Atletico champions, Sevilla join big three in top four – Stats Perform AI completes LaLiga season

By Sports Desk January 22, 2021

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

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    Bradley Carnell's men have not triumphed in MLS action since a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire in the middle of May, and were defeated 2-0 by FC Dallas last time out.

    St. Louis coach Carnell referenced injury struggles, however, as his side continue to battle through a troubling period.

    "Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the roster and see where we are. We're not the first team to struggle with this.

    "Now we get challenged and now get to prove what we are as a group, team, organisation and unit – sticking together.

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    The Rapids have enjoyed a better season, sitting sixth in the West table after returning to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

    That ended a four-game winless streak for Colorado, who secured a much-needed victory after a rocketed finish from Cole Bassett before Rafael Navarro netted his 10th goal of the season.

    The next challenge for the Rapids is to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since April, though they have lost three straight on the road.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    St. Louis City – Jared Stroud

    Jared Stroud was involved in a goal in both matches (one goal, one assist) against the Rapids last season.

    The St. Louis man has eight assists to his name in MLS this season, too, and will hope to deliver once more when Colorado come to town.

    Colorado Rapids – Djordje Mihailovic

    Djordje Mihailovic has scored in each of the Rapids' last three away matches.

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    MATCH PREDICTION – ST. LOUIS CITY WIN

    St. Louis are the heavy favourites for victory in this encounter, considering their record against the Rapids.

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    Indeed, the Rapids have lost 15 of their last 21 away from home in all competitions (W3 D3), dating back to last May.

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    St. Louis are winless in six straight matches (D2 L4) for the first time in club history. They have just three wins so far, tied for the fewest in MLS this season, though all three have come at home.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    St. Louis City win – 48.8%

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  • Euro 2024 data dive: Records for Guler, Ronaldo and Pepe as Group F begins with a bang Euro 2024 data dive: Records for Guler, Ronaldo and Pepe as Group F begins with a bang

    The first matchdays of each group at Euro 2024 are now over, after the final pool got started in style on Tuesday.

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    Turkiye 3-1 Georgia: Guler breaks Ronaldo record

    In Kenan Yildiz (19y 45d) and Guler (19y 114d), Turkiye became just the second nation at the European Championship to start two different teenagers in a game, after Hungary against Denmark in 1964 (Zoltan Varga and Ferenc Bene).

    And Guler, who was on the fringes at Real Madrid in 2023-24, showcased his immense potential with a superb all-round performance, capped off with a stunning, record-breaking strike.

    He is the youngest player in the tournament's history to score on their first appearance, and just the third teenager to do so, after Ronaldo for Portugal against Greece in 2004 and Ferenc Bene for Hungary against Spain in 1964.

    Indeed, Ronaldo was the previous holder of the record, having netted on his debut at Euro 2004. 

    As well as scoring, Guler also became just the third teenager on record to create as many as five chances in a single game at the European Championship finals (since 1980), along with Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004 (18y 241d) and Pedri against Switzerland in 2021 (18y 219d).

    Guler's screamer followed on from Mert Muldur's excellent volley, which was just his second international goal, and paved the way for substitute Kerem Akturkoglu to round out a 3-1 victory, but only after Georgia had hit the woodwork twice and seen an effort cleared off the line in what was a thrilling contest.

    Georges Mikautadze made history with his first-half equaliser, bringing up Georgia's first goal at a major tournament, in their first such appearance.

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    Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Records up for Ronaldo and Pepe

    Pepe (41y 113d) and Ronaldo (39y 134d) both started for Portugal, and in the process became the two oldest outfield players to ever appear at the Euros.

    Age truly is just a number for the gnarly Pepe, though. The defender won possession more times than any other player across matchday one (11).

    Ronaldo also became the first player to feature in as many as six different editions of the European Championship finals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2024).

    He could not get on the scoresheet to mark the occasion, though he did see a header rebound off the post before being tucked in by Diogo Jota. However, Ronaldo had strayed offside in the build-up and the would-be winner was ruled out.

     

    Portugal went behind to Lukas Provod's blistering opener, which was the 11th goal scored from outside the box at Euro 2024. That is now just one fewer than in the whole of the group stage at Euro 2020.

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    The impressive Vitinha supplied the cross that was met by Mendes. Vitinha made 20 line-breaking passes against Czechia, with only Germany’s Toni Kroos (30 v Scotland) making more across the first round of group stage games.

    Francisco Conceicao proved to be Portugal's hero. He scored just 111 seconds after coming off the bench, becoming the first Portugal player to score as a substitute at the Euros  since Eder in the 2016 final against France.

  • Sagnol proud of Georgia display as Guler gifts Montella 'perfect' birthday present Sagnol proud of Georgia display as Guler gifts Montella 'perfect' birthday present

    Georgia head coach Willy Sagnol believes his players will learn from their defeat to Turkiye, but was proud of his side's performance in Dortmund.

    The 75th-ranked side in the world captured the hearts of many neutrals in their first game at Euro 2024, coming agonisingly close to snatching a memorable point late on.

    Georges Mikautadze made history by scoring Georgia's first-ever goal at a major tournament following Mert Muldur's opener, but the minnows were undone by a piece of individual brilliance by Arda Guler before Kerem Akturkoglu sealed a 3-1 win late on. 

    "I don't want to say we are happy losers today but I think we can be proud of our performance," Sagnol told reporters.

    "We have given such a nice image of the Georgian footballer but of course, we had a lot of opportunities to score, probably as much as Turkey did. But that's football.

    "I'm sure in the future, in the next months and years, Georgia won't lose this kind of game. We are in a learning process, but we want to learn in a good way."

    For Turkiye, however, they won their opening game of a European Championship finals for the first time, having lost each of their previous five. 

    And a big contributor to that was Real Madrid's Guler, whose stunning strike showcased his mercurial talent, and was something he revealed he had practised in the lead-up to the game.

    "I am just thrilled, no words to describe how I feel. I was dreaming of this goal constantly," Guler said.

    "I've been practising this particular shot recently at the end of training sessions. I'm so happy to have scored this way."

    Turkiye head coach Vincenzo Montella celebrated the triumph on his 50th birthday, and Guler was able to deliver the boss his only wish.

    "My coach had wanted a goal as a birthday present," Guler told reporters. "I hope I can continue these goals."

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