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.

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Scouting for Fixtures: Oct 3 – Oct 9

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 a chore more than fun to watch. I’ve scraped the very bottom of the barrel to do something; anything . Some of the matches are sub-par, but there are a few potentially good watches if your country/team 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 Stranger Things or something till Monday.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders FC ( Mon 03 01:00 )

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Courtesy of Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Cascadia cup isn’t a familiar topic for anyone who doesn’t follow MLS, so let me break it down.

Q: What’s Cascadia?

A: It’s a region located in the western area of North America, and is the name of a movement which seeks independence from US and Canada to form its own country. It has even got its own flag: picture a Siera Leone flag turned upside down with a Fir tree in the middle. The flag goes by many names: The Cascadian flag, Cascadia Doug Flag, Old Doug (love it) or simply, the Doug.

Q: Why is this a tournament?

A: Beats me. In 2004, teams in the region, Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers just decided to make the Cascadia cup. This was done mainly because of fans sponsoring the cup. The rivalry goes further back than 2004 but after that year, it became an official cup in the MLS because apparently, that’s something you can do.

Q: How does it work?

A: The aforementioned 3 teams play each other in the MLS and there is a separate table measuring how the 3 teams play against each other, a mini table. Whichever team tops the table at the end of the season wins the trophy.

Current Standings:

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After this game, there will only be one left to play in 2016, Vancouver vs Portland.

It’s a good match to watch if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

Italy vs Spain ( Thu 06 19:45 )

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Courtesy of EPA

The world cup qualifiers are back again and this is the only ‘high profile’ game coming from Europe. Both teams are in group G with Albania, Macedonia, Israel and Liechtenstein. Italy won their first game against Israel 3-1, but will be without veteran Giorgio Chiellini as he received his first ever red card in his international career; Spain ended their first match against Liechtenstein 8-0. Chances are it will only be Spain and Italy fighting for the top spot, so this game and the Spain vs Italy game will be pivotal as to who tops the group.

Paraguay vs Colombia ( Fri 07 01:30 )

Courtesy of FCF

While qualifiers are just kicking off in Europe, there are only two rounds left for the South American countries. With 5 places for CONMEBOL teams, there’s a five-point gap between the top 7 countries to exploit with 6 points left.

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With pressure mounting, the games are less comparable to a pre-season friendly and more to the competitive international fixtures that you’d expect. Both Paraguay and Colombia are on shaky ground with 12 and 13 points respectively, as a win for either side would secure a place in the 2018 World Cup. An alternate to that fixture is Chile’s attempt to climb back into the top 5 as they play a strong Ecuador side.

Western Sydney vs Sydney FC ( Sat 08 09:50 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

The Sydney derby will probably be the best game on this list. While it might lack in technical quality at points, the tempo of the game is Sunday league level (in a good way) and while I haven’t looked it up, I’m pretty sure the matches average about 500 shots per game, or at least that’s what it feels like. The first Sydney derby I saw was one year ago and the game had me hooked.