Scouting for Fixtures: May 08 – May 14

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

Guy chatting absolutely anything in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention in this football-esque blog. I also do football previews, kinda… 

All times are GMT.

Juventus vs Monaco ( Tue 09 19:45 )

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The end is near for Monaco, as hopes dwindle for the chance for the Champions League. Hats off to Monaco, as they’re the first French team in the semi-finals in 7 years, but winning the trophy has not been accomplished by France since 1993. The first leg ended 0-2 to Juve so Monaco has to score at least three times at San Siro. Might as well pack your bags and call it a night as the last time that happened was the 3rd of November 2012 against a legendary Inter Milan side. But yet again, I reiterate, Monaco is the best-attacking side in the world as of now.  Expect a do-or-die attitude from the away side on Tuesday, with a good chance of ending up a high scoring game.

Boca Juniors vs River Plate ( Sat 13 22:00 )

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There is only a handful of times where 22 men kicking a ball around for an hour and a half can bring a city to a grinding halt. Milan, Glasgow, Rome, Cairo and Buenos Aires. To some football is a religion but in this case, Scientology is a more accurate description, because they are as crazy and hardcore as fans come (in a good way).

Derby day in Buenos Aires makes the Old Firm game look like a primary school kick-about

– The Guardian

Usually when your dishing out nicknames, its creative, like the Red Devils or the Gunners. These guys don’t hold back. River Plate is known as Las Gallinas for choking throughout the years. Pretty tame to be honest. In an act of vengeance, Boca Juniors are known as Los Bosteros, which roughly translates to livestock faeces or crap dwellers. Literally shits and giggles with these guys. There have been some truly blockbuster level games over the years, with 5 players sent off in the game last year. Buenos Aires has been an incubator for great talent over the years, needless to say, it’s worth staying up late for this one.

Tottenham vs Manchester United ( Sun 14 16:30 )

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Oh, how the tables have turned, literally. Five years ago you would’ve seen Manchester United chasing for the title and Tottenham hoping to get into the champions league. The sad thing for Tottenham fans is that even though they’re playing the best football I’ve seen in my lifetime; there is no silverware – probably – to show for it. Their opponents are in the semi-finals of the Europa league. Even their rivals Arsenal, as bad as their season has been, is in an FA cup final. The psychological value of physically holding that trophy is one which is invaluable for a player, justifying the hard work they put in. More of a long term consideration for Spurs players. The current situation at Old Trafford could be the plot points of the next A Series of Unfortunate Events novel. Rashford and Young limped off the field on Thursday, joining Ibrahimovic, Shaw, Rojo and Mensah on the sidelines, as Bailly and Smalling continue recovery. This late in the season, games like this make or break it.

Side note: This was written before Arsenal played Manchester United.

Real Madrid vs Sevilla ( Sun 14 19:00 )

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Real Madrid is one of the best teams in the world. According to the UEFA coefficient, they are THE best team, followed by Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Juventus (in that order). However the last time Los Blancos won La Liga was 5 years ago, while the others won their leagues 1, 1, 3 and 1 year ago respectively. If Real Madrid wins their two games in hand they will win the league. Real Madrid has Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Malaga left to play. Sevilla is undoubtedly the toughest opponents, as Los Blancos have won, drawn and lost with Sevilla this year already. Madrid can’t afford a loss, and neither can Sevilla. The away side is chasing their own hopes of champions league, holding onto the last qualifiers spot. Losing this game could shrink the gap to 3 point cliff with a game to go. If past visits are anything to go by, this is going to be an eventful game. And one Sergio Ramos will be at the centre of it, probably.

Games I would have written about but was too lazy:

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid ( Wed 10 19:54 )

Manchester United vs Celta Vigo ( Thu 11 20:05 )

Lyon vs Ajax ( Thu 11 20:05 )

RasenBallsport Leipzig vs Bayern Munich ( Sat 13 14:30 )

Atalanta vs AC Milan ( Sat 13 19:45 )

Crystal Palace vs Hull ( Sun 14 12:00 )

Roma vs Juventus ( Sun 14 19:45 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 17 – Apr 23

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

There are so many good fixtures this week. It’s like Christmas, new years, Halloween, Hannukah, Diwali and Chinese new years wrapped into one week of non-stop, top quality, football. 

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 18 19:54 )

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Cristiano has chromosomes bussing about his body that belongs in a Bengal tiger – Ray Hudson on Cristiano Ronaldo

As the old adage goes I suppose… and with those inspiring words by Ray Hudson – football commentator/scouser/poet/philosopher – I horrifically segway into the Ronaldo’s goal against Bayern that only strengthens the point made above.

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That was one of 3 turning points. The 2nd and 3rd, which came 11 and 14 minutes later, were Javi Martinez’s 1st and 2nd yellow card, leaving Bayern 10 men down. That lead to their first loss in the Allianz Arena (in a competitive game) since March the 3rd, of 2016. If it wasn’t for Manuel Neuer the having one of the best games in recent memory, the tie could already be over. But it finished 1-2, holding the tie up nicely into the second leg; now Bayern needs to score at least 2 goals at the Bernabeu which could leave them exposed at the back.

Barcelona vs Juventus ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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This isn’t just Barcelona’s own doing. Juventus are – in my humble opinion – the best team in the world right now, with not only individual quality, but a consistently strong tactical awareness as a group, that I can only say is replicated at a similar rate by, Bayern Munich. They hit Barca like a train. The problems at the back are a well known long term issue for the Catalonians, but that’s not what happened here. Paolo Dyzbala’s what happened here, not to take away from a rare brilliant team performance, with Buffon and Chiellini making world class blocks. Now Barca has to pay another set of referees all over again. Oh no, wait! No, sorry I meant: They have to do one of the greatest comebacks in football history, all over again, to progress to the next round.

Monaco vs Dortmund ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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I can’t talk about this fixture without addressing the extraordinary circumstances of the last leg. There are many arguments for and against holding the game just a day after the attempted bombing of the Dortmund bus, but the decision was made and now we have a vert different game. Who knows? Who knows if Dortmund would have played differently if the game was delayed? As a player, well, for any human being, the idea of an attempt to kill you surely must have an impact on your mind and psyche? Then you’re expected to go out and focus for 90 minutes against one of the best sides in Europe requires tremendous mental fortitude. But nonetheless, we had a game not out of place with the quality you’d expect, ending 2-3. A similar dilemma to Bayern Munich rests on their other German side, as BVB needs to beat Monaco by 2 goals in the next leg. After the first goal goes in, the floodgates will open.

Chelsea vs Tottenham ( Sat 22 17:15 )

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It looks like the magic of the cup is all but been extinguished with the sides left in the competition, exactly what you’d expect. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City. Though at least now we have a more even fixture. We can’t complain too much considering the quality on display in this fixture, Conte’s side already has one hand on the Premier League trophy and only cement their place as one of the most hated clubs in England. But if anyone can stop them, it is Tottenham. They have Guardiola’s backing:

Tottenham are the best team in the league when you let them play. I enjoy watching them play.

They’re the 2 best sides in England and if previous encounters are something to go by, the cards could be flying out like confetti. Though Spurs are hopelessly behind in the league, they have one last chance to trip them up.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 23 19:45 )

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We’re well into the third act of a well versed, but nonetheless captivating story. And this is the climax before the final resolution. The words El Classico is synonymous with the beautiful game, attracting crowds of up to 400 million people, roughly 1/18 people in the world. Touted as one of the greatest games of football one can play, the circumstances surrounding the fixture makes this game even more important. Both sides are in the middle of a tough fixture list. Barca played Sevilla, Malaga, Juventus, Real Sociedad and then Juventus again while Real Madrid had to face Atletico Madrid, FC Bayern, Sporting Gijon and FC Bayern again in the build up to this pivotal tie. The Catalonians are 3 points behind Los Blancos who have a game in hand. After this, they’re only 5 games to decide the league winner. The only realistic way of Barca winning the league, is to win this game. The winner of La Liga rests on the outcome of this game.

It’s also worth mentioning …

Messi is 29 years old, Ronaldo, 32. This is as good as it gets for two of the greatest players of all time, a once in a generation type player. Not to say they suddenly lose all motor functions in the coming years, or there won’t be any more moments of brilliance, but this is usually near the drop off point. This may be one of the last chances to see the 2 in their prime. Enjoy this game for what it is, a competition between two of the best teams – and players – in the world.

Games you should also watch but I was too lazy to write about:

Leicester vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 18 19:54 )

America de Cali vs Deportivo Cali ( Thu 20 01:55 )

Schalke 04 vs Ajax ( Thu 20 20:05 )

Dynamo Kyiv vs Shakhtar Donetsk ( Fri 21 18:00 )

FC Cologne vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 21 19:30 )

Sporting CP vs Benfica ( Sat 22 20:30 )

Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps ( Sat 22 21:00 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 23 12:00 )

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 23 15:00 )

PSV Eindhoven vs Ajax ( Sun 23 15:45 )

Lyon vs Monaco ( Sun 23 20:15 )

Scouting For Fixtures: Oct 24 – Oct 30

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.

There will not be a post for the week of Oct 31 – Nov 6, but regular posts will continue afterwards. 

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Tue 25 19:45 )

Courtesy of Mirror

 

The league cup has gotten a lot of flak over the years. Often described as a B-Tech FA Cup, as Jonathon Liew eloquently sums up ‘In terms of prestige, the League Cup sits somewhere between the Community Shield and a Blue Peter badge.’ The signs point to a very tight match. Both teams have an identical form (DWWWWD), separated by only 1 point and 1 place on the premier league table. The home side will be up for it, as it may be their chance to win their first silverware in 4 years; finally legitimising the famous (or infamous) this is our year meme. Tottenham however, does not have the same luxuries as Liverpool. After this cup game, Spurs have a terrible run of fixtures which include: Leicester, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, West Ham, Monaco and then Chelsea to round off a hectic November. For the most athletic team in the league (covering 114.8km per match on average), not even Pocchetino’s men can go for the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. Fingers crossed, Liverpool and Tottenham treat this match as it should be and we enjoy some entertaining midweek football.

Manchester United vs Manchester City ( Wed 26 20:00 )

Courtesy of GQ

 

Just under seven weeks would have passed since MUFC lost to their local rivals 1-2 at Old Trafford. After the 1-2, the two teams have diverged from their previous string of wins. Man Utd continued their losing streak, first Feyenoord and then Watford. They are yet to lose since; the catch being their only major obstacle was Liverpool until now. Man City continued an increasing winning streak until Celtic started a cascade of draw followed by loss followed by draw followed by a loss, yet to win a game in 32 days and counting. Also, Guardiola now also has Aguero and Gundogan at his disposal. Despite Paul Pogba’s brace against Fenerbache, the thorough scrutiny of his best position, quality and temperament are only getting worse. It’s only exacerbated by the £95.3 million price tag, endless dabbing and Paul’s recent statement: ‘I will need a little time to adapt in Manchester, time for the machine to start working. I am adapting.’ There is one constant, Claudio Bravo. In that 1-2 victory over Manchester United, the home side still nabbed one goal, in part due to Claudio Bravo’s poor clearance. Bravo’s most recent performance against Barcelona could be partially forgiven because 1) It’s Barcelona 2)  The defenders were a mess. What cannot be forgiven is another godawful, bizarre clearance followed by a red card.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Sat 29 19:45 )

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Courtesy of DreamTeamFC

 

When you go from euphoric highs like the spine-tingling rendition of the GONZALO HI-GUI-IIIN chant to realising your most beloved player is defecting to your richer, stronger, more successful rival, it’s enough to push anyone over the edge. In the midst of a tsunami of visceral hate, at least the Napoli fans are getting creative with it. The picture above tells a lot about the sort of reception the €90 million man should expect from the Napoli away support, except for the fact all Napoli fans are banned from attending the game  ‘due to the heated rivalry between the two clubs, which already developed in the past into seriously critical situations for public order’. The problems continue to snowball for Napoli, as they just cannot stop losing. First Atalanta, second is Roma, followed by Besiktas. Even if Napoli beat Crotone today, the psychological boost from winning is unlikely to overcome an inform Juve side, current Serie A champions and holding 1st place.

Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke 04 ( Sat 29 17:30 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Expect the Sudtribune to be bouncing just a bit more, a few more flares and a hell of a lot more security. The 149th Revier derby starts at a time when both teams are going through changes. For Dortmund, their form has fallen off a cliff, as their winning streak has been substituted by a winless streak similar to Schalke. The reverse applies to the away side, who’ve been struggling for points until recently, beating Borussia M. Gladbach 4-0 and drawing their most recent fixture. Lucky for Dortmund, form goes out the window in a game fuelled by passion and an electric atmosphere. Dortmund and Schalke are very similar despite the hatred of their opposition. Both teams are in the Ruhr region, separated by only 20 miles. The origin of both clubs can be found in the local coal and steel factories, both teams forming within five years of each other. If you know how a magnet works, putting two powerful ones of the same charge will only repel.

Scouting for Fixtures: Sept 26- Oct 2

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.

Leicester vs FC Porto ( Tue 27 19:45 )

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Courtesy of AFP

 

Well, this is weird. Even though it’s been a good 4 months since the Foxes won the Premier League, when the words Leicester and Champions League appear in the same sentence, one of them looks out of place. The feng shui is ruined if you will. And that’s a compliment; the amount of progress made by one team in one year is unprecedented and refreshing. Now they top their group and welcome FC Porto to the King Power on Tuesday. Porto’s first game ended 1-1. A draw which must have felt like a defeat, considering they were against 10 men Copenhagen at home. Copenhagen managed a mere two shots on goal, plus they were on the backfoot with only 43% possession. Porto needs to bring a different game plan to the King Power or Leicester will surely add another 3 points to their name.

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid ( Tue 27 19:45 )

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Courtesy of AFP

 

This is the match to look forward too. Both teams are undoubtedly fun to watch play their brand of football. Dortmund still pioneers gegenpressing and do it better than any other team on the planet. Despite losing Hummels, Mkhitaryan and Gundogan, BVB has done well to sign Gotze back, the french talent Ossosuna Dembele and left back Guerreiro who was exceptional in their first UCL game with a goal, assist and a clean sheet. Real Madrid, on the other hand, is a team that I would make on FIFA 16, just trying to fit every attacking player on the pitch, into something resembling a functional starting XI. Zidane has added some stability with Casemiro playing CDM and they’ve also won the trophy 11 times; so clearly they’re doing something right. When we think Dortmund vs Real Madrid, the 4-1 is what we all remember. Regardless of the scoreline on Tuesday, it’s going to be a good game.

Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich ( Wed 28 19:45 )

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Courtesy of Bongarts

 

These types of fixtures have a semblance to those high profile games that on paper should be a ‘cracker’ but ends up being two teams trying their hardest not to concede and never (in the drunk, passionate, slightly slurred speech of a man hamstrung by his heavy dutch accent) think: ‘Yes! We go for it!’. But, go on, give it a chance. Atleti, while admired for their defensive prowess, aren’t usually described as entertaining.  However, this season they’ve shifted into gear and maintain the second highest shots per game in La Liga (18.8), outdoing even Barcelona. Antonie Griezmann is integral to the side, contributing to 40% of the sides goals and will be the target for the Bayern defenders. Simeone’s men have their work cut out as Bayern are the team to beat. After smashing FC Rostov 6-0 without breaking a sweat, Atletico has to deal with Lewandowski, Ribery, Costa, Alcantara, Muller, Renato Sanchez, Robben (maybe), Vid-. You get it. It’s likely the game will be tight as these two battle out for top spot, fingers crossed we can get more than last years 1-0.

Borussia M. Gladbach vs Barcelona ( Wed 28 19:45 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

The running theme of this week’s games seems to be La Liga vs Bundesliga, now an underperforming Borussia M. Gladbach side faces Barcelona. The german side is in a tough group: Barcelona, Man City whom they lost to 4-0 and Celtic. Barcelona as we all expected, cruised through their first match, beating Celtic. What wasn’t expected was 7 goals with no response from the away side. Barcelona to win looks obvious. The only stat that inclines otherwise is that Gladbach has won all their home games, which is 2, out of a total 4 games this season. This looks like a cut and paste win for Barcelona, but maybe Gladbach can pull it out the bag.

Valencia vs Atletico Madrid ( Sun 02 11:00 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

Atletico Madrid will go to Valencia 3 days after their encounter against Bayern Munich in the Champions league. The away side started with 2 disappointing draws against lesser opposition but since then look like a team possessed. A 4-0 win against Celta Vigo, 5-0 against Sporting Gijon, then holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw which hasn’t been done by Atleti since 2014. Valencia to looks like a team possessed (by the ghost of Gary Neville), losing 4 matches in a row, subsequently sacking their manager Pako Ayesteran. This comes after another blow to their team over the summer seeing integral players like Mustafi, Andre Gomes and Pablo Alcacer leave. One notable stat from this fixture in the past is that a red card has been shown in 5 of the last 6 games. Looks like Atletico are going to thump the struggling home side, but the recovery from the UCL game could play a part in a potential upset.

Tottenham vs Manchester City ( Sun 02 14:15 )

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Courtesy of Getty Images

 

After 5 games, the table is starting to take shape. Manchester City is currently first and their five-game winning streak has incited some bookies to drop the odds of going unbeaten all season from 200/1 to 40/1. Bear in mind the odds (which no one took according to Ladbrokes) for Arsenal to go unbeaten in their 2003-04 season was 500/1, later reduced to 50/1 only towards the end of the season. The citizens have the firepower up front, scoring 14 goals already, but Tottenham has the most shots per game (19). Harry Kane’s injury is still inconclusive as to whether he is fit to start against Man City. Dembele, Dier and Rose are also recovering from injury and despite the holes left in the squad, Spurs are steady at a 3rd place after 5 games.