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 )

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Scouting for Fixtures: Nov 28 – Dec 04

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. They come out every Sunday and hand picks upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.

All times are GMT.

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

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

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And if we zoom out even further…

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

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

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Courtesy of Mundonets

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

Manchester City vs Chelsea ( Sat 03 12:30 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images Europe

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

Barcelona vs Real Madrid ( Sat 03 15:15 )

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Courtesy of Flickr

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

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

Lazio vs Roma ( Sun 04 14:00 )

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Courtesy of Corriere Della Sera

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