LaLiga 2022-23: Real Madrid still the team to beat – Stats Perform AI predicts

By Sports Desk August 11, 2022

LaLiga, home to the European champions, returns on Friday for another season.

Real Madrid ended the previous campaign by winning the Champions League, the prize they covet most, but it was also a successful year in domestic action.

Carlo Ancelotti's men eased to a record-extending 35th league title by 13 points – that is the gap Barcelona have sought to bridge in the transfer market during the close season. So, just how successfully have they done that?

Stats Perform AI has predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and have thrown up some interesting results, with Barca seemingly left still with plenty to do.

MADRID MAINTAIN BUFFER TO BARCA

Given their 35 titles, given their 13-point gap, given their status as European champions, it is surely no surprise Madrid are considered the clear favourites to scoop Spanish football's top prize once again.

The data makes Ancelotti's side 58.75 per cent favourites to retain their crown.

Barca recovered from a dismal start last season to finish second, and they are forecast for the same result again after investing hugely in Robert Lewandowski and Co.

But there is only a 17.0 per cent chance of the title heading to Camp Nou, with Atletico Madrid a predictable third in the rankings and rated as a 12.3 per cent shot.

Those three clubs have accounted for the past 18 championships since Valencia finished top in 2003-04. Now, under Gennaro Gattuso, Valencia have a mere 0.08 per cent chance of returning to the summit, deemed ninth favourites among 11 teams with any hope at all.

Sevilla (4.74 per cent) and Villarreal (4.66 per cent) are the sides most likely to upset the established order.

 

PRECIOUS FOURTH PLACE UP FOR GRABS

There realistically remains only one of the four Champions League places on offer after taking into account Madrid (95.68 per cent), Barca (79.31 per cent) and Atletico (71.56 per cent). Last season, that belonged to Sevilla.

Yet despite Sevilla's high ceiling seeing them fourth favourites for the title, Stats Perform AI expects them to be pushed out of the top four.

After losing defensive duo Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos, Sevilla are given a 47.45 per cent of qualifying for the Champions League, just behind former coach Unai Emery's Villarreal (48.66 per cent), who were seventh last season but reached the semi-finals of Europe's elite club competition.

Real Sociedad (24.79 per cent) and Real Betis (20.39 per cent) are both firmly in the mix, too, although every team in the league have at least a 0.04 per cent hope of contending for Champions League glory.

Athletic Bilbao are expected to be on the outside looking in from eighth place (7.48 per cent for Champions League, 7.42 per cent for Europa League and 10.51 per cent for Europa Conference League).

 

NO ESCAPE THIS TIME FOR MALLORCA

The fight against the drop went right to the wire last term, with three teams still in the mix on the final day.

Granada were the surprise victims of a dramatic scrap, relegated just two weeks after winning 6-2 at Mallorca. Mallorca then earned seven points from their next three games to stay up alongside Cadiz at Granada's expense.

That late recovery may have rescued Mallorca for another year, but Stats Perform AI predicts their LaLiga stay will last no longer than that.

They are 41.27 per cent favourites to go down, even considered more likely for demotion than Girona (39.95), who were promoted via the play-offs.

Real Valladolid, another promoted side, are ranked as the third relegated team (32.74 per cent), yet there is very little to choose between a clutch of clubs, with Cadiz (31.8 per cent) again at risk alongside Elche (31.48 per cent), second-tier champions Almeria (28.86 per cent) and Rayo Vallecano (27.46 per cent).

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    Christian Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike and another assist as the United States opened their Copa America campaign with a 2-0 triumph over Bolivia on Sunday.

    Gregg Berhalter's side never appeared troubled in a routine victory at AT&T Stadium in Texas, thanks to the solo endeavours of captain Pulisic in their Group C opener.

    The Milan forward needed just three minutes to curl in a sublime opener before teeing up Folarin Balogun – who another strike ruled out after the interval – just moments before the break in a one-sided first half.

    Bolivia rarely seemed likely to forge a comeback as the USA managed a winning start to a Copa campaign for the first time since the 1995 edition when they defeated Chile 2-1 in Uruguay.

    Antonio Carlos Zago's side did not heed an early warning when goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra was forced to rush out and clear in front of Balogun.

    Bolivia were caught napping just minutes later as Timothy Weah worked a short corner with Pulisic, who coasted inside before curling into the top-right corner from an acute angle on the left-hand side of the area.

    Weah – son of legendary forward George – was denied from point-blank range as the USA almost doubled their lead immediately.

    Yet Berhalter's host nation would soon add to their advantage in Arlington.

    Pulisic was afforded the freedom of midfield yet again, dropping into space before offloading for Balogun to cannon a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner.

    That smart 44th-minute finish marked Balogun's first-ever goal at this tournament and the Monaco striker found the back of the net for a second time after the interval, only for his celebrations to be cut short.

    His routine tap-in from inside the six-yard area was ruled out for offside as Weah had rushed forward to capitalise on Weston McKennie's pass before sliding across for his attacking partner.

    Viscarra was equal to Pulisic's effort before the hour as the forward attempt to recreate his early heroics, while substitute Ricardo Pepi prodded wide from Antonee Robinson's pinpoint left-wing delivery.

    Pepi was denied by fine Viscarra reflexes late on as the USA coasted to an opening victory before their next meeting with Panama on Thursday, a day before Bolivia face Uruguay.

    Pulisic stars in rare USA win

    Pulisic was tipped by many as the USA player to keep an eye on at the Copa America, and the Milan man delivered in emphatic fashion in this opener.

    Fresh off the back of scoring 15 goals across all competitions for the Serie A giants, Pulisic's opening strike had an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.037 – yet that was no problem for the USA captain.

    His headline-worthy effort halted a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament as well given Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

    Victory also marked the USA's first Copa triumph over Bolivia in just their second attempt, avenging for a 1-0 defeat way back in 1995 when Marco Etcheverry scored the winner.

    Bolivia wait goes on

    Bolivia were seeking a win against a CONCACAF opponent in Copa action for the first time since the 1997 edition.

    They defeated Mexico 3-1 in the semi-finals of the tournament they hosted 27 years ago, though a wait for another such victory must continue after a drab showing in Texas.

    Carlos Zago won this competition as a player with Brazil in 1999 but his side have a long way to go if they are to even escape their group in the USA.

    Bolivia have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the USA.

  • Euro 2024 Data Dive: Late goals and broken records tee up dramatic finish to Group A Euro 2024 Data Dive: Late goals and broken records tee up dramatic finish to Group A

    Sunday's action at Euro 2024 saw the conclusion of Group A, with late drama ensuring a last-gasp shake up to the standings.

    Germany looked sure to be on the end of a shock defeat to Switzerland until substitute Niclas Fullkrug stepped up to make it 1-1 in stoppage time and send the hosts through as group winners.

    Meanwhile, Scotland crashed out of the tournament without a win after conceding the latest goal ever scored at the Euros, with Hungary keeping their hopes of knockout football alive with their 1-0 victory.

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    Switzerland 1-1 Germany: Neuer makes history, but Fullkrug grabs headlines

    Having already qualified for the last 16, the hosts left it late to seal top spot in the group, needing Fullkrug to make a much-needed impact off the bench in Frankfurt.

    Dan Ndoye had given Switzerland a first-half lead with his maiden international goal to become the nation's second-youngest goalscorer at the Euros (aged 23 years 242 days), but Switzerland could not hold on.

    Manuel Neuer was left helpless against the forward's first-time finish on his 18th appearance at the European Championships, the most among goalkeepers at the tournament (overtaking Gianluigi Buffon – 17). At major tournaments, only Cristiano Ronaldo (45) has played in more games than the Bayern Munich stopper (37).

    Julian Nagelsmann named the same starting XI for three consecutive games, the first time Germany have done so in the competition's history, though it looked like tiredness was starting to take its toll as they struggled to break down their opponents.

    Toni Kroos finished the game with a passing accuracy of 92.5%, only averaging lower than that in one game for Real Madrid in 2023-24), but also equalled a record in the late drama.

    Having completed 323 passes so far at Euro 2024, Kroos has made the joint-most on record (since 1980) by a player in the group stage since himself at Euro 2016 (also 323).

    Germany eventually had 18 shots, with Fullkrug picking out the top corner with the final one; the striker has scored 13 goals in just 19 international appearances, while his four as a substitute at major tournaments are more than any other European player.

    Despite ultimately losing out on top spot, Switzerland have now gone unbeaten in their last four games against Die Mannschaft (W1 D3), with no nation currently enjoying a longer unbeaten streak against Germany (England and Spain both have ongoing runs of four).

    Scotland 0-1 Hungary: Csoboth breaks Tartan Army's hearts

    Meanwhile in Stuttgart, it was Hungary celebrating a late strike to seal a 1-0 victory that ensured an early exit for Scotland as they chased what would have been a landmark win.

    Kevin Csoboth cemented his place in European Championship history with his counter-attacking finish as he netted the latest goal ever scored in the tournament's history (excluding extra time), timed at 99 minutes and 32 seconds.

    Despite needing a win to finish third, Scotland failed to have a single shot on target in the game. In total, the Tartan Army had just 17 shots at Euro 2024 – since the group stage was introduced in 1980, it is the joint-fewest by a national team, along with Northern Ireland at Euro 2016.

    Indeed, only twice at Euro 2024 has a team failed to manage a shot on target in the first half of a match and both have been Scotland (also on MD 1 against Germany).

    Scotland pushed numbers forward for their last-minute corner with the hopes of reaching the knockout stage of the Euros for the first time, but instead will leave a major tournament group stage without a win for the sixth time (1954, 1958, 1986 and 1998 World Cups and Euro 2020 and 2024).

    While looking down and out after failing to win either of their opening games, Hungary finally ended a run of eight games in the competition without a win, registering their first victory since beating Austria 2-0 at Euro 2016 – this was also their first clean sheet since that win.

  • Switzerland 1-1 Germany: Late Fullkrug leveller secures Group A top spot for hosts Switzerland 1-1 Germany: Late Fullkrug leveller secures Group A top spot for hosts

    Niclas Fullkrug proved the last-gasp hero as Germany avoided a shock upset to top Group A at Euro 2024 after snatching a 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Sunday.

    Dan Ndoye's first international goal seemed set to seal a famous win for Switzerland and ensure them top spot in Group A, but Germany's towering substitute stepped up in the dying seconds in Frankfurt.

    Ruben Vargas thought he had doubled Switzerland's advantage late on, only to be denied by the offside flag, and that decision proved pivotal when Fullkrug headed in his 92nd-minute leveller.

    That late intervention ensured Germany finished top of the group and will face second place in Group D in the last 16, while Switzerland's top-two finish sets up a meeting with the runners-up of Group B.

    The host nation started brightly once again and thought they had taken another early lead when Florian Wirtz teed up Robert Andrich, who squeezed his shot past Yann Sommer into the near post.

    However, the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder was denied his first international goal after a VAR check as Jamal Musiala was deemed to have fouled Michel Aebischer in the box during the build-up.

    Nagelsmann's team instead found themselves behind for the first time in the tournament just before the half-hour mark after Ndoye crashed Remo Freuler's whipped cross past the helpless Manuel Neuer.

    Just moments later, Ndoye offered Germany another scare, racing past Antonio Rudiger before fizzing an angled shot just wide of the far post. 

    Nagelsmann's half-time message was clear as Musiala looked to make it three goals in three games with a powerful hit from the edge of the box, but Sommer was equal to the attempt.

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    Vargas was left one-on-one with Neuer shortly after and slotted into the far corner, but the assistant referee was quick to flag for offside as Switzerland celebrations were short-lived.

    Havertz's looping header bounced off the crossbar as Germany sought a response, which arrived when Fullkrug made his impact off the bench, thumping a header home from David Raum's left-sided delivery.

    Neuer's record-breaking day salvaged by Fullkrug

    Neuer had already made history in their opening game at Euro 2024 as he became Germany's outright top appearance maker at major tournaments, surpassing Philipp Lahm.

    Now, on his 37th start for his country, only Cristiano Ronaldo (45) has played more games across the Euros and World Cup than him, while he has also made the most appearances among goalkeepers in the history of the competition (18, moving ahead of Gianluigi Buffon).

    The 38-year-old could not mark a special day with a win, though, as Germany's long wait for a comeback victory when trailing at half-time stretched to 11 matches in the competition (D2 L9).

    Their last such win came at Euro 1976 against Yugoslavia (2-0 down at half-time, won 4-2), but Neuer and Co. can at least celebrate top spot after late drama in Frankfurt.

    Ndoye steps into the spotlight

    Xherdan Shaqiri grabbed the headlines in Switzerland's 1-1 draw with Scotland last time out after scoring in a sixth consecutive major tournament, but with him on the bench on Sunday, the Red Crosses needed others to step up.

    In his 14th start for the national side, Ndoye netted for the first time, becoming Switzerland's second-youngest goalscorer in the history of the Euros at 23 years and 242 days, after Johan Vonlanthen against France in 2004 (18y 141d).

    Despite going off in the 65th minute, Ndoye had the most shots for Switzerland (two of their three), creating an expected goals tally of 0.52 as he proved their biggest threat.

    Though Switzerland will rue their late concession, they are now unbeaten in their last four meetings with Germany – a promising sign as the last-16 awaits.

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