Barcelona edge out Real Madrid, UCL heartbreak for Getafe - Stats Perform AI completes the season

By Sports Desk April 06, 2020

With most of the world still operating under lockdown conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, most professional sport is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Given the outbreak occurred at a particularly inopportune moment for top-level football in Europe, the situation has bred uncertainty across most leagues – including Spain's LaLiga.

Competitions in Europe are facing the question of whether finishing the season, regardless of the impact it may have on future campaigns, should be the priority once normality returns.

The current focus does appear to be on concluding the 2019-20 campaign. However, even with Euro 2020 pushed back by 12 months, clubs and leagues are still having to work to tight schedules, with UEFA hoping seasons finish by the end of June.

While the discussion over how to complete the schedule continues, the Stats Perform AI team have crunched the numbers behind the scenes.

With all of the division's teams having completed 27 of 38 matches, 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.

BARCELONA CROWNED CHAMPIONS WITH 83 POINTS

The results in the statistical model see Barcelona crowned champions with a final total of just 83 points.

With 11 games to play, they presently lead rivals Real Madrid by two points, a gap that is predicted to have increased to four by the conclusion of the campaign, giving Quique Setien a first league crown.

Such have been the struggles of the big two this season, the final tally would be the lowest points recorded by a team to win the LaLiga since Fabio Capello's Madrid.

That team defeated Barca by virtue of their superior head-to-head record in a dramatic finish to the 2006-07 campaign, when the two sides accumulated 76 points.

It also suggests the chasing pack missed a rare opportunity to strike on a down year for both Clasico rivals, which will frustrate 2014 champions Atletico Madrid, who spent big on Joao Felix.

REAL MADRID FALL FOUR POINTS SHORT

The likelihood of Barca winning the title is 70.1%, with Real Madrid's chances rated at 29.9%. No other team is in with a chance of topping the table, according to the model.

But Zinedine Zidane's men are unlikely to face a challenge for second place, meaning they at least improve on their third-place finish from the 2018-19 season.

That third spot is poised to be grabbed by Atletico, who have a projected final points total of 65 and a 41.6% chance of claiming the position.

Atletico's closest challengers for third are predicted to be Sevilla (who are given a 26.1% chance) and Getafe (16.8%), with just two points separating those three sides in the final reckoning.

Diego Simeone would be thrilled with third place given his side went into the coronavirus-enforced break down in sixth, with Real Sociedad (9.1%) and Valencia (5%) the other teams in the mix.

UCL HEARTBREAK FOR LA REAL & GETAFE AS SEVILLA CLINCH 4TH

Sociedad and Getafe go into the break dreaming of a Champions League place amid fine seasons, but they are the two teams who will be worst affected by Atletico's predicted surge.

As part of a thrilling finish in the race for the top four, they are set to suffer heartbreak as Atletico pass them and they fall agonisingly short of catching Sevilla, who went into the halt in action sitting third.

Sevilla are anticipated to finish with 64 points, just one behind Atletico and one ahead of Getafe. 

Sociedad are then a further two behind Getafe with 61 as they are forced to settle for sixth, with Valencia staying in seventh on 59.

The four teams scheduled to finish between fourth and seventh all have a greater than 10.7% chance of finishing fourth, with none greater than Sevilla's 28.5%, so one bounce of the ball in a key game could still make an enormous difference.

Villarreal are predicted to finish in their current position of eighth, though they are given a 1.3% probability of breaking the top four.

Athletic Bilbao pass Granada for ninth position as Real Betis and Levante narrowly miss out on a spot in the top half.

Osasuna drop from 11th to 13th, where they are predicted to finish one point above Deportivo Alaves.

ESPANYOL SUFFER THE DROP AFTER 26 YEARS IN TOP FLIGHT

Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol are the current bottom three in LaLiga and all are forecast to suffer relegation.

Espanyol have been in the top flight since 1994 but they go into the break six points adrift of safety and the model predicts they will be unable to make a great escape.

They are forecasted to collect 13 points from their last 11 games, but that is not even enough to get them off the bottom of the standings, highlighting the scale of the task they have ahead of them.

Similarly, Mallorca (36 points) and Leganes (35) are not expected to pick up enough victories to secure survival.

That means Celta Vigo, presently just one point clear of the drop zone, are predicted to survive with a final tally of 40, giving them a four-point cushion.

Celta are credited with 14 points between now and the end of the season to finish just behind Eibar (15th) and Real Valladolid (16th).

That means they would avoid a return to the Segunda Division, which is where they started the last decade.

Related items

  • Steven Gerrard turns 40: Notable players never to win the Premier League Steven Gerrard turns 40: Notable players never to win the Premier League

    Steven Gerrard enjoyed plenty of success during his illustrious playing career. 

    As a youngster, he was part of Gerard Houllier's Liverpool squad that completed a cup treble in the 2000-01 season, including beating Deportivo Alaves 5-4 after extra time in the UEFA Cup final. 

    Then there was the Miracle of Istanbul under Rafael Benitez in 2005, followed a year later by an equally unforgettable FA Cup win. Gerrard was the talisman on both occasions, playing his part in the comeback against Milan before going on to deny West Ham at the death in Cardiff.

    With fellow club legend Kenny Dalglish there was a third EFL Cup success, but a league title eluded Gerrard. The Reds ran Manchester United hard in the title race in 2008-09, then came up agonisingly short five years later with Brendan Rodgers at the helm. 

    But Gerrard is not alone in missing out. As the ex-England international turns 40, take a look at 10 other notable names who never got their hands on the Premier League trophy.

     

    Gareth Bale 

    After a slow start, Bale eventually blossomed into a superstar at Tottenham. The left-back signed from Southampton benefited from a switch into a more advanced position, scoring 39 goals in all competitions in his final two seasons with Spurs. However, the best finish he managed in a Premier League campaign before joining Real Madrid in 2013 was fourth. 

    Marcel Desailly 

    Frenchman Desailly became accustomed to winning during his time with Milan. He just so happened to win the World Cup in 1998 with Les Bleus – then followed that up two years later by adding Euro 2000 to his list of honours. Yet there was no Premier League crown during a lengthy Chelsea stint, instead having to make do with the FA Cup in 2000. 

    David Ginola 

    A winger renowned for his flair (and his hair), Ginola was part of the Newcastle United squad that succumbed under pressure from Manchester United in 1995-96. Kevin Keegan's swashbucklers led by 10 points at Christmas, only to end up as bridesmaids. At Spurs, the Frenchman was named PFA Players' Player of the Year, while he also played for Everton and Aston Villa.

    Juninho 

    Middlesbrough certainly made a splash when promoted to the top tier in 1995, bringing a touch of Samba flair to their new Riverside home by signing Juninho from Sao Paulo. It was a transfer coup at the time and the diminutive Brazilian made a big impact, too. He left for Atletico Madrid in 1997 and, after returning on loan for the 1999-2000 season, he came back for a third stint, though his only trophy was the EFL Cup in 2004. 

    Harry Kane

    Will Kane overtake Alan Shearer as the Premier League's all-time leading scorer? Can he win the competition if he stays at Spurs? You would be forgiven for feeling one of those is more realistic than the other, particularly after the near misses of the Mauricio Pochettino era. That 2015-16 season for Tottenham must feel like the one that got away.  

    Matt Le Tissier 

    A one-club man in the top flight, Le Tissier became more accustomed to battling against relegation than getting involved in title fights. Southampton relied on his goals to help stave off the threat of the drop some years, but rumours of a move elsewhere never materialised during his peak. He finished up with 100 Premier League goals, plenty of them penalties.  

    Mesut Ozil 

    Perhaps epitomising Arsenal as a whole during his time in north London, Ozil has both delighted and frustrated fans. His playmaking abilities are not in doubt, but is he a luxury you can afford in your XI? A three-time FA Cup winner with the Gunners, the former Germany international's best league result is second to surprise winners Leicester City in 2016. 

    Luis Suarez 

    A former team-mate of Gerrard's at Liverpool, Suarez was an integral part of the 2013-14 Reds that seemed destined to end the club's long wait for glory. The Uruguayan scored 31 goals in 33 league games, yet a late slump left their top scorer in tears as Manchester City pipped them to the post. The following campaign, the forward had moved on to Barcelona. 

    Fernando Torres 

    Torres formed an outstanding partnership with Gerrard during their time together at Anfield. The pair were influential in a memorable 4-1 triumph at Old Trafford in 2009, yet United had the last laugh that season, ending up four points clear of their rivals. The Spaniard also finished second again two years later with Chelsea, although by then he was a shadow of the striker he once was. 

    Gianfranco Zola 

    A hugely popular signing by Ruud Gullit in November 1996 who later returned to work at Chelsea as assistant to Maurizio Sarri, Zola scored 59 Premier League goals and grabbed the winner off the bench in the 1998 Cup Winners' Cup final triumph over Stuttgart. There was also FA Cup and EFL Cup success during his time in England, just no league crown.

  • Next Generation – Salisu, the trailblazing defensive jewel slipping through Barca and Atletico's fingertips Next Generation – Salisu, the trailblazing defensive jewel slipping through Barca and Atletico's fingertips

    'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

     

    Although he didn't know it at the time, March 2017 was a momentous month in the career of Mohammed Salisu, the Ghanaian centre-back who is now interesting many of the world's biggest clubs.

    In the town of Nsawam, south Ghana, the African Talent Football Academy (ATFA) first began operating, coaching hopeful young footballers who dreamed of a career in Europe.

    With a brand new facility – comprising of pitches and a club house that included a common area, dining space and accommodation – and connections to European clubs, the ATFA began to mark itself as potential gateway for Ghanaian youngsters chasing a better future.

    Just six months after opening, the ATFA had its trailblazer, their first 'graduate'. Director Fran Castano travelled with one teenager to Spain.

    Salisu was signed then and there – his journey to the top had begun.

    Destined for the top

    Life at the ATFA didn't start particularly well for Salisu.

    "I remember my first time meeting him – he came without his boots and was late. I was very, very angry and I was close to telling him to go home," Castano, speaking to Stats Perform News, recalled. It proved a wise decision to hold that thought, however.

    "He took some boots from the goalkeeper and after 10 minutes playing we saw something different. I talked to him and told him that if he can be serious and work, I promised him in half year I could send him to Spain."

    Sure enough, in October 2017 Salisu was signed by Real Valladolid, with the ATFA earning a small fee and a percentage of any future sale. That could be cashed in sooner rather than later as well, with reports in Spain suggesting Rennes are very close to completing a deal in the region of his €12million release clause.

    That would be considered a significant coup for the French side, as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid are all said to have considered a move for Salisu in the past six months.

    It's even claimed the latter were willing to pay €11m, but curiously wouldn't stretch to the full release clause. It's an oversight they could come to regret.

    "I told him he would make it [to the top]," says Castano, who previously held many roles in youth coaching and analytics for the Niger and Mauritania national teams, Real Jaen, Leganes and Hearts of Oak, Ghana's biggest club, before setting up the ATFA.

    "You always have doubt because it's not only about talent. To come and live in Europe was a big change for him, but I knew he would make it [on the talent side] because I saw his level compared with others in Spain at the same age and the way he can develop. You could see from the beginning he was different. The body, the technique, the winning mentality, the confidence and how he developed faster than anybody. If you increased the challenge, he increased his level."

    Persistence and a friend's trust lead to vindication

    Castano estimates Salisu played just 10 youth matches for Pucela before being promoted to their B team in the third tier, and then at the start of this season he became an undisputed starter for the senior side – indeed, he's one of just four defenders to play all 27 LaLiga matches in 2019-20.

    A former student of sport performance analysis at the University of Granada, Castano's pride in Salisu is obvious – joining Valladolid wasn't just a big deal for the defender, but also vindication for Castano.

    "I offered Salisu to a lot of teams, nobody gave us a chance. Nobody knew Salisu or me. I was just starting and it wasn't easy," he said. "I was lucky. My friend Victor Fernandez, who was a great striker in LaLiga for Valladolid and Villarreal, was coaching Valladolid's Under-19s. I called him and told him about Salisu. He told me he trusted what I say and my eye for scouting players.

    "After one training exercise, just a few minutes, he [Victor] told me: 'Fran, are sure you know the kind of player you have?' He said he [Salisu] could be a very important defender in professional football. I had thought so, but I wasn't that sure of it until he told me."

    Salisu's adaptation to LaLiga was impressive. In October, less than two months after his top-flight debut, he was being championed as a "star" on the league's official Twitter account after impressing in a 0-0 draw with Atletico.

    Jordi Masip has been a fixture behind Salisu in goal. The experienced goalkeeper applauded the youngster's capacity to learn and is convinced a big future lies in wait.

    "He's a player with an enviable physicality, he gets very fast when it comes to interceptions," Masip told Stats Perform News. "He's very young and he can grow a lot. He's a person that wants to improve and listen to us.

    "He has always had a little difficulty with the language, but he is adapting very well, he understands everything, he asks questions and his adaptation is going well. To be so young, his characteristics are very good, he still can give far more than he is already giving."

    A dominant defender

    It's easy to argue that Pucela would be in even worse shape this season if they didn't have Salisu. After all, when LaLiga resumes they will start in 15th place, just four points above the bottom three.

    But being in a team that has to spend longer stretches of time defending, Salisu's quality really shines through and it's clear he's making a difference, with only seven teams – all of whom are in the top half of the table – conceding fewer than Valladolid this term.

    When watching Salisu, you really get the impression he loves defending. A real unit with long, gangly legs, he has a habit of pulling off blocks or last-ditch tackles that one wouldn't expect.

    His 67 aerials won is bettered by just eight defenders, while Sevilla's Diego Carlos – widely regarded as one of the standout centre-backs in LaLiga this term – is the only player to make more headed clearances (71) than Salisu (67).

    Diego Carlos – and every other defender, for that matter – trails in Salisu's wake with respect to total clearances, however. The 21-year-old has completed 136, with the experienced Raul Albiol (131) boasting the next most.

    Salisu also ranks very high in terms of blocks with 22. Gabriel (26) is the solitary defender to have halted more shots. His 31 interceptions is also a decent figure, though the league-high among defenders of 48 is a fair way ahead of him.

    What's clear is Salisu's enjoying a wonderful season. Despite his age and lack of experience, he is marking himself out as a consistent and committed performer.

    While his technical attributes may not yet be at the required level for, say, Barcelona, he models himself on Blaugrana centre-back Samuel Umtiti and has already shown himself to be a quick learner on the pitch.

    Either way, one can certainly see why Diego Simeone and Atletico are said to be keen, but time appears to be running out for El Cholo. With Rennes seemingly circling, a defensive jewel could be about to slip through the fingertips of LaLiga's elite.

  • Barca's Vidal wants to play for Boca Juniors, claims Medel Barca's Vidal wants to play for Boca Juniors, claims Medel

    Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal "loves" Boca Juniors and is "dying" to play for the Argentine giants, according to Chile team-mate Gary Medel.

    Vidal continues to be linked with a Barca exit, the veteran Chilean star a reported target for Serie A side Inter.

    The 33-year-old has insisted he is happy at Camp Nou, where he arrived from Bayern Munich in 2018.

    Amid the ongoing speculation, former Boca midfielder Medel claims Vidal wants to move to La Bombonera in Buenos Aires.

    "Arturo would like to play in Boca with me or without me," Medel, who played for Boca between 2009 and 2011, told Radio Continental.

    "He loves Boca and follows them on social networks. He is the only one who follows Argentina and is dying to go. Boca have a magnitude in Europe that you cannot imagine."

    It comes as Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio distanced the Italian club from Vidal, who worked with Nerazzurri head coach Antonio Conte during the pair's time together at Juventus.

    "I don't feel like making any final considerations, let alone for Vidal. Right now he's not an opportunity for us. We already have a very strong central midfield," Ausilio told Sky Sport Italia.

    "[Christian] Eriksen arrived in January and, like anyone else who arrives in January, he needs time, not just to settle on a technical level.

    "I've never seen a player who comes to Serie A and immediately makes the difference.

    "Think of [Michel] Platini and [Zinedine] Zidane, they're the first two examples that spring to mind."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.