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 )

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 06 – Mar 12

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.

Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Tue 07 19:45 )

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The last leg left us re-aligning our jaws after they collectively dropped at the 53′ mark. Yes, the game ended 3-1 in favour of Los Blancos. That 1 away goal is what Napoli is holding onto coming into the 2nd leg. In order to progress to the next round of the competition, the Naples have to either win 2-0 or if Los Blancos score, by a 3 goal deficit. If we go further, I wouldn’t bet my house on the idea of Naples keeping a clean sheet. So chances are, it’s going to play out where once Real Madrid score, it’s going to be an all-out attack. The last time we saw that we witnessed one of the best Champions League games ever. If these two could tap into that, we could witness another game akin to the 8 goal thriller we saw just 2 weeks ago.

Genoa vs Sampdoria ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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The blood runs just a bit hotter and the ball is booted with more weight behind it*, literally and figuratively. I may be romanticising the idea of Italian passion when it comes to football, I mean their country is the shape of an actual boot. But, in all the time I’ve been writing on this blog, one thing has been made apparent. The Italians have set the benchmark when it comes to a proper derby. And this is the oldest of them all. Named after the landmark lighthouse, Derby Della Lanterna is not the game for you if you’re more accustomed to intricate passing or superstars. Instead, it is a breath of fresh air, as put eloquently by TheseFootballTimes:

While other games are characterised by violence and animosity, the Derby della Lanterna is all about divided families fighting it out for 90 minutes in the hope that their beloved side will give them something to shout about. It’s what a rivalry should be in football: passionate, loyal and largely friendly.

*Is that a fat joke? No.

Real Sociedad vs Athletic Club ( Sun 12 11:00 )

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A derby by its very nature poses the ideal conditions for aggression and violence. The last paragraph was dedicated to a derby – one of the few – exempt from that stigma. This basque derby so happens to be exempt from that stigma as well. It’s easy to overlook this derby as it falls under the huge shadow of the El Clasico, but these two sides have their own story worth reading. Sociedad is the stronger side on paper, sitting higher on the table and scoring more goals. In fact, Bilbao’s form is the definition of inconsistent: LWLWLW. What makes these 2 sides special is the unwavering approach to every game. The intensity and fast paced style are trademarked by these 2.

Games I wanted to talk about but was too lazy:

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 07 19:45 )

Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Wed 08 19:45 )

Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 11 14:30 )

Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 11 14:30 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 12 12:00 )

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.

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 06 – Feb 12

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.

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 07 20:00 )

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Atleti looks – not to beat the cliche to death – like a shadow of their former self. Compared to this time last season, they’ve actually scored 4 more goals but doubled down on conceding, with 8 more than last season (twice the amount). Oh my god, 16 goals conceded in 20 games! That only makes them what, only the 6th best defence in the Europe?! That stat would look complementary for most other teams, but by the insanely high standards they set themselves, Atleti is slipping. To compound the pressure, they have one of the best attacking line-ups in the world they now have to face, again, away from home. This is the second leg of a tie already not in their favour. I feel by explaining the last leg a bit more illustrates just how big the mountain Atleti have to climb is. Suarez scored first at 6′.  So he starts just behind the halfway line with 4 Atleti players in front of him; with his first touch he bypasses Godin, the second goes past Savic (by now he’s at the edge of the box) and the third touch puts the ball past the keeper, scoring an incredible solo goal. He’s running at such an immense speed from running the half of the pitch he needs to put his arms out, acting as a parachute would for drag racing, so as to not crash into the advertising board. Amazing. The second is scored by Messi at 32′. A ball played to him from the edge of the box, what do you do? Of course, you rocket it in, curling away from the keeper (and goal) and bounce off the opposite post and nestle it into the net. 2-0, game over. Yes ok, Atleti scored 1 goal but that is beside the point. Point being, both of those goals were unstoppable. It didn’t matter if you had 11 of the best players in the world or 100 Brazilian kids in the 62-15-23 formation, those goals were fixed points in time, they were always going in. That’s the danger Atleti face, the chance that regardless of how well they play, there is a chance Suarez, Neymar or Messi could pull it out the bag at any given moment. Also, Atletico Madrid has to go for the win. Conceding 2 away goals means needing to score twice without response from Barca to ensure they go through.

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Sat 11 17:30 )

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Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now felt like an accurate gauge of the mood.

That quote was in reference to Anfield, after beating Manchester City 1-0 on new years eve and winning 4 in a row, excited in all the possibilities 2017 had to offer. Fast forward to today, Anfield feels Kafkaesque, with Mad World by Gary Jules ringing through the speakers. The phrase wank wank wank wank* isn’t thrown about too often, but it sums up the state of things when referenced by The RedMen TV after losing 2-0 to Hull. I don’t remember a worse start to a year for Liverpool, ever. 36 days in, 10 games played, 5 losses, 4 draws, but 1 win. The 1 win was against League 2 side Plymouth in the 2nd leg of an FA cup tie and ended 0-1, but a win is a win. Even still, Liverpool has a good chance of winning. Stats wise anyway. The last 6 games, Liverpool have not lost a single one. That’s about everything I could find in favour of Liverpool. That, and the fact their playing in Anfield. So Spurs are the closest thing to overthrowing Chelsea right now, 9 points behind the league leaders despite winning 7 of their last 9 Premier League fixtures. Both defences will be tested on Saturday, as Tottenham and Liverpool are 1st and 2nd in shots per game respectively, with 17.6 and 17.1. Couple that with the stat of Tottenham averaging the lowest interceptions per game respectively (11 and 8.4), this could be a high scoring game. While Tottenham can rely on their sound defensive record (best in the league), Liverpool defenders could recontextualise recent events to cope:

*Trust me. It’s not what it seems like. The link is safe to click. Trust. Me.

Osasuna vs Real Madrid ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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If we’re sticking to the music analogy, Minas Morgul is definitely playing through the El Sadar (Osasuna home) stadium speakers as you catch glimpse of the Real Madrid side marching in the distance*. Ironically, Osasuna means health but if you were to personify the club, they would have osteoporosis. I’m definitely being too mean, but when you have the 2nd worst defence in the league, the worst home record in La Liga (haven’t even won a home game yet, after 11 games) and only won 1 league game all season, the home side look out of their league, literally and figuratively. It’s commendable how they climbed the third tier, nicknamed the well, in Christian Bale Dark Knight fashion. But when Phill Ball describes the off-the-pitch issues on sport360 as:

they are under investigation for match-fixing during last season’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation, have an ex-president and ex-director recently released from prison on bail, and financial problems popping up like poisonous mushrooms

sympathy is hard to come by. Then the realisation that Real Madrid is playing begins to contextualise why I picked this game. I am all for competitive unpredictable football, but there is a certain joy that comes with watching a side completely rip apart their opposition (again, sorry Osasuna fans). Los Blancos are top of the table with 2 games in hand, with 51 goals all season, ranked #4 in goals per game. Recent history between the two sides also points to a high scoring game, averaging 3.8 goals per game. Good luck.

*If you don’t get that reference, as a ginger wizard once said, she needs to sort out her priorities*2.

*If you didn’t get that one either, you’re beyond help.

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


Sources:

WhoScored

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/31/liverpool-manchester-city-premier-league-match-report

http://sport360.com/article/football/la-liga/205995/phil-ball-christmas-pickle-or-plight-for-la-liga-clubs-as-we-take-stock-at-the-winter-break/

https://scoutingforfixtures.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/the-most-entertaining-football-teams-statistically-ranked/

Scouting For Fixtures: Dec 05 – Dec 11

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.

Benfica vs Napoli ( Tue 06 19:45 )screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-15

Envision yourself as Benfica manager Rui Vitória. So it’s half-time, good news your side is 0-3 up away from home at Beşiktaş. ‘Great work’ and ‘keep up the pressure’ would have been the crux of the half time talk. Fast forward to the final whistle blowing and you hear a roaring crowd of Beşiktaş fans. What? Oh, wait that’s right, you’ve just let a 3 goal lead slip and drawn 3-3. Instead of securing a spot in the knockout stages of the champions league you now have to beat Napoli on the last day or pray that a struggling FC Dynamo Kyiv can contain a Beşiktaş team that just rinsed your side. While a rising list of four-letter words is bubbling in your head for what you just witnessed, an utter shambles, think of the players. Left frustrated and anxious from an indefensible performance, only intensified by the FIFA Street-Esque goals you’ve conceded. Now it’s your job to rebuild their confidence and figure out how it all fell apart. Napoli experienced a lesser version of that when they were held to a draw with Dynamo Kyiv. Due to Napoli beating Benfica already (4-2), there is no room for errors for the home side if they wish to remain in the competition, a sentiment shared by Benfica striker Guedes who believes ‘It is going to be a difficult match against Napoli, but we are counting on the fans to help us win.’ 

Lyon vs Sevilla ( Wed 07 19:45 )screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-15

Will Sevilla finally make it past the group stage or will they do what the always do? Get knocked out, into the Europa League, win the Europa league, qualify for the Champions league… Unfortunately for Lyon, winning is not enough. The home side needs to beat Sevilla by a difference of at least 2 goals if they are to qualify for the group stages. So when one team is incentivised to score as many goals as possible (because no one with any sense is going to sit back after scoring 2 in these circumstances) either: The home side will pelt shots at the goal until it ends up like this amazing/horrific scene. Or the game would be stretched by Lyon’s lopsided press, leaving gaps in the middle for either side to exploit and score multiple times. Either way, it looks like a win-win for the neutral viewer.

Real Madrid vs Dortmund ( Wed 07 19:45 )screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-15

Real Madrid is a side riddled with injuries, held by an impulsive owner described as ‘an idiot, at least it when comes to matters on the field,’ yet remain undefeated in and top of La Liga. Even more impressive being that all of this is done as the home side is deep into a brutal run of fixtures. Since Nov 19 till Dec 10 Los Blancos will play 7 matches, averaging a game every 3 days, against the likes of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Meanwhile Real are on a 6 game winning streak. In the Bundesliga, Dortmund continues their mixed season, losing and drawing half of their games. In a situation like, it’s tempting for managers or players to not invest too much into the outcome of the game, seeing as both teams are already guaranteed qualification. In the last 10 years, only 1 team finished 2nd in the group stages and went on to win the UCL (Inter Milan 2009/10). If Dortmund keeps their top spot after going to the Bernabeu they would be the 3rd side to do draw with Real/ end Madrid’s 21-game unbeaten run.

Toronto FC vs Seatle Sounders FC ( Sun 11 01:00 )

Well, this is odd. Amidst football giants like Real Madrid and Juventus is sandwiched Toronto and Seatle. In the 20 years the MLS Cup has been running, Toronto has never won it. The same goes for Seatle Sounders. In fact, this is the first time either side has even qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs – this is THE FINAL. I’m also wondering how this happened as I almost overlooked this fixture thinking it was just another normal MLS game. Because I don’t know as much as I should about the MLS, here is what MLS Soccer had to say on these two MLS teams. If you read that link then you understand how crazy this all is. Though most of you are in GMT you should definitely check out the highlights because history will be made.

Torino vs Juventus ( Sun 11 14:00 )

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. It’s the winning formula that runs in a lot of great football rivalries like Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid, Manchester United vs Manchester City and Liverpool vs Everton. Most casual football fans not in Italy conjure up Perez’s amazing goal for Torino when thinking about the Turin Derby (also known as Derby Della Mole), but in actual fact continues to be dominated by Juventus. The Old Lady is without Dani Alves, Bonnuci, Dybala and Barzagli while floating 4 points above Roma at the top of the league. Torino is currently 7th, but form goes out the window when it comes to a derby like this.

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.