Scouting for Fixtures: May 08 – May 14

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. 

Guy chatting absolutely anything in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention in this football-esque blog. I also do football previews, kinda… 

All times are GMT.

Juventus vs Monaco ( Tue 09 19:45 )

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The end is near for Monaco, as hopes dwindle for the chance for the Champions League. Hats off to Monaco, as they’re the first French team in the semi-finals in 7 years, but winning the trophy has not been accomplished by France since 1993. The first leg ended 0-2 to Juve so Monaco has to score at least three times at San Siro. Might as well pack your bags and call it a night as the last time that happened was the 3rd of November 2012 against a legendary Inter Milan side. But yet again, I reiterate, Monaco is the best-attacking side in the world as of now.  Expect a do-or-die attitude from the away side on Tuesday, with a good chance of ending up a high scoring game.

Boca Juniors vs River Plate ( Sat 13 22:00 )

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There is only a handful of times where 22 men kicking a ball around for an hour and a half can bring a city to a grinding halt. Milan, Glasgow, Rome, Cairo and Buenos Aires. To some football is a religion but in this case, Scientology is a more accurate description, because they are as crazy and hardcore as fans come (in a good way).

Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about

– The Guardian

Usually when your dishing out nicknames, its creative, like the Red Devils or the Gunners. These guys don’t hold back. River Plate is known as Las Gallinas for choking throughout the years. Pretty tame to be honest. In an act of vengeance, Boca Juniors are known as Los Bosteros, which roughly translates to livestock faeces or crap dwellers. Literally shits and giggles with these guys. There have been some truly blockbuster level games over the years, with 5 players sent off in the game last year. Buenos Aires has been an incubator for great talent over the years, needless to say, it’s worth staying up late for this one.

Tottenham vs Manchester United ( Sun 14 16:30 )

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Oh, how the tables have turned, literally. Five years ago you would’ve seen Manchester United chasing for the title and Tottenham hoping to get into the champions league. The sad thing for Tottenham fans is that even though they’re playing the best football I’ve seen in my lifetime; there is no silverware – probably – to show for it. Their opponents are in the semi-finals of the Europa league. Even their rivals Arsenal, as bad as their season has been, is in an FA cup final. The psychological value of physically holding that trophy is one which is invaluable for a player, justifying the hard work they put in. More of a long term consideration for Spurs players. The current situation at Old Trafford could be the plot points of the next A Series of Unfortunate Events novel. Rashford and Young limped off the field on Thursday, joining Ibrahimovic, Shaw, Rojo and Mensah on the sidelines, as Bailly and Smalling continue recovery. This late in the season, games like this make or break it.

Side note: This was written before Arsenal played Manchester United.

Real Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sun 14 19:00 )

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Real Madrid is one of the best teams in the world. According to the UEFA coefficient, they are THE best team, followed by Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Juventus (in that order). However the last time Los Blancos won La Liga was 5 years ago, while the others won their leagues 1, 1, 3 and 1 year ago respectively. If Real Madrid wins their two games in hand they will win the league. Real Madrid has Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Malaga left to play. Sevilla is undoubtedly the toughest opponents, as Los Blancos have won, drawn and lost with Sevilla this year already. Madrid can’t afford a loss, and neither can Sevilla. The away side is chasing their own hopes of champions league, holding onto the last qualifiers spot. Losing this game could shrink the gap to 3 point cliff with a game to go. If past visits are anything to go by, this is going to be an eventful game. And one Sergio Ramos will be at the centre of it, probably.

Games I would have written about but was too lazy:

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid ( Wed 10 19:54 )

Manchester United vs Celta Vigo ( Thu 11 20:05 )

Lyon vs Ajax ( Thu 11 20:05 )

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Bayern Munich ( Sat 13 14:30 )

Atalanta vs AC Milan ( Sat 13 19:45 )

Crystal Palace vs Hull ( Sun 14 12:00 )

Roma vs Juventus ( Sun 14 19:45 )

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Scouting for Fixtures: May 01 – May 07

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. 

Guy chatting absolutely anything in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention in this football-esque blog. I also do football previews, kinda… 

All times are GMT.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 02 19:45 )

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To sum up the state of affairs in a chant only described as poetic:

Chant:                                                                                                                                      Atleti decime qué se siente, haber perdido la final , te juro, que aunque pasen los años, nunca lo vamos a olvidar… Al 93′ llegó el gol, Sergio Ramos lo metió, el sueño se les murió. Como siempre terminaste segundón

English Translation:                                                                                                             Atleti tell me how it feels, to have lost the final, I swear that even with the years passing, we will never forget, in the 93rd the goal came, Sergio Ramos put it in, and your dream died, as always you ended up second.

To add to the Kafkaesque nature of Atleti in the situation, Luis Aragones famously summed up his frustration in the iconic line: If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse. The literal misplacement of anger is indicative of a side always second place; no more evident than in the champions league. Real Madrid is fighting on 2 fronts, killing it all-around, while Atleti can’t break the duopoly of Real-Barca in La Liga. Can’t really say much in terms of improvement of either side, but Sergio Ramos could make or break any game with the spectrum of brutal tackles to brutal last minute goals (own or otherwise). Though Los RojoBlancos have been transformed by the endearing yet terrifying character of Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone they’re yet to truly break the stigma of Real dominance. But what better place to do it than in Los Blancos’ signature competition.

Monaco vs Juventus ( Wed 03 19:45 )

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If Messi, Neymar and Suarez couldn’t score against Juventus in 180 minutes, what hope does anyone have against – in my opinion – the best team in the world. Statistically speaking Monaco have the best attack in the world, 142 goals in all competitions. But after their most recent 5-0 thrashing by PSG, maybe the defence needs a bit of tightening. In all honesty, it looks like Monaco will get their backside handed to them. Juventus look impenetrable at the moment, but if any team can undo that defence it will be Monaco.

Juventus vs Torino ( Sat 06 19:45 )

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Exactly 3 days – to the millisecond – after Juventus play their pivotal Champions league tie that could make or break their season, they play their biggest rivals in what could, also… make or break their season. With 4 games left in the season, Juventus are 9 points ahead of second place Napoli and are almost at the finish line, though they have played 1 more game than Napoli. Torino is chilling in 9th place, so they’ve really got no skin in the game. Apart from the fact this one of the biggest rivalries on the planet. To sum up the rivalry, I pull up a very convenient anecdote in my failed linguistic attempts:

Did you know I tried learning Italian a few years ago? Failed miserably. What little I still remember was that there are differences between the English alphabet and the Italian. One big difference is that the letter ‘J’ is not present in their alphabet. So, Juventus? What’s going on there? Turns out Juventus derives from Latin, a language only used by the authoritative church at the time (1897) made by aristocratic high-school students, meaning ‘the age of youth’. Torino was made within a division of Juve 9 years later, as people felt it did not represent the city from which it was born: ‘the team of the working class, migrant workers from the provinces or neighbouring countries, the lower middle-class and the poor’. That is the dichotomy of these Turin clubs in a nutshell.

– me about two months ago I don’t know here’s a link

Even though Torino won’t benefit from Juventus winning, their’s always that reasoning of just beating them out of spite, just so they don’t win (a feeling we all wish we didn’t have, but it’s true). The atmosphere of this kind of rivalry is rare, yet universal in rivalries across the world. These are often the games you wish you didn’t miss.

Arsenal vs Manchester United ( Sun 07 16:00 )

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A picture sums up 1000 words. This gif below sums up all of my words and more when it comes to this game, even though I flex at a weak 150 words or less per paragraph.

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The rivalry is there, both these sides HATE each other, picture the relationship between Roy Keane and Patrick Viera, but without any of the footballing ability or charisma, then multiply that by 1,000,000.

Next up, you gotta look at the table:

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This would be the end of an era if Arsenal stays in the position they are; the last time they finished outside of a European spot was 21 years ago. The content on ArsenalFanTV would be nothing like we’ve seen before. Pandemonium. If Man Utd finish 5th they will also be the but of a multitude of jokes, but 6th is something an MUFC fan keeps in the recesses of their mind. Both sides are notoriously inconsistent and have no semblance of form coming into this game. The outcome of this game will play a huge part in the final standings. You can feel the tension and the vibrations of the oncoming tsunami of memes.

Games I was too lazy to write about:

Ajax vs Lyon ( Wed 03 17:45 )

Celta Vigo vs Manchester United ( Thu 04 20:05 )

Sevilla vs Real Sociedad ( Fri 05 20:00 )

Borussia Dortmund vs Hoffenheim ( Sat 06 14:30 )

Hertha Berlin vs RasenBallsport Leipzig ( Sat 06 17:30 )

Besiktas vs Fenerbahce ( Sun 07 17:00 )

AC Milan vs Roma ( Sun 07 19:45 )

 

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 17 – Apr 23

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.

There are so many good fixtures this week. It’s like Christmas, new years, Halloween, Hannukah, Diwali and Chinese new years wrapped into one week of non-stop, top quality, football. 

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 18 19:54 )

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Cristiano has chromosomes bussing about his body that belongs in a Bengal tiger – Ray Hudson on Cristiano Ronaldo

As the old adage goes I suppose… and with those inspiring words by Ray Hudson – football commentator/scouser/poet/philosopher – I horrifically segway into the Ronaldo’s goal against Bayern that only strengthens the point made above.

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That was one of 3 turning points. The 2nd and 3rd, which came 11 and 14 minutes later, were Javi Martinez’s 1st and 2nd yellow card, leaving Bayern 10 men down. That lead to their first loss in the Allianz Arena (in a competitive game) since March the 3rd, of 2016. If it wasn’t for Manuel Neuer the having one of the best games in recent memory, the tie could already be over. But it finished 1-2, holding the tie up nicely into the second leg; now Bayern needs to score at least 2 goals at the Bernabeu which could leave them exposed at the back.

Barcelona vs Juventus ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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This isn’t just Barcelona’s own doing. Juventus are – in my humble opinion – the best team in the world right now, with not only individual quality, but a consistently strong tactical awareness as a group, that I can only say is replicated at a similar rate by, Bayern Munich. They hit Barca like a train. The problems at the back are a well known long term issue for the Catalonians, but that’s not what happened here. Paolo Dyzbala’s what happened here, not to take away from a rare brilliant team performance, with Buffon and Chiellini making world class blocks. Now Barca has to pay another set of referees all over again. Oh no, wait! No, sorry I meant: They have to do one of the greatest comebacks in football history, all over again, to progress to the next round.

Monaco vs Dortmund ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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I can’t talk about this fixture without addressing the extraordinary circumstances of the last leg. There are many arguments for and against holding the game just a day after the attempted bombing of the Dortmund bus, but the decision was made and now we have a vert different game. Who knows? Who knows if Dortmund would have played differently if the game was delayed? As a player, well, for any human being, the idea of an attempt to kill you surely must have an impact on your mind and psyche? Then you’re expected to go out and focus for 90 minutes against one of the best sides in Europe requires tremendous mental fortitude. But nonetheless, we had a game not out of place with the quality you’d expect, ending 2-3. A similar dilemma to Bayern Munich rests on their other German side, as BVB needs to beat Monaco by 2 goals in the next leg. After the first goal goes in, the floodgates will open.

Chelsea vs Tottenham ( Sat 22 17:15 )

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It looks like the magic of the cup is all but been extinguished with the sides left in the competition, exactly what you’d expect. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City. Though at least now we have a more even fixture. We can’t complain too much considering the quality on display in this fixture, Conte’s side already has one hand on the Premier League trophy and only cement their place as one of the most hated clubs in England. But if anyone can stop them, it is Tottenham. They have Guardiola’s backing:

Tottenham are the best team in the league when you let them play. I enjoy watching them play.

They’re the 2 best sides in England and if previous encounters are something to go by, the cards could be flying out like confetti. Though Spurs are hopelessly behind in the league, they have one last chance to trip them up.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 23 19:45 )

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We’re well into the third act of a well versed, but nonetheless captivating story. And this is the climax before the final resolution. The words El Classico is synonymous with the beautiful game, attracting crowds of up to 400 million people, roughly 1/18 people in the world. Touted as one of the greatest games of football one can play, the circumstances surrounding the fixture makes this game even more important. Both sides are in the middle of a tough fixture list. Barca played Sevilla, Malaga, Juventus, Real Sociedad and then Juventus again while Real Madrid had to face Atletico Madrid, FC Bayern, Sporting Gijon and FC Bayern again in the build up to this pivotal tie. The Catalonians are 3 points behind Los Blancos who have a game in hand. After this, they’re only 5 games to decide the league winner. The only realistic way of Barca winning the league, is to win this game. The winner of La Liga rests on the outcome of this game.

It’s also worth mentioning …

Messi is 29 years old, Ronaldo, 32. This is as good as it gets for two of the greatest players of all time, a once in a generation type player. Not to say they suddenly lose all motor functions in the coming years, or there won’t be any more moments of brilliance, but this is usually near the drop off point. This may be one of the last chances to see the 2 in their prime. Enjoy this game for what it is, a competition between two of the best teams – and players – in the world.

Games you should also watch but I was too lazy to write about:

Leicester vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 18 19:54 )

America de Cali vs Deportivo Cali ( Thu 20 01:55 )

Schalke 04 vs Ajax ( Thu 20 20:05 )

Dynamo Kyiv vs Shakhtar Donetsk ( Fri 21 18:00 )

FC Cologne vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 21 19:30 )

Sporting CP vs Benfica ( Sat 22 20:30 )

Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps ( Sat 22 21:00 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 23 12:00 )

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 23 15:00 )

PSV Eindhoven vs Ajax ( Sun 23 15:45 )

Lyon vs Monaco ( Sun 23 20:15 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 10 – Apr 16

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.

Borrusia Dortmund vs Monaco ( Tue 11 19:45 )

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You may feel underwhelmed by this game, after looking further down this list. If I were a

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The Ferrari 308 GT4 is known as one of the ugliest Ferrari’s ever, but a Ferrari nonetheless.

car salesman, this would be an interesting sell. It’s a Ferrari 308 GT4. Looking at the picture, it’s basically a piece of cardboard come to life. Like a 4-year-olds drawing of a car, and they just went with that. But that’s still a Ferrari engine with the same engine that made the car what it is. And that’s this game. Yes, it isn’t All Star XI or Super-Legends Ultimate United FC. But it’s still Ferrari and still worth watching.

Yes well, bu-bu- the, Dortmund aren’t as good as Bayern and no- they’ve lost all the good players.

Yes, BVB has played the role of the kid who gets their lunch money stolen over the years. But Dortmund has one of the strongest records in the UCL this season, holding their own against Real Madrid and only losing only one game, 1-0 to Benfica before dismantling them in the 2nd leg.

Fine, Monaco’s top of Ligue 1 right now, but PSG are still the best team in France.

  1. I don’t care how good the team is, PSG dropped a 4-0 lead; first time ever in UCL history (what d’you mean 1-4?).
  2. Monaco is the top scorer in the world right now, 135 goals in all competition.

*Mic drop*

Juventus vs Barcelona ( Tue 11 19:45 )

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Imagine the look on the Juventus player’s faces when that final whistle blew and the scoreline read 6-1. In an inexplicable turn of events – or maybe it was explicable  – the Catalonian giants managed to reach the final 16. The Italian side has been hard done by vis a vis their fixture list. Coming into the game, the home side will have played 3 games in the last 8 games, 2 against Napoli who’s attack worked Juve into the ground. Now they have to face one of the best attacks teams in the world. Anlackee.

Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid ( Wed 12 19:45 )

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Sometimes you have games so good that you don’t know how to convey why you should watch it. Did that even make sense? It just is*. If you’ve even scraped the very top layer of football the names Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are supposed to be the best. Just like how when you think basketball your imaginary mind map has Golden State Troopers or the Boston Limericks attached to it. I’m sorry but this is a literal no-brainer.

*Great Journalism rate 10/10

Inter vs AC Milan ( Sat 15 11:30 )

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The identities of these two clubs and what they represent are more resonant than ever in philosophies of football, also echoing the differing ideologies in our political climate. The whole reason this rivalry even exists is because Internazionale was born out of AC Milan not allowing foreign players to join. Thus a rivalry was born, currently in its 109th year. That number itself is indicative of why this game is lauded the way it is. When you have an event that occurs every year, for generations, it becomes part of your life. It becomes more than a game but a celebration or a ritual that’s woven into your culture. It’s almost religious in nature which explains why it is the most famous Italian derby. The name itself, derby Della Madonnina has religious ties; Madonnina takes its name from the golden Virgin Mary statue which overlooks the Duomo in the city centre. Though it doesn’t hold the anticipation it once did, once the crucible that is the San Siro is lit, enjoy the spectacle.

Games I was too lazy to write about:

Atletico Madrid vs Leicester ( Wed 12 19:45 )

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders FC ( Sat 15 03:00 )

Colorado Rapids vs Real Salt Lake ( Sun 16 02:00 )

Manchester United vs Chelsea ( Sun 16 16:00 )

Spartak Moscow vs Zenit St. Petersburg ( Sun 16 18:00 )

Marseille vs Saint-Etienne ( Sun 16 20:00 )

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 03 – Apr 09

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.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

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Roma vs Lazio ( Tue 04 19:45 ) Napoli vs Juventus ( Wed 05 19:45 )

The commentary alone paints a picture. Breaking the mic with screams of joy; hearing a real life Italian man, with genuine angst in his voice shoutMama Mia!’ is one of the best compliments one could receive, and the Roman derby deserves it. Lazio came into this game, yet to beat their rivals since 2013. Roma is also playing their best football in recent years, currently 2nd place and with a mountain [63] of goals. So when Lazio won 2-0 it was time to crack out the beers, and the bald eagle, of course. Take a leaf out of Quentin’s book, there were many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, shots. There should be no reason to expect any different in the 2nd leg.

The Nazzuri may felt the same way Lampard felt when his goal was disallowed, Ireland failed to qualify for the world cup or lamenting the fact you got a C for the fifth time even though you spent hours revising before hand. Underserved is what I’m saying, going the long and scornful way around it. So Juventus scored 3 goals. The first one was a penalty that well, it’s tenuous calling it a foul. The second goal you can have no complaints, no one else is to blame but the goalkeeper who ran towards the ball like a moth to a flame. The third goal (2nd penalty) was unquestionably wrong, as Reina made contact with the ball before the player. So a game that ended 3-1 could’ve ended 1-1 will all to play for. But if any team could turn it around it would be the top goal scorers in Italy.

Barcelona vs Sevilla ( Wed 05 18:30 )

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Maybe Sampaoli saw a litter of black cats, or the team were possessed by the spirit of Goofy the klutz. The players have their part to play, but the quick succession and nature of defeats is a tad cruel. After 25 games were played, Sevilla had 55 points, only 2 behind 2nd place Barcelona. Following that game was a draw to Alaves – who they should be beating – and a draw to Osasuna – who were on a 7 game losing streak. Following that they lost to Atletico, reducing the gap between Sevilla and 4th place to 2 points. As La Liga only has 3 champions league places, Sevilla’s prerogative went from challenging Barca to see out 3rd place*. The gap between Barcelona extended to 6 points, as they look to win a La Liga trophy. To compound the misery, Sevilla exited the champions league is extraordinary circumstances. Barca returns to the Nou Camp with a very well rested Messi, not only banned internationally but domestically too, due to a build up of yellow cards so missed last weeks game.

*3rd place is an achievement. But, no one remembers Tottenham’s last season as a team who won a champions league place for the first time in 4 seasons, they remember them as the side who finished 3rd in a 2-horse race. Granted those were more extreme circumstances, but they were both let downs unless Sevilla can prove me wrong with the 10 games they have left.

Chelsea vs Manchester City ( Wed 05 20:00 )

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We can’t fault him. Guardiola, the man who came with high, if not impossible expectations will probably run out the last quarter of the season seeing out a champions league place. He tried everything. Various systems, formations, players changing position, even banning wifi during training and instigating communal meals. Drawing with Liverpool at home and then calling it ‘one of the proudest days of my coaching career’ is a tad bit pathetic, but bless him, his heart is in the right place. Now he’s left with a roided up attack with a flimsy base. That flimsy base has to face Chelsea. Oh and we all saw what happened the last time. A WWE approach was adopted towards the end of the last match as Fernandinho attempted (but failed) the Undertakers chokeslam, resulting in 2 red cards. Can’t expect anything less than another end-to-end game here.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Sat 08 15:15 )

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If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse.
Forget tactics, it’s Real Madrid. Get out there and stick it up their arses!
– Luis Aragones, former Atleti manager

You may think the man above it crazy, but it’s a build up of frustration and misplaced (literally) rage that comes with following a club defined by their losses for the longest time. That was the before Simeone era. Now we are into the after Simeone era filled with world class defenders, trophies ( well only 2) and new hope. Still, Los Blancos have an air of superiority over their rivals, and Simeone’s men will require a tremendous amount of restraint not to kick the lights out of their opposition players.

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

Hoffenheim vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 04 19:00 )

FC Cologne vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Tue 04 19:00 )

Villarreal vs Athletic Club ( Fri 07 19:45 )

Universidad de Chile vs Colo Colo ( Sat 08 16:00 )

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 08 17:30 )

Lazio vs Napoli ( Sun 09 19:45 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 27 – Apr 02

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.

Check out the Other Mentions at the bottom as this week there was an unprecedented amount of heavyweight games, enjoy.

Liverpool vs Everton ( Sat 01 12:30 )

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It may sound sadistic, but these are the sort of rivalries where you relish inflicting any pain possible on your opposition. It’s exacerbated for Everton seeing that – let’s be honest – European football is as likely for them this season, as is me getting with Cara Delevigne. If someone came up to you and described a game as:

You want to hurt each other. The tackles are more brutal, the challenges wilder. It’s meatier than other matches.

I am immediately on board. I don’t know why this phenomenon occurs, but it is synonymous with entertainment. When you wish, just horrific thoughts on your opposition players, 1. you need help and 2. you are witnessing a derby worth watching. For a neutral, if there is a favourable turn of events, it’s like watching everyone morph into Connor McGregor for a few minutes. All it takes is one ‘liberal’ challenge and the fuse has been set. Everton has more or less reached the ceiling in terms of their position. Breaking through the wall of Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal is too big a challenge this season. Liverpool is hanging on to that last Champions league spot for dear life. Man Utd and Arsenal within a stone’s throw away, plus they have 2 games in hand on Liverpool. If Everton contributed to Liverpool’s downfall from European football, it would be even more comical considering the last time Everton won a Merseyside derby was 7 years ago.

Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 01 14:30 )

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The unexpected enormity of this fixture is something to behold. The picture above compresses tens of thousands of simultaneous emotions onto a few pixels. In actuality, the 22 men are playing for the Revierderby. For the layman, you’d probably heard of the Revierderby in the fringes of Bundesliga talk, or not at all. Under the radar in recent years due to a recent lack of silverware and big name players (until recently), but this is as big as it gets in Germany. It’s a hallmark trait of these derbies, the atmosphere is different, you can feel it through the TV or computer screen. Those who are more up to date with German football know that both these clubs are flopping. Maybe harsh considering Dortmund is only in 3rd place, but many pinned hopes on BVB leading the charge on pulling FC Bayern down of their throne. Instead, Dortmund is fighting it out with rising clubs like RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin for champions league. Those rising clubs have pushed Schalke down to 9th, where from what I can see are twiddling their thumbs till next season arrives. But all the built up frustration and form is washed away with the arrival of this derby.

Monaco vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Sat 01 20:00 )

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Blessed be the name of the lord, blessed be your name, for God has given the holy grail of fixture lists this week – Revelations 10:66

I didn’t fact check that* but I’m pretty sure that was in Revelations. Makes sense to, if you look at the Expendables-esque lineup ahead. This one included. To steal another weighty proverb:

Onions have layers – Shrek

Not only do we have Monaco, who has the strike force equivalent to a roided up SEAL team; they face the current champions of France, PSG. Not only that, but they face each other in a Coupe de la Ligue fixture. Not only that. It’s the final. Monaco is showing PSG how it is done so far. None of this 6-1 loss to Barcelona crap and cry about it after (though they may have a point). Domestically, Monaco has the upper hand, 8 games left and holding the top spot. It’s impossible to do what PSG have done and maintained it. Now with Europe out the question and Monaco in line to win Ligue 1, this is their most likely and immediate chance of winning silverware this season.

*I’m not fake news please no hate.

Benfica vs FC Porto ( Sat 01 20:30 )

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With 10 games left, I can say with confidence that one of these 2 teams will win Liga NOS. As things stand, Benfica is 1st with 64 points, Porto is 1 place and 1 point behind them. The next closest are Sporting CP who are 9 points behind. And the name of this game: O Clássico. With a name like that you come to expect a certain level of football that is a given. With a combined 9 international titles between them, the weight is justified. WWWWWWD. WWWWWWD. One of those is the form of Porto, the other is the form of Benfica. Geographically is the only distinct difference between these 2. Clearly, on paper, there is very difficult to distinguish who is the better side. Not to resort to the wine cliche, so I’ll opt for the less used cheese analogy. Like a finely aged cheese (E.g. Monterey Jack), the derby has had over 100 years to affinage. the game itself predates the league it currently resides in by 22 years. That’s 1 Wisconsin cheddar older than Liga Nos. Not to undercut (please don’t click off) the tension with all this cheese talk, it really is one of the biggest derbies in the world, we expect grate things (please, please don’t click off).

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 02 16:00 )

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For better or worse – depending on your perspective – Arsenal is making bigger strides in the meme community than in the football community. The most recent loss to West Brom only adds more wood to a bonfire set alight months ago. WLLWLL. The Gunners form is horrific, and the gut instinct is change. But who? There are some shouts of Allegri but at this point, there is no way of distinguishing fact from fiction. You don’t want to end up with the next David Moyes, followed by Louis ‘philosophy’ Van Gaal*. Look at Man City. They knew Pep Guardiola was coming from the point Mancini left 4 years ago. While both currently reside in the tornado that formed between 2nd and 7th place, Man City unquestionably hold the upper hand. There is some hope for the home side, as the last 2 encounters in Emirates, Arsenal won both against Man City. That is the only positive thing I could find.

*I miss this man so much.

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

France vs Spain ( Tue 28 20:00 )

Hertha Berlin vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 31 19:30 )

Ajax vs Feyenoord ( Sun 02 13:30 )

Napoli vs Juventus ( Sun 02 19:45 )

 

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 )

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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 )

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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 )

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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).

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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

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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 )

 

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 27 – Mar 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.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

The Italians do not mess about when it comes to their cup football. In England, you’ve got Lincoln City slapping teams around; in Germany, third division side Sportfreunde Lotte are in the quarter-finals, this would definitely not fly in the Coppa Italia. Napoli, Roma, Juventus, Lazio. Not only the last 4 left in Coppa Italia but ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in goals scored.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Tue 28 19:45 )

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I don’t know what more to say than, it’s Juventus and Napoli. The weight of those names alone is enough to persuade me, but when you put them against each other, you have a real show. People use the term star-studded when describing top teams, but collectively, these two could fill out a Michael Jackson military jacket. Some football teams play the boring game or the rapid game or even flat out take-down bulldog. These two are the few who play in a way you would be justified in calling it the beautiful game. In terms of entertainment value, there are only a handful of games and circumstances that could outdo this game. Having said that, the other semi-final may be one of the select few that fall into that category.

Lazio vs Roma ( Wed 01 19:45 )

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The cherry on top of the tiramisù is that to accompany this heated semi-finals is that of this rivalry. A rivalry spanning 89 years; It has it’s moments, from the good, the bad, to the Mussolini. The famous line ‘you think that’s air your breathing’ from the Matrix was actually inspired by the time the Wachowski’s sat in on a Rome derby. In actuality, it’s part red smoke, part Bovril and part god knows what. To accompany the incandescent red and blue flames are a 50/50 split of Roma and Lazio fans. Unusual you would think, as you wouldn’t expect 50% of tickets for away fans. In actual fact, 0% of tickets go to away fans, as both Roman sides have to share a stadium. From personal experience, I’ve found sharing an Xbox with my brother has led to fights well into the hundreds by now. Take that scenario, add a tonne of beer, and 72,689 fans who can actually throw a proper punch. For a player, that atmosphere is the equivalent of shooting a bucket of adrenaline into your blood stream. Plus, it’s not going to just be a shin-kicking contest out there, as Roma and Lazio have the quality to put on a real show, with 54 and 44 goals scored in Serie A respectively. There is further motivation for the 2 sides – not that they need it – as Lazio hasn’t won this tournament in 5 years, for Roma that number doubles to 10 years.

Liverpool vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 17:30 )

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I don’t know, you don’t know, Gary Neville might think he knows, but he doesn’t know; hell, Paul the Octopus is shrugging with all 8 of his shoulders or whatever the equivalent is because they don’t have bones. Point being, if you want to bet on the score line, don’t. It encompasses the Premier League as a whole right now, just look at the form of the top 5 from England with the top 5 from Italy:

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One shows a neatly organised pile of W’s, with the top sides doing what they do, win. The other side is just a mess. Arsenal lost to Watford and drew to Bournemouth, but Liverpool is even more inexplicable. They drew with Sunderland and Man Utd, lost to Swansea but drew with Chelsea; lost to Hull then beat Tottenham who has the best defensive record in the league. But hey, at least they know how to do one thing. That’s taking the ball and putting it in the back of the net. Being top goalscorers of a league is one thing, but being top goalscorers of the Premier League means you really know what you’re doing (attacking wise only). Both sides share the title of being top goal scorers with 54 each, and these games have a knack of finishing with a high scoreline. Apart from an anomalous 0-0 finish, the rest have been Man-City-versus-Monaco-esque. 3-4, 3-3, 4-1, 2-2, 2-1. Chelsea might already have etched their name on the trophy, but right now only 4 points separate 2nd place Manchester City from 6th place Manchester United.

These are the games I would’ve also written about if I wasn’t so lazy:

Galatasaray vs Besiktas ( Mon 27 17:00 )

Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates ( Sat 04 13:30 )

Roma vs Napoli ( Sat 04 14:00 )

LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas ( Sat 04 21:00 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 20 – Feb 26

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.

Manchester City vs Monaco ( Tue 21 19:45 )

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If you’re going to watch any match this week – or even this year for that matter – this one would be a worthwhile candidate. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Well, scratch that. It’s this one, my bad. Don’t get me wrong, just look at the 60-second highlight above. It had a fair share of jump-out-of-your-couch-and-do-a-power-lap-of-the-house-because-of-what-you-just-witnessed moments*. Them ones. Insigne and then the CDM Casemeiro!?

 No, it’s not a cup final or a derby, but it’s hard to look past that mountain of goals [161]. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

Again, my bad. A 161 goal tally is like Mount Kailash, but the mountain I’m describing here rivals Everest. The combined total goals scored (in all competitions) for these two teams is *drumroll* one hundred and ninety-three, 193 times the ball has hit the back of the net*2. You have the most lethal attack in the world, Monaco (119 goals), against a-uh, less than ideal lineup at the back. The same can go the other way, Manchester City’s attack is more than capable of destroying Monaco’s backline. That’s why if you mapped out Man City performances on a graph it would look like a heart rate monitor of a tachycardia patient, regardless of the relatively stable form. Need I remind you the same team outscored Barcelona (3-1) yet conceded 4 goals against Everton (4-0). Man City is the epitome of the Gym Lad who only works out the chest, arms and shoulders but disregards the legs. Monaco may look like they have a solid defence, but Ligue 1 is generally low scoring, leaving the back 5 relatively untested. This is unmissable, with the potential to go down as one of the great Champions League fixtures. Not to recycle my old material for the 3rd time but

how lucky are we; the reverse fixture will be played in 2 weeks. – me taking about Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Wed 15 19:45 )

*Coming from personal experience.

*That is an insane goal tally. For the sake of argument, if you take the Bundesliga top 5, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund, and Hoffenheim, then add them together, you would still be 11 goals off the combined total of Man City and Monaco.

Real Betis vs Sevilla ( Sat 25 15:15 )

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So you’re not allowed to play for Sevilla, what do you do? Create your own club of course. That’s the for Dummies version of events but does not do justice to the rich and tumultuous story of this rivalry, 101 years in the making. It’s like describing The Titanic as Everyone tries the Ice Bucket Challenge. For the sake of saving both your and my time, let’s move on. When your opposition chants ‘Viva er Beti manque pierda!’, meaning ‘Long live Betis, even when they lose!’, fear isn’t the go-to emotion your opposition would be feeling. However, Sevilla may be the one exception to that. The rich history that makes the derby so great, also makes it easier for politics and senselessness to bleed onto the pitch:

If by isolated and one-off, León meant that only one large, full bottle connected with Ramos’s head, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that Ramos was the only person who staggered on to the pitch, collapsed into a heap, lost consciousness and was forced to spend last night in hospital, then he was right. If by isolated and one-off, he meant that the man who threw the bottle was the only fan whose aim was true, he was also right. But in every other way, he was completely and utterly wrong. If there is one thing that last night’s event was not it is isolated. And it was not isolated on so many levels. – Sid Lowe

The game itself has the merit of being one of the most intense in the world. El Clasico is more glamorous in Spain, but the Seville Derby is without question more passionate. A passion you cannot find in most derbies, which permeates throughout the whole city:

Fans of clubs would often sign up their unborn children for club memberships and taxi drivers who support one team have often refused fares that require them to drive them to the other club’s stadium.

The gulf between the two sides is seen clearly in the La Liga table, with Sevilla (3rd) competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona for the title. Betis are 13th, drawing their last 3 but get to boast the fact one of them were Barcelona. Irrespective of the result, the games are unusual in that you’ll witness a strange phenomenon where the players will try to kick the opposition shins instead of the ball.

Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 26 15:15 )

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Mine was Three Little Birds – Bob Marley, but everyone has their own. The first time I heard that song that was the only song I’d listen to for days on end, by which time nor was I exhausted of it but I actively avoided it for years. The reason I mention it is because that’s how I feel about this fixture also. The games themselves are worth the watch, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about them. But that’s why I resent it, how many different ways can you pick at the same fixture before you exhaust yourself? It feels like it’s in the hundreds but in actuality, these two sides have faced each other 6 times in the last 12 months, the 3rd time this month. Volatile would be the word to describe these games. Just two weeks ago, the game played only had 2 goals but had 3 red cards, 11 yellow cards, about 500 fouls, a missed penalty, and a 35-40 yard almost perfect free kick from Messi. Not to mention Atleti were disallowed a clear goal that would have seen them through to extra time and with an extra man:

Beautiful ball played in and that is absolutely onside he’s level, he’s even behind Pique by a foot or so. And that one is *inhales* badly, BADLY refereed by the linesman – Ray Hudson

That one call cost them a game they were on course to win. No love lost there.

Manchester United vs Southampton ( Sun 26 16:30 )

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Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 20.23.10.pngGuys, it’s not that bad.

In terms of prestige, the League Cup sits somewhere between the Community Shield and a Blue Peter badge. – Johnathon Liew, Telegraph

No, seriously it’s not THAT bad.

The EFL Cup is so boring that nobody has shown up for Southampton v Sunderland

Southampton fans clearly fancied staying in for the Great British Bake Off final tonight. To be fair to the Black Cats, around 1,500 away fans made the long trip from Sunderland to the south coast this evening. But the locals should hang their heads in shame.

Nick Elliot, DREAM TEAM FC

Fine, if you’re going to be pessimistic I might as well join in. Southampton is well-accredited with the label boring with frustration building in the home supporters. The stigma of boring Van Gaal still looms of Mourinho’s Manchester United, and we all know it is possible for the Portuguese manager to bring back and park his famous – or infamous – bus. Questions could be asked of whether Man Utd deserved to get here with very favourable draws in the quarter and semi (arguably the final) finals. In terms of form, it is the one time when the form is irrelevant. So why put this on the list you ask? It’s a CUP FINAL. We love cup finals. We love it the same reason you look forward to the series finale of your favourite TV show. This is the conclusion to 8280 minutes of football with an ensemble cast of 92 teams. This is my Felina of Breaking Bad, just with less killing and meth, one would hope.

These are the games I would’ve also written about if I wasn’t so lazy:

FC Porto vs Juventus ( Wed 22 19:45 )

Sevilla vs Leicester ( Wed 22 19:45 )

Corinthians vs Palmeiras ( Thu 23 00:45 )

Hertha Berlin vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 25 17:30 )

Feyenoord vs PSV Eindhoven ( Sun 26 13:30 )

Inter vs Roma ( Sun 26 19:45 )

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 13- Feb 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.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona ( Tue 14 19:45 )

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One would greet you with a bonjour while the other prefers a holla. Apart from that, they are more or less identical. Like how identical twins are made up of different individual molecules,  but they have the exact outward appearance. The individual molecules, in this case, is each player. The outward appearance is (almost) everything else. The fact they play the same formation (4-3-3) is only the beginning*. Both sides rarely give up possession with Barca: 61.7% and PSG: 60.9%, the highest % in their respective leagues; an extremely high pass accuracy go hand in hand (Barca: 86.3% and PSG: 88.7%). Both sides can slice a team in half, with a relatively high 29% of attacks coming from the middle for both sides. Defensive wise, the differences are negligible: 0.6% difference in tackles per game, 1.5% in interceptions and 0.2% in fouls per game. Position wise in their leagues, both are 2nd. EVEN THE FORM. Both sides are identical (all competitions) in their last 8 matches: WWWWWDWW. But, after painstaking research, I’ve finally found one difference. Barcelona has a much higher % of the time in the opposition third (32%) than PSG (26%), it’s only 6% but please let me have this. The ability to sustain pressure could be a factor in how lopsided the results have been, with PSG only winning 1 of the last 6 encounters. So it’s on Cavani, Draxler and Moura to keep up with MSN.

*You know when you play rock-paper-scissors against someone and every time you both give the same item? Every. Single. Time. That’s how it felt writing this paragraph.

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal ( Wed 15 19:45 )

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Do you think God watches ArsenalfanTV*? For the first time in 6 years, Arsenal finally finishes 1st in their group. They don’t have to face FC Bayern, again. Because you can’t get drawn with a team who finishes the same place as you. And, surely Bayern finished 1st? For the first time in 8 years, FC Bayern finishes 2nd. Be it Murphy’s law or divine intervention, Arsenal faces FC Bayern for the 4th time in 5 seasons. Arsenal has never progressed to the quarter-finals when drawn with Bayern Munich in the round of 16. It goes without saying that the German champions are heavy favourites, as they won the tournament 5 times, 5 more than Arsenal did. The English side just cannot compete at the highest level. Physically and technically, the premier league takes a Darwinian approach, making sure only the fittest can survive. But mentally is where Arsenal falter almost consistently. Good sides can beat an inferior opposition, but great sides have the mental capacity or winning mentality’ which the Germans have in abundance. Arsenal has only lost 3 of their 7 games played against the top 6, but Bayern has only lost 3 all season. The Arsenal fan base is like a pressure cooker with the lid stuck; if Wenger doesn’t fix it soon, it’s only a matter of time before it explodes. Getting knocked out the champions league only adds heat to the flame underneath the pot.

*For those unacquainted with this gem of a youtube channel, it started off well intentioned, ‘It was set up by Arsenal Fans for Arsenal Fans.’ in their own words. For Arsenal fans, it’s catharsis to watch a fellow fan blow their frustration or debate opinions. For everyone else, ‘It’s like watching an Internet comment section come to life’ as put by Paul Tamburro on Crave.

Real Madrid vs Napoli ( Wed 15 19:45 )

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This game encapsulates why I started this blog (just over a year ago now), to a tee. Read the description: ‘Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.’ One hundred and sixty-one.  Since the start of this season, collectively, both sides have a combined total of 161 goals in all competitions. If you’re going to watch any match this week – or even this year for that matter – this one would be a worthwhile candidate. And how lucky are we; the reverse fixture will be played in 2 weeks. No, it’s not a cup final or a derby, but it’s hard to look past that mountain of goals. Hats off to Napoli manager Sarri, as many were sceptical of Napoli remaining an attacking powerhouse after their 36-time goalscorer Higuain left for Juventus. In fact, the Azzurri have scored more goals this season (53) relative to this time last season (53). Then there’s the matter of Real Madrid. The guys who are top of their league with 51 goals in 19 games. Los Blancos look the favourites to progress to the next round, winning 11 Champions league trophies, why not a 12th? Los Blancos have only won 50% of their matches since the New Year, as well as ending their 40 matches unbeaten run since the start of the season. Ending that unbeaten run and losing back to back may not seem like much, but consider that the last time Real Madrid lost was February. February 2016 that is, 12 months ago. Well, the reason why seems pretty obvious to me. Those familiar to zodiacs like me, know full well that 2017 marks the year of the Rooster. Everyone knows that the year of the Rooster’s unlucky colour is white. What is Real Madrid classic home kit colour? White. Need I say more? Something has also happened to the away side, as Napoli games act as a magnet for red cards. There have been more red cards in 2017 for games involving Napoli already (6 red cards in 7 games) than there was since the start of the season in 2016 (5 red cards in 24 matches). After hyping up this game so much, fingers crossed I haven’t just jinxed it.