Europa League: Recap Quater Finals

The 2013 Europa League quarter finals ended with huge surprises. The utter outsider Basel won over the top-favorite on the title, Tottenham Hotspur. The surprise quarterfinalist Fenerbahce defeated the high-rated team of Lazio.

Obviously, not everything is skill and luck is a large portion of the actual results. But is it really all that a surprise have the semifinalist that we now see? I would say 'no', because the prediction of Goalimpact was actually quite different than those of the bettting odds. After the round of last sixteen, I predicted the following results. Teams predicted to advance are marked green.

SL Benfica120,3106,8Newcastle United
121,2112,7Lazio Roma
Tottenham Hotspur121,2116,5FC Basel
Chelsea FC134,1113,5Rubin Kazan

And I concluded
So actually all pair consist of a clear favorite. The closest call is Spurs vs. Basel according to Goalimpact, however it is a clear win for the Spurs according to the Betfair odds.
All favorites did advance but Tottenham Hotspur. This game was predicted as a clear-cut victory beyond any doubt for Tottenham by the betting markets and as a tied tie with some advantage for the Spurs by Goalimpact. As the rematch went to the penalties, I conclude that calling this draw and a narrow decision is fair and thus Goalimpact's prediction seems to be closer to the actual outcome.

The other deviation between betting odds and Goalimpact's prediction was
Goalimpact considers Fenerbahce to be the favorite in the duel with Lazio while the odds see Lazio in front.
According to the odds, Lazio was three times as likely to win the title as Fenerbahce. According to Goalimpact, Lazio would need luck to even defeat Fenerbahce and advance to the next round. Given the gameplay in both legs, I think it is fair to say that Fenerbahce earned the victory. This was not a lucky punch of an underdog and thus a good call of Goalimpact, too.

Predictions sorted by Goalimpact
Chelsea FC134,125,9%
Tottenham Hotspur121,226,2%
SL Benfica120,317,5%
FC Basel116,52,7%
Rubin Kazan113,55,8%
Lazio Roma112,711,4%
Newcastle United106,86,5%

Predictions sorted by Betfair odds

Tottenham Hotspur121,226,2%
Chelsea FC134,125,9%
SL Benfica120,317,5%
Lazio Roma112,711,4%
Newcastle United106,86,5%
Rubin Kazan113,55,8%
FC Basel116,52,7%

The story the betting markets tell us, is that the tournament lost its best team, the Spurs, and the expected semifinalist Lazio and sees the two utter underdogs Fenerbahce and Basel advance by pure chance. The story Goalimpact tells is, that alle the favorites won their duels and only the close tie between the 3rd and the 5th ranked team ended in a minor surprise that the 5th ranked team advanced.

But I made one bad call, too.
The closest call is Spurs vs. Basel according to Goalimpact, however it is a clear win for the Spurs according to the Betfair odds. I personally tend to agree with the odds here.
The lesson to learn from this: Trust the data more than your prejudices.

Europa League: Recap Last Sixteen

Another round has been played in the Europa League. Time to check how the teams' Goalimpact fared as predictor for the rounds outcome. In the following table the advancing teams are marked green. The values given are the respective Goalimpacts as of 1st of March 2013.

Rubin Kazan113,5:106,3Levante UD
Zenit St. Petersburg123,5:116,5FC Basel
Inter119,1:121,2Tottenham Hotspur
Fenerbahçe121,2:117,9Viktoria Plzen
Girondins Bordeaux109,3:120,3SL Benfica
Newcastle United106,8:118,9Anzhi Makhachkala
Lazio Roma112,7:112,1VfB Stuttgart
Chelsea FC134,1:104,9Steaua Bucuresti

Out of the eight duels only in two the team with the lower Goalimpact won. Newcastle's defeat of the 12.1 points higher valued Makhachkala was the biggest surprise. The other was the defeat of Zenit by Basel. That said, in this round some of the decisions were extremely close. Most notably the narrow win of the Spurs over Inter, which was a very open duel according to Goalimpact anyway.

On average, the winners had a 4.28 Goalimpact of the losers. This underlines the predictive power of the algorithm. It the second round of the Europa League this was a lower 1.43, so among the last sixteen there were less surprises.

Of the remaining teams Goalimpact sees the following order.

Team Goalimpact Betfair Odds
Chelsea FC 134,1 25,9%
Tottenham Hotspur 121,2 26,2%
Fenerbahce 121,2 3,9%
SL Benfica 120,3 17,5%
FC Basel 116,5 2,7%
Rubin Kazan 113,5 5,8%
Lazio Roma 112,7 11,4%
Newcastle United 106,8 6,5%

We shouldn't expect the odds and the Goalimpact to be fully aligned, because the Goalimpact order doesn't account for the fixtures of the quarter finals. However, there are still one notable difference. Goalimpact considers Fenerbahce to be the favorite in the duel with Lazio while the odds see Lazio in front.

The predictions for the quarter finals are

SL Benfica 120,3 106,8 Newcastle United
Fenerbahce 121,2 112,7 Lazio Roma
Tottenham Hotspur 121,2 116,5 FC Basel
Chelsea FC 134,1 113,5 Rubin Kazan

So actually all pair consist of a clear favorite. The closest call is Spurs vs. Basel according to Goalimpact, however it is a clear win for the Spurs according to the Betfair odds. I personally tend to agree with the odds here.

Fenerbahce vs Plzen: Preview

For today's match of Fenerbahce SK against FC Viktoria Plzen the odds are with the Turks. Having won the first match 1:0 on the away ground, a draw would be enough to advance.

I couldn't find any expected linups, so this is was I put together by looking at the players Goalimpacts.


                                                               Volkan Demirel (134.5)

      Gökhan Gönül (132.4)    Joseph Yobo (115.6)   Egemen Korkmaz (111.4)    Reto Ziegler (111.5)

                                        Mehmet Topal (121.4)     Selcuk Sahin (123.7)

                              Dirk Kuyt (156.3)     Cristian (123.0)       Miroslav Stoch (122.7)

                                                             Semih Sentürk (132.5)                                    

Subs: Bekir Irtegün (97.5), Serdar Kesimal (105.2), Hasan Kaldirim (100.4), Salih Ucan (107.2), Sezer Öztürk (96.8), Caner Erkin (108.3), Milos Krasic (117.8), Mehmet Topuz (120.9), Moussa Sow (116.9), Pierre Webo (103.3)

Red card suspension: Raul Meireles (137.7)

No playing clearance for Europa League: Emre Belözoglu (134.9)

Fenerbahce has a very strong team. Especially the right wing with Gökhan and Kuyt has a quality that can cause trouble to any opponent. A weakness seems to be the defense. Both center-backs are above the average Goalimpact of 100, but far from Champions League level. The weakness is mitigated to some extend by the two good defensive midfielders, Topal and Selcuk, and the strong keeper Volkan.

The lineup proposed by Goalimpact has some notable differences to the starting XI from the first leg game against Plzen. There Irtegün played as center-back instead of Korkmaz. A suboptimal choice given his much lower playing strength. Sow played on the left wing, but the difference to Stoch is not that big so the choice depends on the tactics. Webo actually only has an average Goalimpact, while Semih plays on international level. But Semih scored little this season and Webo scored the goal against Plzen, so the choice may be Webo on this match again.


                                                            Matus Kozacik (114.1)

Frantisek Rajtoral (121.9)   Vaclav Prochazka (110.7)  Marian Cisovsky (119.0)  David Limbersky (123.5)

                                                 Vladimir Darida (124.9)  Pavel Horvath (127.2)

                           Michal Duris (118.1)  Daniel Kolar (126.8)  Jan Kovarik (117.5)

                                                          Marek Bakos (125.7)

Subs: David Stipek (115.9), Radim Reznik (109.2), Lukas Hejda (100.7), Martin Fillo (104.8), Martin Zeman (109.3), Stanislav Tecl (96.7), Roman Adamov (89.8)

Injured: Marek Hanousek (105.7)

Plzen has a very balanced starting XI. However, there are not many alternatives on the bench that have comparably high Goalimpact. The 'ideal' starting line-up above is actually nearly identical to one in the first match against Fenerbahce. The only difference is that Goalimpact favors Limberskyover Reznik. The choice on that wing can be crucial as it is going to be exposed to Kuyt and Gökhan.


Based on above standings, the most likely outcome is that Fenerbahce also wins the second game. The probability for this is 56% according to Goalimpact. This is slightly more optimistic than the betting markets, which imply a probability of 51%. However, my calculation doesn't take the previous result into account. Fenerbahce may well be happy with a draw and may not try as hard as it can to win.

Europa League 2nd Round Recap

The 2nd Round of the Europa League is finished. Here are the results compared with the difference of the GoalImpact of the respective teams. The scores are taken from the top list of all teams as of 1st of February 2012. They thus don't reflect actual line-ups and may not reflect winter transfers. The teams that advanced to the next round are marked green.

Viktoria Plzen111:111SSC Napoli
Olympiacos111:104Levante UD
Chelsea128:107Sparta Praha
Steaua101:119AFC Ajax
Benfica117:118Bay. Leverkusen
Hannover 96107:112Anzhi
Bordeaux 108:118 Dynamo Kyiv
Fenerbahce 117:104 BATE Borisov
Liverpool 119:122 Zenit S-Pb
CFR Cluj
KRC Genk
VfB Stuttgart
Lyon 110:115 Spurs
Bor. M'gladbach
Dnipro 112:111 FC Basel
Rubin Kazan
Atlético Madrid

The advancing team have an average of 1.43 higher GoalImpact than their opponents. Thus the score marginally predicted the results, however, chance being a big contributor. Judged by GoalImpact, the biggest surprise was the victory of Steaua over Ajax as the latter had a 18 points higher score. Less of a surprise was the defeat of Atletico Madrid by Rubin Kazan. Atletico had only 3 points more and unlike to the betting markets was not seen as a favorite for the overall victory at all.

The remaining big favorite now is Chelsea. They have the highest score and the weakest opponent in the next round. Other candidates for the overall victory, in agreement to the betting markets, are Zenit, Benfica and the Spurs. In deviation of the betting markets, Fenerbahce seems to be strong enough for the victory, too. However, they have in Plzen a strong opponent in the round of last 16.