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: Dec 26 – Jan 01

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.

El Zamalek vs Al Ahly ( Thu 29 17:00 )

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Alongside spending 90 minutes in the yellow wall of Westfalenstadion, witnessing an Old Firm, Barca-Real and Boca-River, El Zamalek vs Al Ahly is the most elusive game on my football bucket list. It’s not the type of fixture you’d find on SkySports/BT Sports so your best chance of finding the live game is a live stream if you’re not in Egypt, where there is an estimated 50 million domestic TV audience. The Cairo derby has a backstory interwoven with politics, socio-economic changes, religion; the reoccurring theme being violence. You wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually all written up by Quentin Tarintino. Football offers people the precious gift of escapism. If you search Egypt on The New York Times website you will find the most recent stories include: ‘How Egyptian Democracy really works: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has figured out how to maintain a simulacrum of democratic process. For whatever that’s worth.’ and ‘Cathedral Bombing in Cairo leaves Egypt alarmed, and its president scrambling’ Couple the atmosphere created through escapism of those circumstances, with the trend that often what we see off-field is reflected on-field. If that is what is happening off the pitch, imagine the football itself. I dream of watching this game live but until then I will have to continue painstakingly searching through dodgy links to find a good quality live stream. To drive home the significance of this game, here is Scotland’s World Cup referee and Ahly-Zamalek veteran Hugh Dallas: ‘I’ve done 14 or 15 Old Firm matches and even they don’t come close to this. I genuinely believe that this is as big as it gets…’ 

Rangers vs Celtic ( Sat 31 12:15 )

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I know I just slated the Old Firm but it is, in fact, one of the most famous football fixtures in the world. But why? I doubt it’s because it’s the pinnacle of Scottish football (which it is), as my extensive research suggests otherwise:

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So why does a football derby in Glasgow be so far-reaching that it makes headlines in The Economist, The New York Times and Vice; the last news outlet making a 45-minute documentary dedicated to the Old Firm called: Football’s Most Dangerous Rivalry. The title gives it away in part, as there have been a fair few fights and even turning into riots during the game. I’ve watched enough Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle’s stand-up to assume all Scotsman have a dour, bleak outlook on life with an irritable disposition*. But there’s more than that to illicit this mass response. The tension between Celtic and Rangers has roots deep into polarising political ideologies and religion. If you have a basic understanding of Geography, you too realise that Celtic is of Irish heritage, formed by Irish immigrants at the time and therefore have a majority Catholic supporters. Without turning into a full essay on the Irish revolution, there is a deep hate between Rangers and Celtic fans involving the IRA and division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Now I hate to quote myself but, ‘often what we see off-field is reflected on-field’. Not literally (though Rangers did only sign their first Catholic player in 1989), but the passion, regardless of the reason, translates without losing any of its original meaning. The games are end-to-end in a very literal way, with the last match ending 0-1 but had a shot on goal every 2.1 minutes (a scathing stat on the state of Scottish football if there was any). That 0-1 was an outlier in another wise goal-fest of a game, averaging 3.5 goals per game in the last 6. If you’ve got no plans on Christmas eve, follow this fixture with another great game south of the border 3 and a half hours later.

*On the off chance any Scots think I’m being serious, let me clarify I’m not before I get barraged with four-letter words.

Liverpool vs Manchester City ( Sat 31 17:30 )

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If you walk into a pub in England, chances are you’ll find a TV in the corner with Soccer Saturday playing. It’s a pretty big deal here. For those unfamiliar, it could be the father of all reaction videos, like the ones you find on youtube but better. For those who can’t keep up with my very specific references, here’s a link to catch you up to speed. Caught up? Good. So when Liverpool legend and Soccer Saturday presenter Phil Thompson said ‘The best team has been Liverpool and I think we’ve got a better chance than most’ and today Michael Owen agrees ‘I’m going to go for Liverpool to win the league.’ it goes without saying the trolls will come out the woodworks. If they want to be champions these are the crucial games that Liverpool will have to win. The best attack in the league, 41 goals in 17 matches. As well as that, Liverpool is undefeated in 15 at home while scoring some amazing goals resembling prime Dortmund back in the day. So Guardiola walks into Anfield under these circumstances. Just last week Manchester City held Arsenal to 1 goal and 1 shot on target over 90 minutes. Winning at Anfield would be a turnaround for Manchester City after their back to back losses against direct rivals Chelsea, followed by Leicester. It so happens Liverpool have more immediate issues to take care of. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.’ What Klopp is referring to is the time between this game and his team’s next game against Sunderland. What he left out was that they would also play a match 3 days prior to this against Stoke with both Coutinho and Matip injured. Man City also have Aguero and Fernandinho out, but both teams still have the firepower to put on a show this new years eve.

Other Mentions:

Chelsea vs Bournemouth ( Mon 26 15:00 )

Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday ( Mon 26 19:45 )

Southampton vs Tottenham ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Leicester vs West Ham ( Sat 31 15:00 )

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace ( Sun 01 16:00 )

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

Scouting for Fixtures: Nov 7 – Nov 13

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.

International week is one of the few times that football becomes more a chore than fun to watch. I’ve scraped the very bottom of the barrel to do something, anything. In fairness, the cards dealt could have been a lot worse, but chances are some of the matches may be sub-par. If your country is playing and by sheer dumb luck it happens to be a cracker. If you can sit through one week of this, please come back next Monday for a rundown of Prem, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and many more leagues. If not, go watch Game of Thrones or something till Monday.

Brazil vs Argentina ( Fri 11 00:45 )

 

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Courtesy of FourFourTwo

 

They’ll play their 103rd game, celebrating 102 years of the fixture tipped by ESPN FC, The Guardian and The Telegraph as the greatest international football rivalry of all time. This fixture is soaked in history, too much to wring in one paragraph, so here are the most memorable games. Looking at the home side first, Brazil is on the road to redemption from their infamous 7-1 loss after the football team picked up their first ever Olympic gold medals. They started strong in their qualification as well, ‘doing a Germany’ beating Haiti* 7-1, before losing 4 days later to Peru in what was described by Sky Sports as: ‘The defeat left Brazil struggling to digest their worst performance in the Copa America since 1987, the last occasion the five-time world champions failed to make it past the group stage.’ 

One step forward, 29 steps back (one for each year).

Obviously, that last statement was hyperbole, as since that game they’ve won their last five games in their world cup qualifiers. Looking at the current standing they seem to be doing alright for themselves.

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Looking further down the table, you’ll spot an underperforming Argentina in 6th place. With 8 games left there is plenty of time to salvage some points and climb back up the table, but worrying nonetheless that they are 10 games in and still outside the qualifying places (top 5).

More recently the Argentines are still looking for form as the start studded team have only won 1 of their last 5 games.

In response, new coach Bauza believes “The criticism doesn’t bother me at all. It’s normal. What irks me is the lack of respect for me, but also for my players. Some journalists think that’s the way to get a bigger audience.”

Fair Point.

*Granted, Haiti is not the same as Germany but a 7-1 is still as 7-1

England vs Scotland ( Fri 11 19:45 )

 

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Courtesy of The Telegraph

 

I think it’s safe to say that England is the king of mediocrity when it comes to football. Scotland is just doing their thing, be it failing to qualify for Euro 2016, losing 3-0 to Slovakia, or probably fail to qualify for the world cup in Russia 2 years from now. However, unlike England, you can justify giving the Scotland team this ‘at least you tried’ cake.

The difference can be explained using this simple comparison:

Scotland’s current manager Gordan ‘wee Chesney’ Strachan has a 23-year playing career including 5 at Manchester United, 10 years of managing teams like Celtic and Southampton. He’s famously short-tempered, no-nonsense, yet continually mugs off various media outlets:

Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result?
Strachan: You’re spot on! You can read me like a book.

Reporter: This might sound like a daft question, but you’ll be happy to get your first win under your belt, won’t you?
Strachan: You’re right. It is a daft question. I’m not even going to bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you’re spot on there.

Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it?
Strachan: No, I’m just going to crumble like a wreck. I’ll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge. Umm, I think I can take it, yeah.

Reporter: “Gordon, can we have a quick word please?”
Strachan: “Velocity” [walks off]

Reporter: Gordon, if you were English, what formation would you play?
Strachan: If I was English I’d kill myself!

England’s current manager is Gareth Southgate. His playing career is not bad with 18 years, his management career is interesting. His first job was at Middlesborough, getting off to a shaky start as the didn’t have the required coaching qualifications (the UEFA Pro License). A UEFA Pro Licence is a mandatory qualification for managing in the FA Premier League and UEFA competitions. A course to obtain a UEFA Pro Licence is by invitation only.

After that, he’s gone on to manage England under 20 and 21.

I shouldn’t be blaming Gareth Southgate for all of England’s problems, he’s simply a placeholder for the FA who continue to pass off a mediocre team as acceptable.