Week 11 recap
Reporting on the impact of the coronavirus on the sports world
With the fourth game day of the Champions League approaching, here are four key numbers you should know to keep track of all of the action (which you can check out on CBS All Access this week). .
Gerard Pique’s injury against Atletico Madrid on Saturday means that Barcelona have exactly one healthy center-back to face Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday. So everyone wishes good luck to French defender Clement Lenglet. Even with a mostly healthy or at least healthier team, Barcelona were not yet strong in defense this season. You admit 1. 13 goals per game in La Liga, giving them an above-average 10. Reach place in the domestic league. The fancier numbers don’t pay a much rosier picture. Ronald Koeman’s team gives 1 chances. Average of 21 expected goals per game, which is only the eighth highest total in the league.
They haven’t caught up with Barcelona’s fights in the Champions League, where they only conceded two goals in their first three games. Only the Premier League trio of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City conceded fewer goals. However, the underlying numbers tell different stories. The Catalan team have been extremely mediocre in their first three games, allowing the opposition to have 1 chances. 51 xG per game, that’s only the 17th. best in the Champions League. It’s less that Barcelona were a better defensive team in the Champions League than at home in Spain than that their opponents haven’t punished them for their mistakes. All of this may not matter against mediocre competition like Kiev, but in a season when Barcelona are desperate for silver lining, fans might have hoped their Champions League defensive record would provide one. Unfortunately, it is not under scrutiny.
Chelsea appear to have fixed their gaping goalkeeper problem. Since he arrived and took over the starting job from the sad Kepa Arrizabalaga, Mendy has made 15 parades and pocketed exactly once in 720 minutes of the combined minutes of the Premier League and the Champions League. The 16 shots at the target he faced had an expected shot at the target value of 3. The failed stats suggest he has single-handedly saved Chelsea through two valuable goals since arriving. This is an important turning point for a team so desperate in goal.
Fixing the goalkeeping problem has also resulted in Frank Lampard building a much more defensive team than last season. In the Premier League, Chelsea now collects the fifth smallest shots with 10 per game and the fewest xG per game with 0. 86. It’s a strong defensive record that suggests Mendy did more to bolster the defense than just save a few goals. With a competent net maintainer, Chelsea’s entire defensive structure has improved. The result is a team that may be known for all the attacking talent they have acquired this summer, but are even more remarkable for their defensive moves.
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Atletico Madrid is nothing new. Atletico Madrid are a dynamic attacking team, but that’s a trick that Diego Simeone’s team has never done before. However, so far this season they are one of the strongest attackers in Europe. Simeone’s Atleti has 18 goals, the second most common in the league. It took leaders Real Sociedad two more games to score 21. Nobody in Spain beats Atletis 2. 25 per game.
The slightly fancier stats are good for Atleti too, if perhaps not entirely brilliant. The team’s xG is a total of 1. 77 per game suggests Simeone’s men were in a hot shape that probably won’t last forever, but even this 1. 77 number is the third best in the league. The team shoots 13 shots per game, the third highest in the league, and for a team that has spent many years scraping goals out of set pieces, Atleti gets 3. 63 open game shots per game, second highest in La Liga.
Put all these numbers together and Atleti looks like a team finally adding attack dynamism to their usual stable defensive stance. While performances are likely to drop a bit given Atleti’s good defense, this team could potentially fight for titles on multiple fronts this season.
Neymar is having a really bizarre season for Paris Saint-Germain. A look at his underlying numbers reveals that he is the dominant force he always has been, though often too fragile to play difficult minutes. His 1. 15 xG per 90 minutes (excluding penalties) is the first in the five major European leagues among all players who have played at least 300 minutes. He takes 5. 32 shots per game, which is second in the top five leagues. It’s also not surprising that Neymar is leading the top five leagues at 11 in attempted starts per 90 minutes. 80 (he’s one of only two players trying more than nine per 90). And lest you believe that all of this means he’s a selfish ball pig, he averages 26. 61 passes in the attacking third per 90, the sixth most in the five best leagues in Europe. All in all, the numbers suggest he’s doing a lot right.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that he has two goals and three assists in seven combined games between Ligue 1 and the Champions League if you don’t look at the failed numbers. These are not bad numbers, but not superstar numbers. And if you are Neymar and play like Neymar and act like Neymar and miss games like Neymar, it just won’t hurt to come up with good numbers, but not superstars. So who is the real Neymar, the guy with the great underlying stats, or the guy with just pretty good goals and assists? Well, the wise bet is that the underlying numbers will ultimately predict where the goals and templates will go. The problem for PSG and manager Thomas Tuchel is that Neymar’s production really needs to hurry up and come here as there is a must-play game coming up this week – and an increasingly hot seat.
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