It’s been quite the week for football fans – each day presenting an exciting “go big or go home” Champions League or Europa League game. Tomorrow’s fixture sees Athletico Madrid take on Leipzig for a spot in the semi-final against PSG. In this post, I’ll use the two teams’ xG stats to make a prediction for the game.
Using stats from fbref.com, I’ve calculated and summarized the teams’ Champions League xG stats in the table below.
|xG for (per 90)||1.9||1.5|
|xG against (per 90)||0.93||0.84|
|Net xG (per 90)||+0.97||+0.66|
What seems to stand out from these stats is that Athletico (unsurprisingly) tend to do better defensively than Leipzig while the Germans tend to create better quality chances. Interestingly, Leipzig have a higher net xG per game. Looking at the two teams’ domestic league stats creates a similar picture (see table below).
|xG for (per 90)||2.08||1.38|
|xG against (per 90)||1.07||0.81|
|Net xG (per 90)||+1.01||+0.57|
If not for the sale of Timo Werner, one might easily predict Leipzig to be favorites on the basis of their superior net xG stats. However, the fact that the new Chelsea signing contributed about 32% to his team’s Bundesliga xG will be a massive worry for the Germans. For context, the next best Leipzig player – Christopher Nkunku – contributed about 11% to Leipzig’s Bundelisga xG (though it is worth noting that he played 870 minutes less than Werner). Perhaps Emil Forsburg will step up and make the difference for Leipzig. After all, he has already contributed significantly to the Germans’ Champions League campaign with 20% of the team’s total xG (Werner, just like in the league, contributed 32%).
While Athletico’s victory over Liverpool in the round of 16 was an impressive upset, it was certainly underwhelming from an xG perspective. In the second leg at Anfield, according to Infogol, Liverpool amassed a total xG of 3.53 while Athletico managed a paltry 0.87. A similar defensive performance against Leipzig and Athletico will surely be out of the competition. The Spaniards do pride themselves on their organised defence, however, and one would expect it to be on show in a match as important as this one.
Assuming Leipzig underperform their usual xG for per 90 by 0.31 (the difference between Werner and backup striker – Patrick Schick’s league xG per 90), we can expect them to have a net xG nearly equal to Athletico Madrid’s. In other words, this is likely to be an extremely tight contest. One would also expect it to probably be low scoring due to both teams’ impressive defensive records. However, I suspect that Athletico’s experience and ruthlessness – as evidenced in their win at Anfield – will be the difference between the two sides.
Prediction: Athletico to win 1-0.
*Note: This prediction is not based on any mathematical model. It’s just an “educated guess” based on xG, player selection and my own football bias!