Man City face daunting Real Madrid tie in Champions League last 16

By Sports Desk December 16, 2019

Pep Guardiola will renew rivalries with Real Madrid after Manchester City were drawn to face Los Blancos in a blockbuster Champions League last-16 tie.

With City 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, success in Europe is likely to be Guardiola's main priority this season.

But their hopes of glory in the continent's premier club competition were not helped by a daunting clash with LaLiga giants Madrid, who have triumphed in four of the past six editions.

Guardiola is no stranger to Madrid having spent four years in charge of their fierce Clasico rivals Barcelona, while he was Bayern Munich coach when they were defeated 5-0 over two legs in the 2013-14 Champions League semi-finals.

Madrid have previous against City in the competition, too, coming out on top in a last-four clash in the 2015-16 campaign.

Holders Liverpool face Atletico Madrid – runners-up in 2013-14 and 2015-16 – in a return to the Wanda Metropolitano, the scene of the Reds' 2-0 win over Tottenham in last season's final as they became European champions for a sixth time.

Jurgen Klopp's side finished top of Group E by a solitary point from Napoli, who have the unenvious task of facing LaLiga champions Barcelona – aiming to get their hands on European football's most coveted prize for the first time since 2014-15.

In a draw brimming with sub-plots, Thomas Tuchel will return to Borussia Dortmund with his Paris Saint-Germain side, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich – the only team to win all six of their group-stage games – face off in what is a rematch of the 2011-2012 final.

Tottenham, aiming to beat their runners-up finish last term, go head-to-head with an RB Leipzig side playing in the knockout stages for the first time.

Juventus will start as favourites in their tie against Lyon, while fellow Serie A side Atalanta – who made the last 16 in their first endeavour into the Champions League – go up against Valencia for a place in the quarter-finals.

The first-leg matches will take place on February 18, 19, 25 and 26, with the return fixtures played on March 10, 11, 17 and 18.

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  • Lazio come up short, Milan scrape into Europe - Stats Perform AI completes Serie A season Lazio come up short, Milan scrape into Europe - Stats Perform AI completes Serie A season

    Much of the world has been forced to a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, with most professional sport consequently on hold for the foreseeable future.

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    The statistical 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.

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    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.

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    The results in our model see Juventus retain the Scudetto, accumulating 87 points.

    Undoubtedly the story of the season in Italy has been the rise of Lazio, who have mounted a genuine title challenge and went into the forced hiatus just one point adrift of the summit.

    With Ciro Immobile's goals and Luis Alberto's creativity in midfield, Simone Inzaghi's men have excelled and delighted neutrals with their entertaining football.

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    INTER SETTLE FOR THIRD

    For much of the first half of the season, Inter looked destined to push Juve all the way in the title race.

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    But their form since the turn of the year has dipped, leaving them nine points off the top when the season was put on hold, though they had a game in hand.

    In the simulation they did not recover to overtake either of the top two, finishing third on 79 points. 

    Nevertheless, this would still represent an improvement on last season, when they only amassed 69 points and finished fourth.

    MILAN SCRAPE EUROPA LEAGUE PLACE

    It has been a difficult few years for Milan, and this season has not been much better.

    Stefano Pioli's appointment as coach late last year has seen them improve somewhat, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's arrival also giving the team a boost.

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    The simulation has Milan finishing seventh and that would be enough to scrape a Europa League spot, as the other three teams left in the Coppa Italia semi-finals with them are all predicted to end the season higher than Pioli's men in Serie A, therefore qualifying for Europe already.

    Roma and Napoli take fifth and sixth, with Atalanta rounding off the Champions League spots in our model thanks to a five-point advantage over the Giallorossi.

    SAMPDORIA AVOID THE DROP, RIVALS GENOA NOT SO LUCKY

    Only one of the current bottom three escapes relegation in the simulation, with Lecce preserving their top-flight status at the expense of Genoa.

    Il Grifone and bitter rivals Sampdoria sit just above the drop zone in reality, but our predicted table sees Genoa drop to Serie B for the first time since 2006-07 – last season they only guaranteed their survival on the final day.

    The model has Genoa eventually reaching 36 points, but Samp and Lecce manage to climb to 41, giving them both a healthy five-point cushion.

    Brescia unsurprisingly prop up the predicted table, given they are nine points from safety in the real standings. Our AI team give Brescia a 1.8 per cent chance of avoiding relegation.

    Also going down in our predicted table are SPAL, whose haul of 29 points - one more than Brescia in this experiment - leaves them well adrift of safety.

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