The European soccer season is a marathon. We freak out early over bizarre outcomes and small pattern sizes, just for the world to (largely) proper itself by Christmas. However as soon as the calendar adjustments, we get a significantly better really feel for what we should always actually be freaking out about.
Again in early January, I wrote a chunk referred to as the PANIC INDEX, through which I graded the massive storylines and questions on a panic scale of 1 (stay calm, all is effectively) to five (oh god, oh god, oh god). It wasn’t rocket science, however the piece had a reasonably good batting common: Manchester Metropolis was certainly about to surge to a double-digit Premier League lead, Chelsea‘s dangerous close-games luck has certainly begun to show, and Spurs’ offense was certainly in bother (till Gareth Bale was taken out of mothballs, anyway).
Now that we’re approaching the season’s last worldwide break and the house stretch is on the horizon, it is time to PANIC as soon as once more.
Ought to Bayern Munich panic about its transition protection?
Even in in any other case pretty outcomes, the glitches have been exhausting to disregard.
– Up 4-0 on Lazio within the first leg of the Champions League spherical of 16, Bayern Munich let Joaquin Correa slice proper via about six defenders into the center of the field, the place he simply knocked a shot previous Manuel Neuer.
– Earlier than they unleashed a 4-0 run on Der Klassiker rival Borussia Dortmund, they first needed to fall behind 2-0 after BVB unleashed an ideal, three-pass mixture into open areas, completed by Erling Haaland.
– Up 3-0 in opposition to Werder Bremen on Saturday, they allowed a easy two-pass mixture to beat 5 defenders and begin a quick break that Niclas Fullkrug completed for a comfort aim.
Steve Cherundolo joins ESPN FC to debate whether or not Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick ought to go away to educate Germany.
Bayern are 4 factors clear on the high of the Bundesliga with 9 matches to play; even though RB Leipzig have been capable of make the eight-time Bundesliga champs sweat of late, Bayern stay favorites to win a ninth straight title. However after profitable mainly each trophy in existence in 2020 and early 2021 — Champions League, UEFA Tremendous Cup, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, DFL-Supercup, FIFA Membership World Cup — any signal of vulnerability is noteworthy, and like most heavyweights on this odd, compacted season, Bayern had extra susceptible moments than typical.
Nearly none of them are on offense, thoughts you. They’re averaging 3.0 objectives per match within the Bundesliga; nobody else in Europe’s Huge 5 leagues tops 2.4. With 32 objectives in 24 matches, ahead Robert Lewandowski has a superb shot at breaking Gerd Muller’s previously-thought unbreakable 40-goal mark in Bundesliga play this 12 months.
However the protection, impenetrable for a lot of the 2019-20 season, has been persistently glitchy.
The lack of Thiago, whose tactical fouls have been extraordinarily noticeable within the Champions League’s late rounds, has been obvious, notably with the quantity of lineup shuffling required on this pandemic season, and a again line that was completely simpatico final 12 months has lacked cohesion: Jerome Boateng is a 12 months older, David Alaba has struggled to match final 12 months’s kind and supervisor Hansi Flick has tried to determine precisely what to do with Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule. (He is been fielding the 6-foot-5 Sule at fullback, and it is labored out fairly properly of late.)
Bayern have stored clear sheets in solely two of seven Champions League matches and 5 of 25 Bundesliga matches. (And two of the 5 have been in opposition to Schalke 044, which does not really matter.) Amongst FiveThirtyEight’s high 20 golf equipment, they’re permitting probably the most league objectives: 1.4 per match. This has already price them in home play — permitting two objectives to second-division Holstein Kiel in January arrange a stunning penalty shootout loss within the DFB-Pokal, and their four-point lead over RBL may make April 3’s journey to Leipzig awfully huge.
Certainly this vulnerability will catch as much as them within the Champions League, too, proper? Probably. However Bayern does nonetheless have one factor going for it on this regard: nearly all people else left within the competitors is susceptible, too.
Listed below are the important thing taking pictures stats — league play solely — for the 12 remaining Champions League opponents over the past two months. (Groups in daring have already superior to the UCL quarterfinals.)
A fast key: shot/poss = pictures per possession, xG/shot = anticipated objectives per shot and xGOT/SOT = anticipated objectives for pictures on track per shot on track (a post-shot xG sort of common). Principally, these three measures have a look at shot amount, shot worth and shot placement.
Even with the glitches, Bayern remains to be solely permitting 1.1 objectives per league match on this interval, virtually similar to Atletico Madrid. In the meantime, they’re scoring like Manchester Metropolis. Their offensive numbers are practically unmatchable, and so they’re not the one crew providing notably high-quality transition alternatives. They’re susceptible to counter-attacks like all high-line, possession-heavy groups, however they’ve an assault different groups would kill for.
PANIC RATING (1-5): 2. On this case, the two additionally stands for “second-favorite” — FiveThirtyEight provides them the second-best odds of profitable the Champions League (18%), and Caesars by William Hill lists them because the No. 2 betting favourite (+300, equal to 25%). They’ve ceded the banner of favorites to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester Metropolis, however they’re nonetheless practically probably the most reliable entity remaining within the subject, even when they present you a aim or two in some unspecified time in the future.
Ought to Paris Saint-Germain panic about possibly really shedding Ligue 1?
Exterior of the Premier League, which itself hardly ever has a detailed race and might be about to award its third title in 4 years to Manchester Metropolis, we’ve not precisely wrung a lot drama out of latest title races in Europe’s “Huge 5” leagues. Bayern has certainly received eight titles in a row in Germany, Juve 9 in Italy and both Barca or Actual Madrid has received 16 of the final 17 La Ligas. Whereas PSG would not boast something shut to those golf equipment’ general histories, they’ve received seven of the final eight Ligue 1 crowns with Qatar Sports activities Investments’ cash of their account.
The one time since 2012 that the French title did not find yourself on the Parc des Princes was in 2017, when Kylian Mbappe helped to guide Monaco to a shocking title. PSG responded by buying Mbappe, profitable the subsequent three titles and at last breaking via to the Champions League last in 2020 as effectively.
COVID-19 diagnoses and harm issues have led to continually shuffled lineups for PSG this season, nonetheless, and the previous six months have seen a gradual food plan of “Okay, now they’re rolling” bursts, adopted by one other blip.
Frank Leboeuf would not maintain again on Mauricio Pochettino and PSG after a 2-1 loss to Nantes in Ligue 1.
Even a managerial change — from Thomas Tuchel to Mauricio Pochettino at first of the calendar 12 months — hasn’t stemmed the tide. Within the final two months, they’ve misplaced to each Seventeenth-place Lorient and 18th-place Nantes. They’re on tempo for less than 79 factors, their lowest full-season level complete since 2012, and even worse, their three greatest challengers for the league crown are all producing robust elementary stats.
Present level totals: Lille 63, PSG 60, Lyon 60, Monaco 56
Factors per recreation, final two months: Lille 2.4, Monaco 2.3, PSG 2.1, Lyon 2.0
xG differential, final two months: PSG +0.97, Lyon +0.95, Lille and Monaco +0.80
FiveThirtyEight gave PSG a 91% probability of profitable Ligue 1 earlier than the season started and nonetheless had them at 63% in mid-February. However these odds have fallen to only 38% — Lille are at 36%, Lyon 23% — and their European rating has fallen to sixteenth, between Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.
There’s nothing particularly flawed — their assault is mainly tied with Lyon for finest within the league, their elementary possession numbers are robust and so they stress the ball in addition to anybody — however that just about makes issues worse.
You’ll be able to’t say “this proper here’s what they should repair,” both; they simply appear like themselves proper up till the second they lose to a relegation contender.
PANIC RATING (1-5): 3. They’re nonetheless technically the favourite, if solely barely, and Neymar ought to return from an adductor harm quickly. They’re nonetheless alive in each the Champions League and Coupe de France, and it is exhausting to panic an excessive amount of when a treble remains to be technically on the desk. However the high quality Lille, Lyon and Monaco have provided in latest months seemingly means there isn’t any margin for error right here. Both Les Parisiens hit fifth gear quickly, or they lose their home crown.
Ought to Atletico Madrid panic about its shrinking La Liga lead?
On Jan. 31, Diego Simeone’s Atletico pummeled Cadiz to win its sixteenth match of the league season in solely 19 tries. Atleti had 50 factors, 10 greater than Actual Madrid and with a recreation in hand. They have been overachieving their anticipated aim figures in a fairly foreboding manner; there was motive to suppose no less than a slight downgrade in kind was coming, however with that lead, it did not appear it could matter. Even with FiveThirtyEight’s membership scores holding excessive fondness for Barcelona, it nonetheless gave Simeone’s squad a 60% probability of profitable the league.
Following Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Getafe, these odds are all the way down to 38%. A surging Barca is inside 4 factors, and after a seemingly infinite array of late-game magic acts, Actual Madrid is inside six. Atletico have solely misplaced as soon as since Jan. 31 and twice complete in league play, however they’re hemorrhaging factors all the identical, struggling attracts with Celta Vigo and Levante and giving up a late aim to accept a 1-1 draw with Actual Madrid on March 7.
Alejandro Moreno says outcomes that had been simply sufficient for Atletico Madrid should not sufficient now after a draw with Getafe.
You could possibly make the case that Atletico’s issues are easy, relentless regression to the imply. By way of Jan. 31, they have been averaging 2.1 objectives scored and 0.5 allowed, however their xG figures — 1.6 xG for, 1.0 xG allowed — recommended such regression was on its manner. For the reason that Jan. 31 win over Cadiz, xG averages have shifted solely barely: 1.5 for, 1.2 in opposition to. However they’re scoring 1.3 and permitting 1.0. They have been averaging an unsustainable 2.43 factors in matches determined by zero or one aim; since 1/31, they’re averaging 1.67. For the season, their xG differential (+0.52 per match) ranks solely fourth within the league.
They in all probability ought to have by no means been as snug as they appeared a couple of weeks in the past.
But none of this could essentially matter if Barcelona, specifically, weren’t smoking scorching.
The Blaugrana have not misplaced in league play since Dec. 5, reeling off 44 of a potential 48 factors. FiveThirtyEight’s algorithm ranks Barca second in Europe proper now, and whilst you may suppose that appears odd contemplating their Champions League elimination, they’ve greater than backed up these numbers in league play. On this supposed “catastrophe” of a season — Lionel Messi tried to depart, Ansu Fati‘s been damage many of the season, Luis Suarez was bought to Atletico and so they opened the season in torrid kind, the monetary numbers are horrifying, a rickety youth motion is underway — Barca has first rate odds of pulling off a La Liga/Copa del Rey double all the identical.
PANIC RATING (1-5): 4. The numbers have been in opposition to Atletico for some time, and to a level, the schedule is just too: they go to Sevilla on April 4, they play at Barcelona (Might 9) after which go residence to host a smoking scorching Actual Sociedad (Might 12) back-to-back close to the tip of the season. Granted, we’d see a pair extra plot twists between now and Might, however there’s nothing to be snug about within the Wanda Metropolitano.
Ought to Dortmund, Leverkusen be fearful about shedding “second-best” standing?
Borussia Dortmund has completed within the Bundesliga’s high 4 in eight of the previous 9 seasons; Bayer Leverkusen has completed fifth or higher in 9 of 10. BVB specifically wants Champions League cash to carry onto its high-upside younger roster corps (Erling Haaland, Giovanni Reyna, Jadon Sancho), however whereas they’ve rallied to inside two factors of fourth place, the highway forward is dicey due to one key factor: the standard of the usurpers.
Eintracht Frankfurt performed in one of the crucial well-known matches in European Cup (now Champions League) historical past, acquitting themselves effectively in opposition to an all-time Actual Madrid squad within the 1960 finals however nonetheless shedding, 7-3. Since then: zero appearances. They received the 1980 UEFA Cup (now Europa League), and so they’ve had loads of respectable runs of their historical past; they’ve completed within the higher half of the Bundesliga 4 occasions previously six years as effectively. However they have not recorded a top-four end since earlier than the Champions League began providing multiple bid per league.
Following a rousing draw with RB Leipzig, nonetheless, their top-four bona fides are fairly robust, as are these of Wolfsburg, who have not completed within the high 4 since 2015. Together with Bayern and RBL, they’ve separated themselves from the pack by way of latest play.
Present level totals: Bayern 58, RB Leipzig 54, Wolfsburg 48, Eintracht Frankfurt 44 Factors per recreation, previous two months: Bayern 2.5, RBL 2.3, Wolfsburg 2.3, Eintracht 2.1 (nobody else is over 1.5) xG differential, previous two months: Bayern +1.41, RBL +1.07, Eintracht +0.89, Wolfsburg +0.49
Regardless of statistical solidity, Eintracht have leaked factors of late, shedding to Werder Bremen and drawing with VfB Stuttgart earlier than the draw with RBL. Wolfsburg, in the meantime, have solely been barely forward of a pack of different groups with its +0.49 xG differential over the past two months. (Borussia Dortmund: +0.44 in that span.) That is stored the door open. However they’ve earned their top-four standing to this point.
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PANIC RATING (1-5): 4. FiveThirtyEight provides Wolfsburg an 80% probability of snaring a Champions League slot, whereas Eintracht is at 56%, BVB 49% and Leverkusen 14%. Fortunately for all of us, the schedule makers have supplied a gradual stream of big bouts within the coming weeks….
April 3: Bayern Munich at RB Leipzig; Eintracht Frankfurt at Borussia Dortmund April 10: Wolfsburg at Eintracht Frankfurt
April 17: Bayern Munich at Wolfsburg
April 21: Bayer Leverkusen at Bayern Munich
April 24: Eintracht Frankfurt at Bayer Leverkusen; Borussia Dortmund at Wolfsburg
Might 15: Wolfsburg at RB Leipzig
Might 22: Bayer Leverkusen at Borussia Dortmund
If the upstarts are to carry off the previous commonplace and Bayern is to formally take down RBL to win one other crown, it can all unfold on ESPN+ slightly bit every weekend over the approaching months.
By no means thoughts the title race: Ought to AC Milan panic about making the Champions League?
AC Milan did not endure its first Serie A loss till Jan. 6. The Rossoneri have been nonetheless in first place as late as Feb. 13. And whereas FiveThirtyEight’s scores have favored rival Inter within the title race for some time, it nonetheless gave Milan a 23% probability within the race in mid-February.
Their title odds proper now? Simply 1%. Beginning with a 2-0 loss to Fifteenth-place Spezia, they’ve snared simply seven factors from their final six league matches. A 1-0 defeat to Napoli on Sunday dropped them 9 factors again of Inter and maybe as importantly, it introduced them to inside six factors of Napoli in fifth. Goals of their first Scudetto since 2011 have all however vanished, however they’ve work to do exactly to make sure they get a Champions League bid.
If all Italian groups have been to take care of their two-month points-per-game tempo for the remainder of the league season, this is how the highest of the desk would have a look at the tip of the season:
That’s tight. Milan need to journey to Lazio (April 25), Juve (Might 9) and Atalanta (Might 23) within the last weeks of the season, and up to date kind means that Atalanta, Napoli and Lazio may all shut in fairly quickly if Stefano Pioli’s less-than-full-strength squad would not flip issues round.
Whereas the crew is taking part in effectively as a collective, particular person absences have confirmed robust to beat. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been out since late-February with a muscle tear, midfielder Ismael Bennacer has been out since mid-February and up to date signee Mario Mandzukic has recorded solely 158 complete minutes for his new membership due to harm. Since this slide started on Feb. 13, just one participant — defensive midfielder Franck Kessie — has scored greater than as soon as in all competitions, and he is executed all of his harm from the penalty spot. An precise ahead hasn’t scored since Ibrahimovic’s brace in opposition to Crotone on Feb. 7.
PANIC RATING (1-5): 4. Milan’s comeback to attract 1-1 in opposition to Manchester United within the first leg of the Europa League spherical of 16 confirmed that they nonetheless have some struggle in them, and the optimistic manner of trying on the late-season schedule is that they will have each probability on the planet to earn the factors crucial for a top-four end. However they’ve hit a skid simply as high rivals have begun to step on the fuel. They do not have a lot time to seek out their rhythm once more.
Ought to Everton panic over lacking out on any European competitors?
It has been a season of spurts for Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton. The Toffees started the season with seven straight wins in all competitions, 4 straight within the Premier League. And each time a funk despatched them backwards, a surge adopted — three factors in 5 matches, then 13 in 5. 5 factors in six matches, then three straight wins.
They’ll want one other surge. After a win over West Brom on March 4 introduced them again to fifth place, one level behind Chelsea for fourth with a recreation in hand, losses to Chelsea and Burnley have knocked them again to sixth. They’re nonetheless solely 5 factors out of fourth, and so they nonetheless have that recreation in hand, however they’re additionally solely 5 factors up on Tenth-place Aston Villa.
Here is the place I ought to point out that the predictive metrics HATE the Blues. FiveThirtyEight’s algorithm ranks them twelfth in England, and so they’ve put collectively their present sixth-place resume with an xG differential of minus-0.19 per match — good for twelfth within the Premier League. Over the previous two months, that has slipped to minus-0.42, Fifteenth-best behind two groups at present in relegation spots (Fulham and West Brom).
This has been a “shot high quality over amount” crew all 12 months, rating Fifteenth in pictures per possession (0.11) however first in xG per shot (0.14), however since January, these rankings have fallen to Seventeenth and fourth, respectively. They haven’t any actual stress recreation to talk of, and for the season, opponents have completed 44% of possessions within the attacking third to Everton’s 36%. Particular person attacking brilliance has carried them throughout their aforementioned spurts, however since Jan. 1, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored solely three objectives, and James Rodriguez has missed 5 league matches and recorded simply two objectives and 6 possibilities created within the different eight. Richarlison did his finest to choose up the slack, scoring in 4 straight matches at one level, however he is in any other case come up empty in 2021.
PANIC RATING (1-5): 5. The metrics had been suggesting Everton would wrestle to complete this race in England’s high 4, however even a top-six end (which might assure European competitors of some kind) feels a bit optimistic at this level.
If they have one other spurt in them, it higher come quickly: after the upcoming worldwide break, they host Crystal Palace on April 3, then go to Brighton on April 10 earlier than 4 straight matches in opposition to groups additionally vying for European slots (Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Aston Villa, West Ham). The darling of September will want an enormous April to stay within the UEFA dialog.