Scouting for Fixtures: Nov 28 – Dec 04

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.

The stars have aligned to make up for last weeks debacle.

Usually, when making these articles, I sort out the fixtures in my head into 3 main types. Good games (it would be worth your while if you invested in either team), great games (you would watch just because of its build up) and the unmissable games. This week we have an unprecedented 3 (arguably 4) games that fall into the last category.

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 17.20.46.png

And if we zoom out even further…

Rareness scale 2.jpg

But seriously, this is one of the best lists of fixtures I’ve seen in months.

Atletico Nacional vs Millonarios ( Mon 28 00:05 [ 1st leg ] ) (Wed 30 19:00 [ 2nd leg ] )

millonarios-y-atletico-nacional
Courtesy of Mundonets

Behind the obscurity of Colombian football and overwhelming links to organised crime, lies a truly worthwhile watch. The rivalry between the two clubs is doused in corruption and violence, as Bogota council secretary Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo laments: “We cannot celebrate goals while our children are being killed over the colour of a football shirt”. This Colombian rivalry fuelled by corruption and violence sets alight the passion and authenticity which earned the name: Super Clasico of Colombian football. The most famous moment was during the 1989 Copa Libertadores quarter-finals; both teams were looking to win Colombia’s first ever Copa Libertadores trophy. The games themselves were filled with short tempers, even shorter shorts and a questionable refereeing decision after Millonarios striker was taken out by Nacional goalkeeper Higuita in the penalty box. Thanks to that obviously honest mistake by the referee, Nacional won the game on aggregate and went on to be Colombia’s first ever Copa Libertadores champions. The fixtures are just as fierce now as they were in 1989, with 4 red cards in their last 6 games. Here we are again 27 years later. Atletico Nacional vs Millonarios, this time in the quarter-finals of the Primera A playoffs.

Manchester City vs Chelsea ( Sat 03 12:30 )

manchester-city-v-chelsea-premier-league-sergio-aguero-goal_3338363
Courtesy of Getty Images Europe

Let’s forget about winning, losing or drawing for a second. After the final whistle blows one of two things will happen. One, Manchester City will end their season-long unbeaten run at home. Two, Chelsea will end their 6 game winning streak without conceding, 1 game off breaking their current record. If you’re literally anyone but a Chelsea fan, it’s universally accepted that one would choose scenario two over one, as Chelsea remain the most hated club in the league. That doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon, as aforementioned thrashing is likely to continue, in part because Antonio Conte is a genius. And Italian. Previously managing the current greatest three back defence in the world (Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci) means Conte knows his 3-4-3 formation inside out. Add that to 10 years of managing Italian sides, where three at the back is bread and butter. Pep Guardiola would also join Conte in that small category of football geniuses. However, Manchester City is yet to regain that dominance that saw them surge into a noticeable lead till game week 6. The seventh game finished with Tottenham taking all 3 points from Man City, remaining the only side to do so in a league fixture. Bear in mind Tottenham is equivalent to a team of Jack Russel terriers on Red Bull with the amount of ground they cover per game. However, in that same vein, Chelsea possess N’Golo Kante who was nicknamed ‘The Rash’ by his teammates. Simply put, these are the two most polished sides in the league. If there was any way to undercut the tension of the game it would be through their nicknames. So let’s get ready for the spectacle that will be the Citizens vs the Pensioners!

Barcelona vs Real Madrid ( Sat 03 15:15 )

El_Clásico_corner.jpg
Courtesy of Flickr

There are no amount of superlatives or hyperboles that I can use to justify the enormity of this game. Instead, I’ll let the stats do the talking for me. 500 million viewers. Imagine the population if Mexico and the USA joined together and formed a country* and all of them watched El Clasico, the viewership figures would still be short by the whole population of Italy. Of course, you have Messi vs Ronaldo, the incredible amount of money, history and success to marvel at. Back to the game itself, injuries leave Iniesta, Umtiti, Bale, Kroos, Mathieu and Casemiro unable to start for either team come Saturday. If you’re a football or sports fan you will end up watching this game regardless of anything I’ve stated because El Clasico is what football is all about.

*After re-reading I realise how much you’d have to suspend your disbelief, but just go with the analogy please and thank you.

Lazio vs Roma ( Sun 04 14:00 )

30srt01f4
Courtesy of Corriere Della Sera

It might not seem obvious from the picture above but Francesco Totti is in fear for his life. The men surrounding him are some angry Roma Ultra’s and off-frame is a thick sweeping red mist from the flares being set off and fights breaking out at various parts of the stadium, all during the 49’th minute. As soon as he could, the Roma captain told Fabio Capello ‘If we play on now, they’ll kill us’. The ominous security also hints at the importance of the occasion. This all adds more reason to believe that the Derby Della Capitale is the fiercest derby in Italy. There are reams of work dedicated to how a rivalry as visceral as this develops, which can be found here. As things stand, Roma has bragging rights in the capital as Lazio fail to win a game in their last 6 encounters. This may be Lazio’s chance to end the unbeaten streak as Roma are missing Totti, Florenzi and El Sharaaway all injured. Roma also comes into the derby after losing to Atalanta, shortening the point gap to 1. Though the point gap is unlikely to matter to the Roma and Lazio supporters as Paulo Di Canio states ‘Roma and Lazio fans care more about winning the derby than where they finish in the league.’ 

Advertisements

Scouting For Fixtures: Nov 14 – Nov 20

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 United vs Arsenal ( Sat 19 12:30 )

There are a lot of reasons Man Utd hates Arsenal and Arsenal hates Man Utd. A lot. The interpersonal rivalries only fan the well-lit flames. Roy Keane and Patrick Viera the most obvious, as they would often kick off before kick off (hilarious!) such as when Keane comes to Garry Neville’s rescue after being threatened by Patrick Viera*. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was Arsenal’s punching bag for much of his tenure and the newest rivalry (sort of), Arsene Wenger vs Jose Mourinho. This season, Arsenal are playing on a level above Manchester United, but seeds of doubt still grow in the minds of Arsenal fans whenever they see this:

 

mourinho-vs-wenger
Courtesy of Sky Sports, only competitive games listed.

 

Looking at the 11 games played by Manchester United, 6 of them have been against a current top 10 side. If you isolate that form, it is 3 losses, 2 draws and 1 win; that one win was against 10th place Southampton in week 2. Even more distressing for an MUFC fan is that Jose is supposed to have an excellent record when facing big clubs. With Zlatan receiving his disciplinary ban, this is Wenger’s chance to finally take those three points.

*Watch Gary Neville’s masterclass in establishing dominance, as he squeezes Viera’s hand  and dishes out a steely glare during the pre-game handshake.

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid ( Sat 19 19:45 )

Real Madrid continues their march to the trophy as they top the table after 11 games, thwarting their oppositions 1-6, 2-1, 1-4 and 3-0 without breaking stride. Their trademark all out attack still remains plan A, with the most shots (20.3) and shots on target (7.7) per game, plus 31 goals already. Diego Simeone isn’t having as easy a time as Zidane, with their trademark defending coming into question as they’ve been turning what would have been wins into draws, what would have been draws into losses. By their own insanely high standards, Atleti is slipping. Conceding 8 at this stage is much higher than usual at this point, considering they only conceded 18 last season. If they continue at this rate they would concede 28 goals by the end of this season, which would have still made them the best defensive side in La Liga last season, second best is Barcelona conceding 29 goals. Real’s defence could also be called into question as the injuries keep piling up: Ramos, Kroos, Pepe, Casemeiro, Mariano, Casilla, Modric (recovering) and Benzema. To make things even worse for the home side, Atleti’s one strong point this season has been their improvement in attack, netting 25 times so far, 9 better that this time last season. This could be Simeone’s chance to break Real Madrid’s unbeaten run.

Borrusia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich ( Sat 19 17:30 )

The Signal Iduna Park is a sight to behold usually, a yellow sea of endless noise will be dead silent before kick-off to pay respects to Dortmund legend, Alfred Schmidt who recently passed away. There is some uncertainty of what type of game we’ll get this time, as both teams have very similar styles of play. Both favour heavy possession (Bayern: 64.7% Dortmund: 63.6%) have high pass accuracy (Bayern: 87.2% Dortmund: 85.6%) and smash the goals in with Bayern netting 24, Dortmund 25. The only significant differences are that Dortmund favours direct play with 33% of play coming through the middle (the most in the league) while Bayern is reliant on the counter attack, 4 of their goals as a result (again, the most in the league). Potentially Marco Reus may play, though he’s expected to recover by the 19th, match fitness is still in question. The same applies to Bayern Munich players Manuel Neuer, Martines and Arturo Vidal, while Kingsley Coman is out till early January.