Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 23 – Jan 29

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 Fiorentina ( Tue 24 19:45 )

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The rise of Napoli and steady decline of Fiorentina can be mapped almost in tandem since 2006. At the end of the 2005/06 season Fiorentina finally, after years of crawling through the lower tiers of Italian football, secured a Champions league qualifying spot. Just days later, word gets out of an Italian football scandal involving Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, Reggina and – you guessed it – Fiorentina. While the rigging was orchestrated by Juve, Fiorentina still had their part to play, to which the club was docked 15 points in the following season and stripped of their precious UCL qualifying spot. In an even more bizarre turn of events, the following season they finished as high up as they ever would till this day, securing a spot in the UCL group stages at 3rd*. The following season a newly promoted Napoli burst onto the scene, finishing their first season back in Serie A 9th. Along with the rise of Napoli, Lazio and Roma’s recent resurrection, Fiorentina was pushed out. Now La Viola sits between Torino and Cagliari in 9th place while Napoli is playing some of the best football in the league. Napoli’s stats are those akin to champions, with the most goals scored (45), shots per game (18.2), pass accuracy (87.5%) and possession (59.4%). Now Fiorentina is not to be underestimated. Yes, their league form is shaky, but they are capable of punching well above their weight. When La viola faced Napoli just 1 month ago, they kept up with Napoli’s firing squad up front, retaining a 3-3 draw. But what got heads turning was when last week Fiorentina beat the champions Juventus 2-1. Now Fiorentina is 3 steps away from winning the Coppa Italia, which they haven’t done in 16 years, and along with it arrives a ticket to the Champions league.

*If you though the Serie isn’t competitive enough now, imagine the gulf in 2006/07, where a team deducted 15 points managed to finish 3rd. So let’s take another league which is now stigmatised with the label uncompetitive, Ligue 1. If we go back to the 2006/07 season, turns out if the team who finished 3rd (Rennes) was docked 15 points from their total points at the end of the season, they would finish 18th and be relegated to Ligue 2!

RB Leipzig vs Hoffenheim ( Sat 28 14:30 )

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For those unfamiliar with geomagnetic reversal, it’s the process of the Earth’s magnetic poles, switching, usually every 450,000 years. A similar process is taking place in the Bundesliga as we speak, literally being turned on its head, apart from the unmoving FC Bayern*. You see top teams like Schalke, Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz switch places with sides which would usually be predicted to be lower down the table. In the football equivalent of Freaky Friday*2, RB Leipzig is 2nd, Hoffenheim are 5th. Now usually I would give you a synopsis on how Hoffenheim reached 5th place, but in this case, I found an article by These Football Times explaining it perfectly:

‘A key factor in Nagelsmann’s [Hoffenheim manager] philosophy is lodged in his ability to understand how to use his youth and lack of top-tier professional playing experience to his benefit rather than allow it be a hindrance.’

‘We have a plan for every match situation. It’s an incredibly flexible system. We can switch easily between three, four and five at the back during a game. We’re more unpredictable to play against this season, which is one of our big strengths.’ – Niklas Sule, Hoffenheim defender.

As good as Hoffenheim are, RB Leipzig has scored more goals and conceded fewer goals while also placed higher on the table. The synergy in Leipzig is so successful in part due to having a young, malleable squad, with an age limit on any signings above 24. Promoting youth also is integral to the fuel intensive gegenpress employed by Ragnick. However, even the energetic youth of Leipzig may struggle in the upcoming weeks. On the 21st of January, the home side plays an another rising team, Eintracht Frankfurt. They will kick lumps out of their opposition, accredited as the most aggressive side in the league with 47 yellow cards and 3 red cards so far. The following week they play the ingenious Hoffenheim followed by Dortmund, managed by Tomas Tuchel, the man who gave Nagelsmann’s football education. Both sides are beginning to bear the fruit of their hard work; two separate but equally captivating fairy tales converge for 90 minutes.

*My analogy wasn’t built to withstand any substantial scrutiny.

*2Freaky Friday is a movie about people who switch bodies, subsequently living the lives of the person who’s body they now inhabit. In fairness, these two clubs earned their way to the top instead of simply reading a fortune cookie.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Monaco ( Sun 29 20:00 )

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PSG are so strong compared to the other teams. I do not really take pleasure in matches. Italy is different, you have eight big matches in a season but in France it is two. And that’s coming from a former PSG player (Lavezzi), after they beat Troyes 9-0 in March with 8 games to spare, winning their fourth league title in a row and 25 points ahead of the next closest team. Fair enough. The words competition and Ligue 1 were almost considered antonyms after Lyon collected every league title from 2001-08, then you saw the hallmarks of PSG replicating that success after they collected their 4th title in 4 years. At least now we have 3 sides with a good chance of winning the league this season: Nice, Monaco and PSG. Right now, if you want to be entertained, Monaco is THE side to watch. Most surprising about Monaco’s insane goal tally is the shots per game. When a side scores 60 goals in 20 games, you’d expect a pulp-fiction level of shots fired, yet it’s only 13.2 per game. In shots to goal conversion (STG), Monaco is the most clinical in the world (of first division sides). To compare to the other elite sides (Monaco has an STG of 22.7%), Barcelona has 15.6%, Feyenoord 15.0%, Real Madrid 14.5%, while PSG has a respectable 13.8%. The away side face one of their toughest trips of the year, as PSG are currently undefeated in Parc de Princes. The top 3 are separated by 3 points, and if PSG can beat Monaco they are on equal points as them, while Monaco looks to keep up with Nice, only 1 point ahead.

Other Mentions: 

Juventus vs AC Milan ( Wed 25 19:45 )

Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid ( Wed 25 20:15 )

Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC ( Thu 26 08:50 )

Barcelona vs Real Sociedad ( Thu 26 20:15 )

Lyon vs Lille ( Sat 28 16:00 )

Boca Juniors vs River Plate ( Sun 29 01:10 )

Torino vs Atalanta ( Sun 29 11:30 )

Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad ( Sun 29 19:45 )

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


Sources:

WhoScored

http://thesefootballtimes.co/2016/05/25/juventus-calciopoli-and-a-year-in-serie-b/

http://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/01/10/julian-nagelsmann-and-the-reshaping-of-football-management/

http://www.foxsportsasia.com/news/leipzig-bundesliga-flying-start-analysis/

http://www.goal.com/en/news/1722/ligue-1/2016/03/13/21272902/paris-saint-germain-win-the-ligue-1-title-with-club-record

http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/465/france/2016/03/16/21372472/i-didnt-like-playing-in-ligue-1-says-former-psg-forward

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_football_champions

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Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 16 – Jan 22

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 City vs Tottenham ( Sat 21 17:30 )

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The levels of punditry are about to reach pandemic in the coming weeks as the premier league tapped into a run of top tier fixtures to analyse (at least 1 game between 2 top 6 sides for 6 game weeks). This means the top 6 teams are going to be shifting constantly which also means from now on the top third of the table has the consistency of custard cream. These two are right in the midst of that, with Man City in 5th and Tottenham 2nd as I type. Now Man City will be without Fernandinho, who at this point is channelling either clumsy smurf or prime Vinnie Jones depending on your standpoint. Guardiola gives importance to Fernandinho, starting the most games of any City player (despite being banned for 6 games, 17) as well as the most tackles (2.2) and interceptions (1.8) for a midfielder per game. With Gundogan ruled out due to possible death, to partner Fernando in the favoured 4-2-3-1* are Yaya Toure (only playing 3/31 games together), Delph, Garcia or left back Zabaleta, who are fringe players for a reason. This really could not come at a much worse time as Tottenham are capable of slapping around an inadequate defence like they did last week against West Brom (4-0). From what we saw last week against Burnley, Guardiola still has a few bugs to work in his backline as the pinball haphazard defending is demonstrated here. As if it couldn’t get any more pessimistic for Manchester City, Tottenham are 1 of the only 3 teams to beat City, as well as having the lowest away losses in the league (along with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, but still). While I don’t think that the Man City fans should get the rosary beads out, as they too have a world class side and manager to match; Tottenham are well capable of an upset and continuing their form, (similar to an Olympic diver) which is perfect: WWWWWW.

*Unless Guardiola wants to experiment with other formations against Everton, I don’t know maybe 4-1-2-1-2 could work… nevermind.

AC Milan vs Napoli ( Sat 21 19:45 )

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The Calcio A has teams who can ping uncontrollably within 3rd to 7th position as the 5 are separated by only 3 points. Again, AC Milan (6th) and Napoli (3rd) are in the middle of that whirlwind. So using my knowledge (an amalgam of FIFA player ratings over the years) on the Italian league, my instant prediction was that this would be very tight. Well in retrospect I think more research must be done, but in short, there’s a good chance of Napoli putting a few past the home side. On paper, AC Milan have only lost once at home back in September last year against Udinese. But look up from the paper and onto the red Spartak Moscow scarf held by former AC Milan player Luiz Adriano. Can you make out what it says? It is, in fact, a little heartfelt message for his former club, reading: Thanks, F*ck You. The former attacker flopped hard, and while AC Milan have a not-small-but-nothing-special type of goal tally at 28, the attack needs a lot of work. For all the praise you can laud over Bocca and Suso, they remain the least penetrating attack in the league. You don’t need to have decades of managerial experience to deduce that the closer you are to the goal, the likely you are to score. So when you see that AC Milan have a taken the highest % of shots from outside the box (56%) and the lowest % of shots inside the 6-yard box (3%) in the entire league, you wonder how they are 6th. Partially due to the fact they have a quality side, but also due to the misfortune of other teams (Inter) who as a unit was flopping harder than Adriano ever could for a while. If you also take into account Milan’s good run of fixtures until recently, it makes sense how they remained 3rd for a while until teetering at their current spot, 6th. Now Napoli has superseded AC Milan, and remain the top goalscorers (42). In every other department, they can match or outdo their opposition. The goals conceded is very similar (22 for Napoli, 20 for AC Milan) and Napoli have the most *inhales* shots per game (17.9), possession (59.1%), pass success (87.3%), the least fouls conceded per game (9.9) and are the most disciplined with the lowest card tally (30 yellow, 1 red) in the league. Good luck AC Milan, because they will need it.

RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 21 17:30 )

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Have you seen Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid? The game has one side famous for it’s attacking prowess and the other is known for it’s bullish defending. The same dynamics are present in this fixture, except RB Leipzig take the place of Real while Frankfurt replaces Atleti. Turns out, Leipzig are out-Dortmunding Dortmund, utilising the gegenpress Jurgen Klopp had trademarked during his time in West Germany. It’s in part why their goal tally is so high, scoring the most goals as a result of counter-attacking in the league (7), making up 23% of all their goals. The away side are analogous to Atleti’s defence, conceding the least goals bar Bayern Munich (12). The spotlight has been on the home side with their pigs head, polarising public opinion and what not, but Frankfurt are unrecognisable from last season. The same team who finished 17th last season are holding down a champions league spot in January. Both sides are punching well above their weight, now they face each other.

Other Mentions: 

Torino vs AC Milan ( Mon 16 19:45 )

Twente vs Heracles ( Fri 20 19:00 )

Bordeaux vs Toulouse ( Sat 21 19:00 )

Juventus vs Lazio ( Sun 22 11:30 )

Roma vs Cagliari ( Sun 22 19:45 )

Lyon vs Marseille ( Sun 22 20:00 )

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

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 02 – Jan 08

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.

Tottenham vs Chelsea ( Wed 04 20:00 )

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If you’ve just recovered from the turkey-induced coma from Christmas, you’re in luck as nothing much has changed for these two clubs. Tottenham have been stuck in fifth like they were Jeremy Clarkson getting his face pulled off, for 9 game weeks. Since rising to the top in game week 12, Chelsea stays afloat while extending the winning streak to 9 games, 5 away from equalling the record made by Arsenal in 2002. Another year passed (if you hadn’t noticed) accompanied by another Christmas fancy dress by Tottenham. To be fair they did it justice, with Delli Ali-G, Harry ‘Bane’ and Christian Eriksen as Harry Potter. But it’s going to take more than a few wingardium leviosa’s for Spurs to rise to the top. Despite only recently being the only team alongside Real Madrid and Hoffenheim (go figure) in Europe who are undefeated, Spurs lost 2 in quick succession, one of whom were to Chelsea themselves. In fact, I think they could also do better attacking-wise. Tottenham have the most shots on goal per game (18.6) but 50% of their shots come from outside of the box (highest % in the PL), while having the lowest % of shots in the league from inside the 18-yard box and 6-yard box (45% and 5% respectively). That has lead to scoring some rockets, but the increase in penetration from the attack may be what’s needed to climb up the table. It may be harsh considering they just beat Southampton 1-4, also compound that they have 33 goals and conceded only 13. However, the team they are playing have scored more, conceded less and won more games. Chelsea look unbeatable at the moment and if any team can stop them, it’s the one who have been undefeated at home all season.

Real Madrid vs Sevilla ( Wed 04 20:15 )

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Jorge Sampaoli. If you’re a moron like me in your little premier league bubble you wouldn’t recognise that name. I only looked into him because he manages Sevilla*, finding that he only took over in late June. He’s already making waves in Spain. Aside from bringing Sevilla to 3rd place in December (not achieved by Sevilla in 9 years), Jorge finally took them out of the Europa League loop** and are into the round of 16 against Leicester in the UCL. If you look further into the side, they implement an array of formations: 3-5-1-1, 5-4-1, 4-4-1-1 and even 3-1-4-2. But it works and they play some wonderful football. Similar to Chelsea but better, Real Madrid too are unstoppable. Undefeated and top goal scorers with a game in hand can leave a strong impression on any opponent. Both sides are recovering well from injuries with Bale out for Madrid and Sevilla having Escudero and Mercado out, but probably inconsequential to the final result.

*Actually after looking him up I also want to say that I remembered he was the manager of Chile during the 2014 world cup if that jogs anyone else’s memory.

**Those unfamiliar with the Europa League loop which Sevilla have been enslaved under, it’s where a team enters the Champions League, then gets knocked into the Europa league, win the Europa league securing a place in the UCL group stages, then you get knocked out of the UCL again…

Napoli vs Sampdoria ( Sat 07 19:45 ) & Sassuolo vs Torino ( Sun 08 14:00 )

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The reason I didn’t separate these into their own paragraphs was that I felt I was treading the same path as I picked these two for very similar reasons. Every league has a team where goals follow. Not specifically goals for the team itself, but it happens more often than not the game ends up high scoring. The marker is goals scored plus goals conceded. If you were to take every single team in the top 5 leagues and order them according to that stat, Torino would be 4th (63) and Sassuolo 14th (54). Pretty impressive considering Torino are 8th in Calcio A and Sassuolo are 16th. Now they play each other. That is the only reason I picked this game, in the hope this would be high scoring. It’s also the same reason I picked Napoli vs Sampdoria. If we use the same stat as before, Napoli is 6th and Sampdoria I’m guessing in the mid 30’s (I never got that far) with 45 goals. On top of that, this fixture has averaged a whopping 4.5 goals per match, over 6 fixtures. It’s not a skewed stat either, with each 4 games ending with 4 goals scored or more*. There is no deep rivalry or high stakes, but due to the cup games in Spain, England and France, I decided to take a punt on these games.

*That is the first time I ever put my Maths A-level (a very proud moment for me considering I bagged a grade C) to any good use outside of Maths class. So yeah, quit complaining because there is a use of Maths in everyday life.

Other Mentions:

Manchester City vs Burnley ( Mon 02 15:00 )

Athletic Club vs Barcelona ( Thu 05 20:15 )

Monaco vs AC Ajaccio ( Fri 06 20:00 )

Celta Vigo vs Malaga ( Sun 08 17:30 )

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

Scouting for Fixtures: Dec 12 – Dec 18

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.

Melbourne City FC vs Melbourne Victory ( Sat 17 08:50 )

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If you plan on skipping this paragraph watch this video and find out why the Melbourne derby is unmissable! I know that the last sentence looks like one of those click bait adverts: Dermatologists Hate Her. She is 23675234567 but looks 24. Or: I got ripped in 2 weeks using this one weird trick. If you did watch that video you too realise, this is not a scam. It may not hold a candle to the premier league in terms of quality, but is entertaining in its own right. From watching one, and only one Melbourne derby (which ended 4-1); I say it has the sensibilities of a primary school lunchtime football match. It’s where most if not all (somehow) the game was played in either 18-yard box, bypassing the midfield and just punt it forward. It’s where you’re not afraid to lob the keeper from stupid range because he’s only 4’10 or where you can run through 4 defenders and hit the back of the net. An ideal game for anyone looking for something new*.

*If you watch the A-League then it’s not new, and chances are you are Australian. What are you doing here? Bear in mind I’ve only ever had 2 Aussies visit the site ever.

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Hertha Berlin ( Sat 17 14:30 )

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The Bundesliga, with its fan engagement, 50 + 1 rule and cheap ticket prices create the ideal conditions in a petri dish of German football culture to expand. What does any of this have to do with the game? So if we look at RB Leipzig now, they are top of the league and in an 8 game winning streak. The significance of RB Leipzig being they represent everything Bundesliga tries not to be. While there are reasons to be worried, the story behind their name encapsulates why people are up in arms about the rise of Leipzig. The first part: Leipzig. Nothing wrong with that. RasenBallsport? The translation into English reveals ‘Lawn Ball Sports’ which looks more in place if it was the name of a professional Bowl’s club. Originally it was supposed to be Red Bulls Leipzig but Bundesliga does not allow corporate names so a substitute with the same initials RB would have to do. They also go against the 50 + 1 rule which underpins cheap ticket prices and prevents commercial objectives to come before football objectives. This explains in part how Germany are so strong internationally, due to clubs like Hertha Berlin fostering and developing a lot of young talent. It will be interesting to see how these two teams play against each other, and for the rest of the season. While Leipzig takes the headlines, Berlin is quietly climbing the table, now 3rd. If they beat Leipzig the gap between 1st and 3rd will be closed to only 3 points. To outcompete Bayern Munich and Dortmund requires goals, and both teams have scored their fair share of every type, shown here, here, here and also this beauty.

Juventus vs Roma ( Sat 17 19:45 )

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Monday night’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Bologna was a massive blow to Roma’s hopes for snatching second place in Serie A and automatic qualification for the Champions League from Scudetto hopefuls Napoli.‘ That was last Roma last season with 5 games to go. Much like a seasoned professional diver, Roma ended the season with perfect form: WWWWW. After Roma finished 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in the last 3 seasons, frustrations continue to mount much like Juventus’ number of Scudetto’s. After the old Lady added 2015/16 season Capocannoniere Gonzalo Higuain and Roma’s start midfielder Pjanic, it looked like Juventus were forming a full-fledged monopoly of the Calcio A. If any team were to break that monopoly power, a good candidate would be Roma. They currently house the top goal scorer in Calcio A, Edin Dzeko. It’s no mean feat turning a striker who misses an open net to scoring screamers. A major contribution to Dzeko’s success are wingers Salah and Perrotti who have a combined 8 assists, with inexhaustible stamina paying dividends. Now Roma outscores Juventus and everyone else in the league with 35 in 15 games, but Juve is just behind with 32. The roles are reversed when looking at the points tally, with Roma in touching distance only 4 points from Juventus in 1st. If they succeed in closing the gap they have to break Juve’s 6 game winning streak at home.

Manchester City vs Arsenal ( Sun 18 16:00 )

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Sometimes I really pity Arsenal fans. Not in a condescending way, but genuine pity on what they have to go through every season over and over again. Though there is overwhelming evidence to continue the abuse indefinitely, the effect on the psyche of long time fans is summed up quite well by JOE: ‘Their cup isn’t half empty, it was smashed against the wall the day Eduardo broke his leg’. You can see it happening all over again. As we inch closer to the new year Arsenal continues to rise up the table, even the most optimistic Arsenal fans will have their doubts. Is this the real deal? From what we’ve seen it looks positive, undefeated since the first game, 3 points off league leaders Chelsea and smashing teams left, right and centre. Imagine the pandemonium if Arsenal beat Manchester City. The citizens are already on the backfoot after Aguero’s high tackle and Fernandinho throttling Fabregas, both rightfully sent off. Fernandinho has the most minutes (1260) of any Man City player this season, leaving Gundogan/Toure/Delph to fill the vacant midfield role. Ihenacho too has big boots to fill as he may be expected to start now the only other striker has a 3 game ban. The 1-3 loss to Chelsea sounds worse that it actually was, Man City was in the game for a long time, with a chance to turn the game when De Bruyne had a clear goalscoring opportunity at 1-0, hitting the bar. But as things stand they’re 4th place and swamped in fixtures. The game against Arsenal will see the end of a demanding run of fixtures, 5 games in 15 days. If Manchester City beat Arsenal it will be ArsenalFanTV and chill.

Other Mentions: 

Roma vs AC Milan ( Mon 12 20:00 )

Bournemouth vs Leicester ( Tue 13 19:45 )

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund ( Fri 16 19:30 )

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea ( Sat 17 12:30 )

Darmstadt vs Bayern Munich ( Sun 18 14:30 )

Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven ( Sun 18 15:45 )

Barcelona vs Espanol ( Sun 18 19:45 )

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

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 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.’ 

Scouting for Fixtures: Sept 5 -Sept 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.

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International fixtures:

Brazil vs Colombia ( Wed 07 01:45 )

The Brazilian team comes into the fixture with Olympic gold medals; beating Germany in the finals, a step in their recovery from the 7-1 battering two years ago. Colombia remains a solid side with star men Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Bacca and Ospina. The relentless rivalry and inability to take defeat usually end with a few fights and fair few cards. When these two played in the Copa America the match ended with both Neymar and Bacca receiving red cards. Go back to 2014 and you’ll remember Rodriguez was fouled 6 times and Neymar’s injury against Colombia ended his tournament. That game ended up with the most fouls in the WC (54). With 2 games left, Colombia has 13 points at 3rd place, Brazil is perilously low at 5th with 12 points. The top 4 qualify for the world cup and 5th place goes into intercontinental playoffs. The top 6 are separated by only 2 points and the next two games are make or break.

South American WC Preliminary Qualifiers Table 

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Schalke 04 vs Bayern München ( Fri 09 19:30 )

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 10 17:30 )

After game week one FC Bayern is 1st, Lewandowski scored another trick, and Carlo Ancelotti ended his first home game with a  6-0 win against Werder Bremen. So business as usual. Schalke too had Deja Vu with another mediocre performance despite the manager change, losing to Frankfurt, who were 10 men down for the last 10 minutes. Kingsley Coman is now available after recovering from his ankle injury. Even if he doesn’t start, it looks like Bayern could net a couple past Schalke if they don’t get their act together quick.

Newly promoted Leipzig face Dortmund in their first ever Bundesliga home game. Borussia Dortmund has had a very busy transfer window, with Gotze, Dembele, Batra and many more players. The newly promoted side expects to be more than ready with Leipzig captain Dominik Kaiser anticipating ‘We’ll be in great shape and will look to be compact and aggressive against BVB, just as we were at Hoffenheim.’ 

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Manchester United vs Manchester City ( Sat 10 12:30 )

Liverpool vs Leicester ( Sat 10 17:30 )

Both teams will be without key players ahead of the Manchester derby. The red devils are without their South American players as they’ll be helping their sides qualify for the world cup. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also doubtful after his thigh injury against the Cech Republic. Man City have their own issues; Aguero will serve his 3 match ban after elbowing Winston Ried in the face, Kompany will miss due to his never-ending thigh injury. Despite the blow to the squads, it’s still Mourinho vs Guardiola, the two best managers in the world with the two richest clubs in the Premier League.

Liverpool and Leicester both come into the game with a draw, loss and a win to their name. Both teams thrive on their aggressive counter attack and that could stretch the game out.

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Juventus vs Sassuolo ( Sat 10 17:00 )

AC Milan vs Udinese ( Sun 11 19:00 )

Pescara vs Inter ( Sun 11 19:45 )

Current champions Juve play a shaky Sassuolo side after their 2-1 win against Pescara was reversed to 0-3, after the illegal signing Antonio Ragusa substituted on after 64 minutes. Sassuolo looks unsure of themselves against newly promoted Pescara and if it wasn’t for their exceptional keeper Consigli, it could’ve ended 2-2 easily. Juve has the firepower to finish the game if they get in front of goal as much as Pescara did.

AC Milan matches this season averaged 5.5 goals per game, that goes to 3 for Udinese. Both teams look devoid of defence with Roma comfortably net 4 times against Udinese and Milan have conceded 6 times in 2 games. So two leaky defences against two good attacking sides suggest another high scoring game.

Newly promoted Pescara have surprised everyone by drawing with Napoli and then holding their own against Sassuolo. Surprises everywhere as Inter too shocked everyone after losing to Chievo, then drawing with Palermo, both mid/low table sides. So will Pescara continue this underdog story and will Inter continue to underperform?

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Ligue 1:

Lyon vs Bordeaux ( Sat 10 14:00 )

Lyon comes into the game with two confident wins and then get smashed 4-2 by newly-promoted Dijon FCO of all teams. Bordeaux also has two wins, accompanied by a shock 4-1 shock defeat to Toulouse who finished 17th last season. This game is as much as about which team can hold their nerve as well as the quality of player.

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Sevilla vs Las Palmas ( Sat 10 17:15 ) 

Barcelona vs Alaves ( Sat 10 19:30 )

New boys, Las Palmas are reminiscent of Leicester city as they end are top of the table. Their style of play is heavily counter-attacking, most of the time sitting in their own half until they spring into attack much like a Leicester or Liverpool press. Despite having the least amount of time in the opposition third (21% or 18.9 minutes per match) of any team in the league, their clinical shot conversion rate of 43% explains how they can score 9 goals in 2 games. Sevilla has shown what they’re capable of in their 6-4 win against Espanol. Las Palmas’ only evident weakness is defending set pieces. They’ve conceded 2/3 of goals from corners, Sevilla has scored 1/3 of all their goals from set pieces. It will be the underdogs biggest test yet.

Another newly promoted club Alaves will play champions Barcelona. While Alaves haven’t made headlines like Las Palmas, they are yet to lose and held their own against Atletico Madrid, drawing 1-1. Their defences will face the ultimate test with Neymar, Suarez and potentially Messi, though his injury against Uruguay could rule him out. With or without Messi, Alaves could easily lose by a heavy margin. 

Sources:

http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/preliminaries/southamerica/index.html

https://www.whoscored.com/

http://www.bundesliga.com/en/news/Bundesliga/blmd2v-rb-leipzig-captain-dominik-kaiser-targets-borussia-dortmund-upset-bundesliga-matchday-2.jsp

http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/borussia-dortmund/alletransfers/verein/16

Scouting for Fixtures: May 9 – May 15

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

All times are in GMT.

While the season is almost all wrapped up, it’s not over yet, we still have one week, one more overwhelming, exhilarating, addictive, unmissable week of the beautiful game.

Lets go!

  1. West Ham vs Manchester United ( Tue 10 19:45 )

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West Ham have to win. There are no two ways about it; there’s too much riding on this to settle for anything less. All eyes will be fixed on this game as it decides the final champions league situation coming into the last round of games. Granted, Man City have to lose their game against Arsenal/Swansea to see the Hammers or Devils clinching that 4th spot; but as this goes out before Man City take on the Gunners; I write with quiet optimism that Arsenal don’t do an Arsenal and instead do us a big favour. 1 game in hand means if MUFC win they’re within 1 point of City, and the Hammers 2 points away if they win, coming into the last Sunday. A draw would do neither team any good, simultaneously shooting each other in the foot, cancelling out either clubs chances of Champions league. Regardless of the final score, for the home side; it’s more that just the outcome and champions league. West Ham vs Manchester United will be the final game before the Hammers depart from their beloved Boleyn Ground after 102 years of service. The Boleyn Ground has held it’s fair share of supporters, footballing talent and unique memories throughout the years; this leaves us with a fitting match to send off the old Park before a fresh start at the Olympic Stadium and a fresh start for West Ham.

 

 

2. Sunderland vs Everton ( Wed 11 19:45 )

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Much to my dismay it looks like Sunderland will probably stay in the premier league (no offence sunderland fans). If you saw Sunderland-Chelsea 5 goal thriller you saw how Sunderland were able to claw back a result after being 2-1 down, the highlight being Khazri’s smooth 3o yard volley. Foe Everton though, it’s fizzled out again, the fans and club build frustration and Martinez looks less and less likely to be the main man come next season. The capitulation in the last 4 games is particularly disheartening for all Everton fans considering how well they were doing a few months prior. A 4-0 loss to your biggest rivals, followed by a last minute Martial winner to kick Everton out the cup, third, a win to Bournemouth, both teams who have nothing left to play for, then yesterday loosing without putting up much of a fight against new champions Leicester. Morale might be a slight issue for the Toffees. Sunderland however stand to lose everything here, is it imperative to win, with the new premier TV deal coming into affect next season, it’s important not to hamstring their much needed chances of development with a huge investment increase of £258.13 million. Weather people like it or not, in the premier league, money talks, and it shouts. If Sunderland wants to remain in the pack with the top dogs, they have to stay up. From what we saw against Chelsea, it looks like they can.

 

 

3. DC United vs New York Red Bulls ( Sat 14 00:00 )

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Contrary to the running theme of finality in most of the mainstream leagues, here we have in the US of A, a refreshing old-school rivalry between the cultural capital and, you know, the actual one. These two cities are filled with regional rivalries: be it ice hockey in Washington Capitals (really creative name there) vs New York Rangers (not much better to be fair), New York Giants vs Washington Redskins in american football, and of course in proper football, DC United and New York Red Bulls. Holding the title of being the leagues oldest rivalry, this game has memorable MLS moments in one of the classic playoffs. Nicknamed the Atlantic Cup, it has too many moments to condense in one sitting, and with so much to football to unpack this week I found an interesting read i’ll link at the bottom. It may be that the love of the beautiful game doesn’t translate easily through to the states, but this rivalry has the passion we so often see in big footballing fixtures.

Top 10 Atlantic Cup moments

 

 

4. Bayern Munich vs Hannover 96 / Borussia Dortmund vs FC Cologne (Sat 14 14:30)

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga

Partly due to me writing a week ahead, also being the ‘final’ week, plus my personal indecisiveness and incompetence in general; i’m letting you the reader, chose which game to watch, as they both link to each other quite well. Chances are Bayern will see out the game and see to it they get the 4th consecutive Bundesliga title. But, statistically there’s a chance Dortmund can clinch the cup, statistically, that slight glimmer of hope. But yes if Bayern drop all points in their next 2 games and BVB win their last 2, ta daaa, they get the trophy. On the face of it, what’s even the point of watching. Usually Bayern will easily see out the games, but the draw with M.Gladbach plants the seed in your mind that they’re susceptible to the slip up in these situation. Fact is the title race should already be over. Bayern should’ve beaten M.Gladbach and should’ve already been crowned champions. But they haven’t and here we are. The pressure continues to build as they fly out of the champions league, and yes it’s Atletico Madrid, but you have Guardiola saying if they did not win the champions league he considers the season a failure. That sort of pessimism can easily trickle down into the players and affects morale, which is most important now more than ever. So i’m putting out two scenarios: If Bayern win against Ingolstadt, then by all means skip this one if you wish, but if they lose against Ingolstadt then all eyes are on FC Bayern to lose and Dortmund to take full advantage and beat FC Cologne and collect a well deserved cup.

Edit: For God’s sake Bayern have won, rendering this whole section almost useless, but I’m too stubborn to discard this whole bit. I mean you can watch Bayern celebrate the league win, again, yaaay. Or you might as well watch the No. 3.

 

 

5. Werder Bremen vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 14 14:30 )

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With a week packed with the likes of Bayern, Barca and Los Blancos, why watch Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt? Usually discarded as relegation fodder; as we edge towards the final week, theres a good case to be made for all teams between 12th -17th position of going down. The 5 position wide crevice, filled with teams between 33 and 37 points leaves a chance for any of these teams to fall into the 2 relegation places still in contention; Hannover 96 securing their ticket to the 2nd division well in advance with only 22 points to their name. These two are the two most in danger of relegation along with VfB Stuttgart (33 points: 17th pos), Frankfurt stuck in 16th with 33 points and Werder jumping 2 places up after beating Stuttgart elevate themselves just safe with a slim 34 points, one spot off relegation in 15th. Everything is at stake for and it goes down to the wire. This game will be the most important game in delivering the final verdict and it’s very likely that whoever wins this game is going down. Expect the fight, passion and the charged atmosphere of two teams giving everything to stay up, and the to other go down.

 

 

6. Deportivo La Coruna vs Real Madrid / Granada vs Barcelona /                                        _iAtletico Madrid vs Celta Vigo ( May 14 16:00 )

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Los Blancos and Barca have easy fixtures on paper, but their opponents too are desperate for the points to stay up, Granada especially, sitting in in 16th, another tight situation as 19th – 16th all separated by only one point. Deportivo aren’t far behind them in 15th, 4 points above relegation. Celta Vigo however are an accomplished side and have proved to be tough opposition, looking like, but not secured, the last european spot at 6th. But that’s evidently not why you’re all here. After Barcelona lost the 3 consecutive games the title race has burst back into life and this is the climax, the big finish, the moments football fans wait all season for. This is the big one. All 3 teams separated by only 1 point. One silly mistake or slip up is all it takes.

 

 

7. Reims vs Lyon ( Sat 14 20:00 )

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By now you’d have seen the result for the pivotal Lyon vs Monaco game, pinning either team for the final champions league spot. Lyon hammer the final nail in the coffin for Monaco’s champions league hopes, demolishing them in an emphatic 6-1 win. Reims too face their own challenge of staying up, with the relegation prospects a very real possibility after only 9 wins all season and 19th position. Reims weren’t blessed with a favourable list of fixtures in the last month with Nice, Marseille and now Lyon. The most recent loss to Marseille leaves them 36 points but only 1 point off 18th (Ajaccio) and 17th place (Toulouse). Even if they beat Lyon this weekend, it ultimately relies on the other two teams slipping up, which is a very real possibility. The home side will have to take the game to Lyon if they want a fighting chance of staying up, and could end up being a high scoring game.

 

 

8. Manchester United vs Bournemouth / Swansea vs Manchester City (Sun 15 15:00)

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Right now Man City are about to play a big match against Arsenal in which they have to win if they want to come into the final round with some room for error. Depending on how that plays out, we have 2 teams both going all out for the 4th champions league spot. It’s gonna be like the final week, 3 years ago where Aguuuueeeeerrrrrrooo fired in a 93rd minute winner to secure their first ever PL title, Manchester United just behind. Goes to show how much both teams have receded over the years, once battling it out for the title, now battle it out for champions league. But a battle it will be nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

It may be over for the Barclays Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and many more big footballing leagues, but football never stops.

The silver lining being an FA cup final still to play for, don’t forget the championship playoffs, how about the champions league final, and then we’re treated to not just 1, but 2 international tournaments in the summer with Euro 2016 and Copa America 2016.

This may be the end for Scouting for Fixtures, until next season begins, but again, football never stops, and neither will I. Expect more and varied content on the site as the big tournaments are looming.

Pick of the week: Feb 1 – Feb 7

Pick of the week is a weekly blog for people that love the beautiful game. It comes out every Sunday and hand picks upcoming matches worldwide that week, which look set up for 90 minutes of non-stop action.

All times are in GMT.

  1. Leicester City vs Liverpool ( Feb 02 19:45 )

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League leaders Leicester take on the most exiting team in the BPL right now, Liverpool, and yes I am being serious. Jurgen Klopp’s aggressive passion to win and positive attitude seems to be rubbing off on the Liverpool players as you can see the beginnings of the high energy, aggressive press his Dortmund team perfected. Defensively it’s easy to see how much improvement is required, but on the up side, goals have been flowing with an average of 7.5 goals in their last 2 BPL matches, and Leicester will look to take full advantage on Tuesday. While Vardy and Mahrez have been less prominent in recent matches, the squad is still grinding out results and this team is very capable of doing a number on Klopp’s men.

 

 

2.  Granada vs Real Madrid ( Feb 05 19:30 )

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Granada are facing the revitalised Los Blancos under Zidane as he looks to continue his successful time managing Madrid. Zizou is beginning to do what Benitez never could; turn this exceptional group of individuals into a world-class team. The link up play is reminiscent to his times as a player in that amazing Madrid team that won the champions league all those years ago. The whole team are a joy to watch and everyone is enjoying the football in the Bernabéu; having scored 11 in their last 3, facing Granada who’ve conceded 43 goals so far. Granda are falling apart, with manager Sandoval adopting a 3-5-2 for god knows why, they look defensively hopeless but play attractive football; which explains how the last 5 matches have average 4.4 goals. With Ronaldo, Benzema and Rodriguez clinical as ever; they could do a repeat of this fixture last year where they humiliated the Nazaríes in a 9-1 demolition.

 

 

3. Schalke 04 vs Wolfsburg ( Feb 06 14:30 )

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Schalke welcome Wolfsburg to the Veltins-Arena on Saturday afternoon, a big match as only one point separates them, both teams are desperate for those last few European spots that remain. Both come into the match with abysmal form and injuries across the spine of the team, most notably their defensive frailties, evident as Schalke went into the winter break with a GD of -7 and Wolfsburg GD of -12 compared to this time last season. Both teams are desperate for this win, even if to gain any sort of momentum, potentially being decisive as to who will get into Europe.

 

 

4.  Ajax vs Feyenoord ( Feb 07 11:30 )

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The landmark fixture in Netherlands returns this Sunday. The rivalry starts at the Amsterdam-Rotterdam rivalry and stems into many different segments of dutch culture which turns the match into a magnet for controversy; the lowest point of which shocked the two cities and country, to silence, as one Ajax fan was killed in a pre game riot, now known as the Battle of Beverwijk. Since that event, violence, while still prevalent in this fixture, has never escalated to those levels, due to increased security, but also respect for the loss of life. For football fans the event holds a unique atmosphere, due to it’s rich history, fueled by the players passion and importance to win at all costs. The game is more important than ever as Ajax fight to regain the Eredivisie tittle from PSV Eindhoven. Feyenoord are in horrendous form with 4 consecutive losses but will not roll over against their most bitter rivals, in the spectacle that is De Klassieker.

 

 

5. Frosinone vs Juventus ( Feb 07 14:00 )

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The hopeless Frosinone face Juventus, hoping for anything less than a humiliation by the tittle holders on Sunday. The newly promoted side hold the unenvious record of the worst defence in Europe’s top 5 leagues, with a staggering 45 goals conceded. On the other hand Juve hold an unbelievable 13 wins in their last 14. The most notable of which being the young prospect Paolo Dybala who is on fire with 7 goals in the last 9, and the dominant Paul Pogba is in the form of his life having recently made FifaPro World 11. Allegri has also sured up the Juve defence with a remarkable 10 conceded in the last 20; the team have recovered miraculously to sit 2nd after their shocking start to the season. Frosinone have conceded an average of 4.5 goals against teams in the top 4; if this game is going to be anything like it’s suggests, it’s definitely worth the watch.

 

 

6.  Marseille vs PSG ( Feb 07 20:00 )

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Le Classique arrives this Sunday as Marseille clash against the best team in France, PSG, holding a remarkable record of being undefeated in the last 31 Ligue 1 games, and unbeaten all season. PSG put on a performance to be proud of last week with Di Maria running the show with two spectacular goals as the Paris side shifting into gear these last weeks. While they hold a remarkable +46 GD and 30 points above their opponents, it’s difficult to see how Marseille can get anything out of this game. The home side were dominated against recovering Lyon last weekend but hold a solid group of quality players in their squad, most notable of which are Cabella and Batshuayi with an impressive with 15 goals and 9 assists between them. While the score lines may tell one story, on the pitch Marseille are a fun team to watch with the majority of their attacks stemming from the wings, relying on individual skill more than most teams. While the odds suggest there is a clear winner, doesn’t mean Marseille aren’t capable of an upset at home.

 

 

Other Mentions:

Lazio vs Napoli ( Feb 03 19:45 )

Bayern Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich ( Feb 06 17:30 )

Verona vs Inter ( Feb 07 11:30 )

Levante vs Barcelona ( Feb 07 11:00 )

Club Brugge vs Gent ( Feb 07 13:30 )

 

Feel like I missed out any matches or wanna give me any feedback? Comment Below!

 

Pick of the Week: Jan 25 – Jan 31

Pick of the week is a weekly blog for people that love the beautiful game. It comes out every Sunday and hand picks upcoming matches, worldwide that week which look set up for 90 minutes of non-stop action.

All times are in GMT

  1. Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC ( Jan 26 8:30 )

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I actually stumbled on this fixture about 3 months ago on BT and was surprised at the amount of chances being created within minutes, awful defending by both teams, but that really didn’t matter as both teams went full out attack, 30 minutes in. The game finished 4-2 but could’ve easily been 6-4. Known as ‘The Big Blue’ in Australia, this lesser known derby was one of the original big matches in the league originally only allowed on team per city; the rivalry was instant. Maintaining the competitions third highest attended fixture, only being pipped by the Melbourne derby and the Final. The two most populated cities in Australia face of on Tuesday and looking at the stats; last year this fixture averaged a thumping  5 goals per match, enjoy.

 

 

 

2.  Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid ( Jan 30 15:00 )

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Definitely the most anticipated game of the week as the top two in La Liga face off with only 2 points separating them. Even with Messi doubtful to start this match; there is still a wealth of talent on the field you would struggle to find anywhere in world football. The best attack in the league of Suarez and Neymar and looks to be former Atleti man Arda Turan replacing Messi, face the best defence in the Europe, only conceding 8 goals in their campaign and hold one of the best defenders in the world of Diego Godin. Antoine Griezmann look to be turning into a world class striker and it will be interesting to see how he competes against a shaky defence, as shown towards the end of Barca’s game against Bilbao due to a high press which Simeone has drilled into his team. With so much quality in both teams throughout the park, expect a high intensity from both teams from the start, and a tense atmosphere at the Nou Camp being a potential title decider.

 

 

 

3.  Napoli vs Empoli ( Jan 31 14:00 )

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League leaders Napoli are in unbeatable form with 4 straight wins in Serie A and the whole team are beginning to look the part as they pose the biggest threat against Juventus to win this league for the first time in 16 years. Empoli on the other hand have done well since their awful start of the season, currently sitting 8th and improving form with an impressive 5 wins in their last 7, while only conceding 3 goals in Serie A. However there are doubts over the experienced central defender Andrea Costa which is a big worry for Empoli who face the team who’ve scored the most goals in Italy. It should be noted that last season Empoli took 4 of the 6 points against the Naples team which included a 4-2 when they were in dire straits and were tipped to be relegated.

 

 

 

4.  Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim ( Jan 31 16:30 )

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The Bavarian giants take on bottom side Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena on Sunday afternoon. Potentially looking at a domination from FCB, only dropping points in 2 matches all season, while the bottom side have only won 2 times all season. Even with a heavy injury list, Bayern looks dominant; with a start players to fill each position, the standouts remain Douglas Costa, Lewandowski, young Frenchman Kingsley Coeman and Thomas Müller. Hoffenheim have recently signed Leicester City striker Andrej Kramaric in an attempt to  to turn around their awful form, as they could be relegated for the first time in 9 years. Even though Hoffenheim drew against Bayern Leverkusen last round, with so much quality in the Munich squad, it’s hard to see any way Hoffenheim can take any points on Sunday.

 

 

 

5.  AC Milan vs Inter Milan (Jan 31 19:45)

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The whole city grinds to a halt to watch the Milanese derby, with the rivalry dating back to the inception of the clubs themselves. These two clubs represent opposing aspects of culture and politics in the city, leading to fans with passion for their club extending out to more than just football. The San Siro is a sight to see in those 90 minutes as the 80,000 seater is packed, creating a wall of unwavering fans and an atmosphere difficult to find in any other stadium. In terms of current club form, it’s insignificant as players leave their heart on the pitch in this fixture. Expect a tense match, passion, controversy, but most of all, entertainment.

 

 

Other Mentions:

Burnley vs Derby ( Jan 25 19:45 )

Manchester City vs Everton ( Jan 27 19:45 )

Marseille vs Lille ( Jan 29 19:30 )

Chievo vs Juventus ( Jan 31 16:00 )

Real Madrid vs Espanyol ( Jan 31 19:30 )

 

Feel like I missed out any matches or wanna give me any feedback? Comment Below!