an extent, as Chelsea would have played Liverpool only 4 days prior to this game. Hopefully, the packed fixture list is not going to infringe on the quality of football we expect from these two sides. As for any scenarios of consequence, there are too many variables to give you anything with substance. It depends on Chelsea’s result against Liverpool and if Arsenal can keep winning games that on paper they should be. For a neutral, if Arsenal could hold back Chelsea from collecting 3 more points, may keep the competition for the Premier League title alive, barely. But I, nor anyone, can call with any certainty whether that will happen because Arsenal remains – to their advantage, or to their detriment  – unpredictable.

Monaco vs Nice ( Sat 04 16:00 )

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We have only just crossed the halfway point of the Ligue 1 season, but at 21 games in, it looks like these two are the frontrunners (along with PSG) for the French title. For Nice especially, this is a long time coming. The last time they won a Ligue 1 title was all the way back in 1959. The idea of Nice breaking does not look promising, even though they are 2nd. 3 game weeks ago Nice was 1st, 4 points ahead of Monaco. Now, Nice have been superseded by Monaco who edges them by 2 points. While the away side maintain their status of being the best defence in the league (conceded 14 goals all season), they have only won 1 of their last 6 games in all competitions. This is in part, due to their huge stack of injuries, 11 out in total. You also have to account that Nice play a 3 back defence, with wingbacks who need to be at their physical prime to carry out their defensive and offensive responsibilities. To exacerbate issues, they play Monaco, who look like they can score goals at will. The diametrically opposing approaches of these 2 clubs stand out most in this stat: Monaco spends the most time of any team in the league in their opposition third (32%) and the least amount of time in their own third (24%). Nice spend the most amount of time of any team in the league, in their own third ( 31%) and the least amount of time in the opposition third (19%). While Monaco’s stat looks more productive than Nice, it really isn’t. Both teams are neck and neck, and on Saturday we will see the best French attack against the best French defence.

Other Mentions: 

Inter Milan vs Lazio ( Tue 31 19:45 )

Marseille vs Lyon ( Tue 31 20:05 )

Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City FC ( Sat 04 08:50 )

Bayern Munich vs Schalke 04 ( Sat 04 14:30 )

Barcelona vs Athletic Club ( Sat 04 15:15 )

Borussia Dortmund vs RasenBallsport Leipzig ( Sat 04 17:30 )

FC Porto vs Sporting Club Portugal ( Sat 04 20:30 )

Juventus vs Inter Milan ( Sun 05 19:45 )

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


Sources:

https://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/diego-costa-left-out-of-chelsea-squad-to-face-leicester-city-after-furious-row-with-antonio-conte-a7526816.html

http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11668/10740724/thibaut-courtois-loving-life-at-chelsea-and-not-interested-in-move-to-china

http://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/747781/Chelsea-Antonio-Conte-Christmas-Premier-League

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/23/jurgen-klopp-liverpool-southampton-efl-cup

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/jun/15/fixtures-premier-league-football-league-compiled

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OGC_Nice#Honours

http://outsideoftheboot.com/2016/11/22/ogc-nice-a-revolution-in-ligue-1/

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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!