Wolves 4-0 Espanyol: Jota hits another hat-trick as Nuno's men take complete control

By Sports Desk February 20, 2020

Diogo Jota scored a second successive Europa League hat-trick as Wolves took complete control of their last-32 tie against Espanyol with a 4-0 first-leg win.

Wolves had failed to score in back-to-back Premier League matches but had no trouble in overcoming LaLiga's bottom-placed side at Molineux on Thursday.

Jota netted a treble when Wolves won by the same scoreline against Besiktas in December, and he opened the scoring here with a close-range finish inside 15 minutes before doubling his tally in the second half after Ruben Neves' sublime 25-yard volley put the hosts two ahead.

The Portugal international completed his latest hat-trick with nine minutes remaining to leave Espanyol, who were fortunate not to have Ander Iturraspe dismissed, with a mountain to climb in next week's return leg.

Related items

  • 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.

    With the outbreak occurring at a particularly inopportune moment for top-level football in Europe, the situation has bred uncertainty across most leagues – including Italy's Serie A.

    Once normality returns, should finishing the season be the priority, regardless of the impact it might have on future campaigns?

    At the moment, concluding the 2019-20 campaign appears the most likely option. However, even with Euro 2020 pushed back by 12 months, clubs and leagues are still having to work to tight schedules, with UEFA requesting seasons finish by the end of June.

    Other views have been aired, with Italian Footballers' Association (AIC) president Damiano Tommasi suggesting the 2019-20 season could already be over, but while the debate rages on during the hiatus, the Stats Perform AI team have crunched the numbers behind the scenes.

    With all 20 teams having either 12 or 13 league matches still to play, their goal was to simulate how the rest of the season would pan out if the games were played now to produce a predicted 2019-20 table.

    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.

    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.

    Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

    JUVENTUS ARE CHAMPIONS... AGAIN

    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.

    But, in our model, Juventus see them off in the title race, with Maurizio Sarri picking up where Massimiliano Allegri left off last term and guiding them to a ninth successive Serie A title.

    However, their points haul is their worst since getting the same amount in 2014-15.

    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.

    Under Antonio Conte and with Romelu Lukaku leading the attack following his move from Manchester United, Inter appeared invigorated.

    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.

    But there remains a lot to fix with the Rossoneri, with the squad lacking in quality and the hierarchy at odds with each other.

    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.

  • Coronavirus: Liverpool furlough staff affected by Premier League suspension Coronavirus: Liverpool furlough staff affected by Premier League suspension

    Liverpool has placed a number of staff impacted by the Premier League suspension on furlough, the club announced on Saturday.

    Members of the workforce that are affected can claim 80 per cent of their wages – up to £2,500 a month – from the United Kingdom government, though Liverpool will top up any shortfall in their pay.

    Tottenham, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Bournemouth have all taken advantage of the furlough scheme due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Premier League announced on Friday it will not resume in early May as had previously been planned.

    A statement from the league leaders read: "Liverpool FC has placed some staff who are impacted by the Premier League suspension on furlough.

    "The club has confirmed those staff will be paid 100 per cent of their salaries to ensure no member of staff is financially disadvantaged. Last month the club also confirmed that it would pay its matchday and non-matchday staff while the Premier League is suspended.

    "Even prior to the decision on staff furloughing, there was a collective commitment at senior levels of the club – on and off the pitch – with everyone working towards a solution that secures jobs for employees of the club during this unprecedented crisis.

    "There is ongoing active engagement about the topic of salary deductions during the period matches are not being played to schedule. These discussions are complex and as a result the process is ongoing."

    There has been public pressure on Premier League footballers to commit to pay cuts, with clubs agreeing in a meeting on Friday they would discuss 30 per cent wage reductions with players.

    Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is reportedly spearheading an attempt from Premier League stars to raise funds for the National Health Service.

    The Reds highlighted some of the charitable work already done by their players during the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Liverpool FC has also been actively working with its players, Liverpool FC Foundation and the club's community outreach programme, Red Neighbours, to ensure its community response is targeted to help local families in food crises and those that are socially isolated," said the statement.

    "A significant donation has been made to St Andrew's foodbank in north Liverpool by the first-team players and Liverpool FC Foundation, an emergency foodbank appeal was launched by Liverpool FC Foundation to help those in need and LFC staff are continuing to volunteer to help ensure families have food throughout the crisis and beyond."

  • Martinelli can be a world-class player for many years, says Arsenal team-mate Tierney Martinelli can be a world-class player for many years, says Arsenal team-mate Tierney
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.