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.

Chelsea vs Rubin Kazan: Europa League Quarter Final Match Preview

In the Europa League's quarter finals, FC Chelsea will face Rubin Kasan. The top-favorite for the overall victory of the tournament meets one of the weakest remaining teams. However, really weak teams are not left in this competition.

FC Chelsea

Bench: Branislav Ivanovic (136.1), John Mikel (138.4), Eden Hazard (135.6), Gary Cahill (104.2), Paulo Ferreira (147.6), Yossi Benayoun (115.6), Marko Marin (107.7)

Injured: Oriol Romeu (119.4), Ashley Cole (169.2)

Cup-tied: Demba Ba (112.4)

Chelsea has a very stong team as the players' Goalimpacts indicate. The Goalimpact values are given in brackets. A high number indicates a strong positive goal difference when the respective player is on the field as compared to when he is not. The average player has a value of 100. Champions League level is 120 and more. Above 150 is world-class.

Especially Chelsea's center and the right wing are impressive. Lampard, Mata and Ramires can take control of the center. Torres is a dangerous striker for any defense. Chelsea's defense is also strong. Terry and Luiz are two center backs that now to keep the opponent away from the goal. The weakest spot in Chelsea's starting XI (if it turns out as predicted) will be the left wing with Moses and Bertrand.

Chelsea's bench is also strong, giving the trainer many options to react on the game flow and injuries.

Rubin Kazan

Bench: Alexei Eremenko (106.0), Sergey Kislyak (96.2), Marcano (115.3), Aleksandr Ryazantsev (121.0), Vladimir Dyadyun (101.8), Gökhan Töre (99.9), Cristian Ansaldi (116.7)

Rubin Kazan has also a good squad, but it is not as good as Chelsea's. However, the Goalimpact of the team is very evenly distributed and thus the team performance does not depend heavily on single players. This makes it more difficult to find the right tactics against them as there are no obvious weak spot to utilize as attack vector. A bit stronger than the rest are Eremenko and Karadeniz and those may pose the main challenges to Chelsea's defense, esp. Moses and Betrand. Rubin Kazan also can rely on a good goal keeper.

The bench offers an offensive alternative with A. Eremenko. Ansaldi and Marcano are the options to improve the defense. Töre, Kislyak  and Dyadyun don't seem strong enough to play on the level that Chelsea has.


Chelsea has the better players. Still Rubin Kazan will be an inconvenient opponent as they have a well balanced team with no apparent weakness. the Russian's chances to score the valuable away goal are their right wing were the strong Karadeniz faces Chelsea's weaker Bertrand.


Due to the home advantage Chelsea is the clear favorite in the first leg.

Rubin Kazan

The away match will be more evenly distributed, yet Chelsea likely to advance.

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.