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 )

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Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 03 – Apr 09

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.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

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Roma vs Lazio ( Tue 04 19:45 ) Napoli vs Juventus ( Wed 05 19:45 )

The commentary alone paints a picture. Breaking the mic with screams of joy; hearing a real life Italian man, with genuine angst in his voice shoutMama Mia!’ is one of the best compliments one could receive, and the Roman derby deserves it. Lazio came into this game, yet to beat their rivals since 2013. Roma is also playing their best football in recent years, currently 2nd place and with a mountain [63] of goals. So when Lazio won 2-0 it was time to crack out the beers, and the bald eagle, of course. Take a leaf out of Quentin’s book, there were many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, shots. There should be no reason to expect any different in the 2nd leg.

The Nazzuri may felt the same way Lampard felt when his goal was disallowed, Ireland failed to qualify for the world cup or lamenting the fact you got a C for the fifth time even though you spent hours revising before hand. Underserved is what I’m saying, going the long and scornful way around it. So Juventus scored 3 goals. The first one was a penalty that well, it’s tenuous calling it a foul. The second goal you can have no complaints, no one else is to blame but the goalkeeper who ran towards the ball like a moth to a flame. The third goal (2nd penalty) was unquestionably wrong, as Reina made contact with the ball before the player. So a game that ended 3-1 could’ve ended 1-1 will all to play for. But if any team could turn it around it would be the top goal scorers in Italy.

Barcelona vs Sevilla ( Wed 05 18:30 )

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Maybe Sampaoli saw a litter of black cats, or the team were possessed by the spirit of Goofy the klutz. The players have their part to play, but the quick succession and nature of defeats is a tad cruel. After 25 games were played, Sevilla had 55 points, only 2 behind 2nd place Barcelona. Following that game was a draw to Alaves – who they should be beating – and a draw to Osasuna – who were on a 7 game losing streak. Following that they lost to Atletico, reducing the gap between Sevilla and 4th place to 2 points. As La Liga only has 3 champions league places, Sevilla’s prerogative went from challenging Barca to see out 3rd place*. The gap between Barcelona extended to 6 points, as they look to win a La Liga trophy. To compound the misery, Sevilla exited the champions league is extraordinary circumstances. Barca returns to the Nou Camp with a very well rested Messi, not only banned internationally but domestically too, due to a build up of yellow cards so missed last weeks game.

*3rd place is an achievement. But, no one remembers Tottenham’s last season as a team who won a champions league place for the first time in 4 seasons, they remember them as the side who finished 3rd in a 2-horse race. Granted those were more extreme circumstances, but they were both let downs unless Sevilla can prove me wrong with the 10 games they have left.

Chelsea vs Manchester City ( Wed 05 20:00 )

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We can’t fault him. Guardiola, the man who came with high, if not impossible expectations will probably run out the last quarter of the season seeing out a champions league place. He tried everything. Various systems, formations, players changing position, even banning wifi during training and instigating communal meals. Drawing with Liverpool at home and then calling it ‘one of the proudest days of my coaching career’ is a tad bit pathetic, but bless him, his heart is in the right place. Now he’s left with a roided up attack with a flimsy base. That flimsy base has to face Chelsea. Oh and we all saw what happened the last time. A WWE approach was adopted towards the end of the last match as Fernandinho attempted (but failed) the Undertakers chokeslam, resulting in 2 red cards. Can’t expect anything less than another end-to-end game here.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Sat 08 15:15 )

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If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse.
Forget tactics, it’s Real Madrid. Get out there and stick it up their arses!
– Luis Aragones, former Atleti manager

You may think the man above it crazy, but it’s a build up of frustration and misplaced (literally) rage that comes with following a club defined by their losses for the longest time. That was the before Simeone era. Now we are into the after Simeone era filled with world class defenders, trophies ( well only 2) and new hope. Still, Los Blancos have an air of superiority over their rivals, and Simeone’s men will require a tremendous amount of restraint not to kick the lights out of their opposition players.

Games I would’ve written about but was too lazy:

Hoffenheim vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 04 19:00 )

FC Cologne vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Tue 04 19:00 )

Villarreal vs Athletic Club ( Fri 07 19:45 )

Universidad de Chile vs Colo Colo ( Sat 08 16:00 )

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 08 17:30 )

Lazio vs Napoli ( Sun 09 19:45 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 06 – Feb 12

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

All times are GMT.

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 07 20:00 )

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Atleti looks – not to beat the cliche to death – like a shadow of their former self. Compared to this time last season, they’ve actually scored 4 more goals but doubled down on conceding, with 8 more than last season (twice the amount). Oh my god, 16 goals conceded in 20 games! That only makes them what, only the 6th best defence in the Europe?! That stat would look complementary for most other teams, but by the insanely high standards they set themselves, Atleti is slipping. To compound the pressure, they have one of the best attacking line-ups in the world they now have to face, again, away from home. This is the second leg of a tie already not in their favour. I feel by explaining the last leg a bit more illustrates just how big the mountain Atleti have to climb is. Suarez scored first at 6′.  So he starts just behind the halfway line with 4 Atleti players in front of him; with his first touch he bypasses Godin, the second goes past Savic (by now he’s at the edge of the box) and the third touch puts the ball past the keeper, scoring an incredible solo goal. He’s running at such an immense speed from running the half of the pitch he needs to put his arms out, acting as a parachute would for drag racing, so as to not crash into the advertising board. Amazing. The second is scored by Messi at 32′. A ball played to him from the edge of the box, what do you do? Of course, you rocket it in, curling away from the keeper (and goal) and bounce off the opposite post and nestle it into the net. 2-0, game over. Yes ok, Atleti scored 1 goal but that is beside the point. Point being, both of those goals were unstoppable. It didn’t matter if you had 11 of the best players in the world or 100 Brazilian kids in the 62-15-23 formation, those goals were fixed points in time, they were always going in. That’s the danger Atleti face, the chance that regardless of how well they play, there is a chance Suarez, Neymar or Messi could pull it out the bag at any given moment. Also, Atletico Madrid has to go for the win. Conceding 2 away goals means needing to score twice without response from Barca to ensure they go through.

Liverpool vs Tottenham ( Sat 11 17:30 )

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Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now felt like an accurate gauge of the mood.

That quote was in reference to Anfield, after beating Manchester City 1-0 on new years eve and winning 4 in a row, excited in all the possibilities 2017 had to offer. Fast forward to today, Anfield feels Kafkaesque, with Mad World by Gary Jules ringing through the speakers. The phrase wank wank wank wank* isn’t thrown about too often, but it sums up the state of things when referenced by The RedMen TV after losing 2-0 to Hull. I don’t remember a worse start to a year for Liverpool, ever. 36 days in, 10 games played, 5 losses, 4 draws, but 1 win. The 1 win was against League 2 side Plymouth in the 2nd leg of an FA cup tie and ended 0-1, but a win is a win. Even still, Liverpool has a good chance of winning. Stats wise anyway. The last 6 games, Liverpool have not lost a single one. That’s about everything I could find in favour of Liverpool. That, and the fact their playing in Anfield. So Spurs are the closest thing to overthrowing Chelsea right now, 9 points behind the league leaders despite winning 7 of their last 9 Premier League fixtures. Both defences will be tested on Saturday, as Tottenham and Liverpool are 1st and 2nd in shots per game respectively, with 17.6 and 17.1. Couple that with the stat of Tottenham averaging the lowest interceptions per game respectively (11 and 8.4), this could be a high scoring game. While Tottenham can rely on their sound defensive record (best in the league), Liverpool defenders could recontextualise recent events to cope:

*Trust me. It’s not what it seems like. The link is safe to click. Trust. Me.

Osasuna vs Real Madrid ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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If we’re sticking to the music analogy, Minas Morgul is definitely playing through the El Sadar (Osasuna home) stadium speakers as you catch glimpse of the Real Madrid side marching in the distance*. Ironically, Osasuna means health but if you were to personify the club, they would have osteoporosis. I’m definitely being too mean, but when you have the 2nd worst defence in the league, the worst home record in La Liga (haven’t even won a home game yet, after 11 games) and only won 1 league game all season, the home side look out of their league, literally and figuratively. It’s commendable how they climbed the third tier, nicknamed the well, in Christian Bale Dark Knight fashion. But when Phill Ball describes the off-the-pitch issues on sport360 as:

they are under investigation for match-fixing during last season’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation, have an ex-president and ex-director recently released from prison on bail, and financial problems popping up like poisonous mushrooms

sympathy is hard to come by. Then the realisation that Real Madrid is playing begins to contextualise why I picked this game. I am all for competitive unpredictable football, but there is a certain joy that comes with watching a side completely rip apart their opposition (again, sorry Osasuna fans). Los Blancos are top of the table with 2 games in hand, with 51 goals all season, ranked #4 in goals per game. Recent history between the two sides also points to a high scoring game, averaging 3.8 goals per game. Good luck.

*If you don’t get that reference, as a ginger wizard once said, she needs to sort out her priorities*2.

*If you didn’t get that one either, you’re beyond help.

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


Sources:

WhoScored

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/31/liverpool-manchester-city-premier-league-match-report

http://sport360.com/article/football/la-liga/205995/phil-ball-christmas-pickle-or-plight-for-la-liga-clubs-as-we-take-stock-at-the-winter-break/

https://scoutingforfixtures.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/the-most-entertaining-football-teams-statistically-ranked/

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!