Can Inter or Milan deny Juve the Scudetto? - Stats Perform AI completes Serie A season

By Sports Desk January 25, 2021

Inter beat Juventus. Juventus beat Milan. Milan beat Inter. For once it has been tough to predict the title race in Serie A.

Winning the Scudetto was not enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job at Juve last season, meaning Andrea Pirlo is under significant pressure as the Bianconeri chase a 10th straight league crown.

However, they have struggled to convince under the former midfield metronome and sit seven points adrift of leaders Milan in fourth, although they hold a game in hand.

There has seemingly never been a better chance for Inter, who are two points off top in second, and Milan to end Scudetto droughts that date back to 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.

With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league campaign, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

 

INTER END JUVE'S REIGN

Although they sit second at the halfway stage, our model predicts Inter will end Juve's dominance of Serie A.

Inter have a 35.7 per cent chance of topping the table for the first time since their treble-winning campaign of 2009-10 and it is projected they will do so by a two-point advantage.

Not only do Milan surrender top spot to the Nerazzurri, they slip behind Juve into third with the top three separated by just three points. It would still represent their best finish since 2012-13.

Juve's chance of retaining the title is deemed to be 23.1 per cent, marginally better than Milan's 21.6 per cent.

ATALANTA RETURN TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Gian Piero Gasperini steered Atalanta to Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in 2018-19 and made it back-to-back top-three finishes last season.

They are predicted to return to Europe's premier club competition by finishing fourth, edging out Napoli – they even have a 6.8 per cent chance of pulling off an unlikely title win.

Gennaro Gattuso's side have a 17 per cent probability of snatching the final Champions League qualification berth, with Atalanta's prospects narrowly superior at 17.4 per cent.

Roma are predicted to fall from their current position of third down to sixth but that is still good enough for them to deny arch-rivals Lazio qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League.

The top six may need to beware of Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria, however. Sassuolo have a 0.3 per cent likelihood of finishing inside the top four, while Verona (0.6 per cent) and Sampdoria (0.3 per cent) also have an outside chance of stealing European qualification, though our predictor suggests Lazio will finish 12 points clear of Sassuolo in seventh.

 

GENOA AND TORINO ESCAPE DROP

At the turn of the year Torino were rock bottom with one win from their opening 14 games and Genoa were in the relegation zone with them.

However, Torino and Genoa have both moved out of the bottom three by claiming six points and eight points respectively over their past five games.

The two sides are predicted to maintain strong enough form to stay out of the drop zone, with Crotone (20th), Parma (19th) and Cagliari (18th) projected to suffer relegation to Serie B.

It is by no means a guarantee, though. Genoa are only 0.2 per cent more likely to come 17th than they are to suffer relegation by finishing 18th, while Torino's differential between 15th – where they are predicted to place – and third-bottom is 2.7 per cent.

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    Chelsea will host Milan on Wednesday in what could well be a must-win fixture for the Blues, who sit last in Champions League Group E.

    England has not been a happy hunting ground for Milan, but the group leaders and reigning Serie A champions will be hoping for a change of fortune when they roll into Stamford Bridge.

    Meanwhile, Mykhaylo Mudryk will get a chance to show why he is considered one of the top young talents in Europe as Shakhtar Donetsk head to the Santiago Bernabeu to take on Real Madrid.

    Paris Saint-Germain will look to change their poor historical record against Benfica, with Kylian Mbappe on the brink of becoming the club's record European goalscorer.

    Stats Perform has dug up the most interesting facts and angles for each contest on Wednesday.

    Chelsea v Milan

    This is the first time these two teams will meet in the Champions League since they were in the same group in 1999, with both of those matches ending in draws. They have not met in a competitive game since, with all four of their 21st-century contests coming in the International Champions Cup (Chelsea won three of those with Milan recording one victory).

    Chelsea have only lost twice at home to Italian teams in continental competition, collecting eight wins and three draws. They lost to Lazio 1-2 in 2000, and to Inter 1-0 in 2010.

    Milan's record in England also gives no reason for optimism, with only one win from 20 tries in European play (D7 L12). 

    Olivier Giroud was subbed off in Milan's dramatic 3-1 win over Empoli on Saturday. The France striker could become the 10th player to score for and against Chelsea in the Champions League, and first since Loic Rémy for Lille in December 2019, should he net in this meeting.

    Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk

    This is the third consecutive season these sides have met in the group stages. It is the fifth time teams have ever been paired together in three consecutive seasons, and Shakhtar was involved in the most recent occasion as well, against Manchester City from 2017-18 through to 2019-20.

    Over the past two seasons, they have split the wins evenly, with Shakhtar winning both games in the 2020-21 campaign, before Madrid triumphed in both fixtures last season.

    After a win and a draw in the first two matchdays, Shakhtar boast the highest shot conversion rate in the competition, scoring with five of their 10 shots, including two goals from 21-year-old rising star Mudryk.

    On the other side, Vinicius Junior leads the Champions League with 33 chances created and seven assists from open play since the start of last season, and he shares the mantle for most goal involvements at 18 with Barcelona's Robert Lewandowski.

    Benfica v Paris Saint-Germain

    Benfica are looking to extend their surprisingly strong record against Paris Saint-Germain, having won three of their six previous meetings (1D 2L) in European competitions, including the past three in a row. Their last fixture came in the 2013-14 season, with Benfica winning 2-1 at home.

    In fact, Benfica have enjoyed plenty of success while hosting French sides, with five consecutive home wins – twice against Lyon, as well as beating Lille, Monaco and PSG.

    However, PSG are a different beast now then they were back in 2014, and have only lost one of their past 11 matches in the group stage (8W 2D).

    At only 23, Mbappe can become the club's all-time leading scorer in European competitions with one more goal. He is currently tied at 30 with Edinson Cavani.

    RB Leipzig v Celtic

    These sides both won their home fixtures when they were matched up in the 2018-19 group stage, and they will be desperate for a result as they enter Wednesday's game with only one point between them in Group F.

    Celtic will be looking to make history as they have never won a European game away in Germany (10L 3D), failing to score on nine of those 13 occasions.

    But it might be a case of a stoppable force meeting a movable object, as Leipzig have not kept a clean sheet in their last seven home games in the competition. They have only shut out their opponents twice from 15 Champions League home games.

    Jota will be the key for Celtic's chances, with his six chances created trailing only Napoli's Piotr Zielinski (eight), while only Madrid star Vinicius is credited with more take-on dribbles (11) than Jota's nine.

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    Manchester City v FC Copenhagen

    23 – Manchester City are two games away from tying Manchester United's record of 23 consecutive Champions League home fixtures without a loss. They are unbeaten at home in the competition since 2018.

    62 – City's Erling Haaland averages a goal every 62 minutes in the competition, netting 26 goals in 21 appearances. He is well clear of second-placed Mario Gomez, who scored his 26 goals on an average of every 102 minutes.

    Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

    1 – Borussia Dortmund have only won one of their past 11 trips to Spain in the Champions League (L7 D3), but that win came from their most recent opportunity, against Sevilla in February 2021.

    3 – Sevilla have failed to score in each of their past three Champions League games. They have never gone four consecutive games in European competition without scoring.

    Juventus v Maccabi Haifa

    29 – It has been 29 years since Maccabi Haifa defeated an Italian team in European competition (3L 1D), with their only victory coming in 1993 against Parma. 

    8 – The Israeli side have lost all eight of their Champions League fixtures since 2002, by a combined aggregate score of 13-1.

    Salzburg v Dinamo Zagreb

    6 – Salzburg can become the first Austrian team to ever go six games unbeaten in the Champions League if they can avoid defeat against Dinamo Zagreb, with three wins and two draws from their past five.

    23 – The last time Zagreb kept a clean sheet away from home in this competition was 23 years ago, drawing 0-0 against United at Old Trafford in 1999. Since then, they have conceded 52 goals in 18 away games (2.9 per game).

  • Judge stands alone atop AL history with record-breaking 62nd home run, Braves clinch NL East Judge stands alone atop AL history with record-breaking 62nd home run, Braves clinch NL East

    Aaron Judge stands alone at the top of home run history in the American League after breaking Roger Maris' 61-year single-season homer record with his 62nd blast in the New York Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

    Judge, who had hit just one homer in his previous 13 games coming in, blasted a 1-1 slider off Rangers' pitcher Jesus Tinoco over the left-field fence for a lead-off homer to break the mark.

    The Yankees outfielder's home run was his 62nd of the season, surpassing Maris' 61-homer mark from 1961, which he had matched last Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The blast came in the Yankees' penultimate game of the regular season, with Judge's 62 homers sitting seventh for most in a single season in MLB history.

    Ahead of Judge are only three players, all from 1997 to 2001; Barry Bonds (73 in 2001), Mark McGwire (70 in 1999 and 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001, 63 in 1999).

    The home run means 11 of Judge's past 14 blasts have come on the road. Gerrit Cole also made franchise history, reaching 257 strikeouts for the most in a single season for the Yankees.

    The Yankees were beaten after the Rangers added two fifth-inning runs, with the visitors having won the first game in the double header 5-4 when Judge went one-for-five with a single.

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    William Contreras drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning with an infield single, earning the reigning world champions a first-round bye as the NL second seed. The achievement comes after the Braves had trailed the Mets by 10-and-a-half games in June.

    Jake Odorizzi had seven strikeouts across five innings, while Kenley Jansen recorded his 41st save with a perfect ninth inning. Ronald Acuna Jr hit a second-inning single to give the Braves an early lead.

    AL seeds locked in as Verlander stars for Astros

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    Entering extras ahead of the postseason, the Mariners shuffled their deck, with Torrens becoming the first position player other than Shohei Ohtani to earn a win since John Baker in 2014 for the Chicago Cubs. Abraham Toro's sacrifice fly allowed Carlos Santana to score the walkoff run.

    That result meant the Tampa Bay Rays were locked for the third AL Wild Card spot, not helped by a 6-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox where Xander Bogaerts delivered a fifth-inning grand slam.

    Meanwhile, the Houston Astros go into the postseason as the AL top seed after a 10-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies where Cy Young Award favourite Justin Verlander had 10 K's and kept the opposition hitless until the ninth inning.

  • 'It's a big relief' - Judge blown away after surpassing Maris' AL record with 62nd home run 'It's a big relief' - Judge blown away after surpassing Maris' AL record with 62nd home run

    History-maker Aaron Judge admits finally breaking Roger Maris' American League single-season home run record is a "big relief" after launching his 62nd blast against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

    Judge's lead-off homer for the New York Yankees surpassed Maris' 61-year record, having matched the mark last Wednesday, going five games without a homer leading up.

    The Yankees outfielder's 62nd home run for the season came in their penultimate regular season game, putting him seventh all-time for homers in a single season.

    Judge had already exceeded Babe Ruth's mark from 1927 of 60 home runs in a season, before getting past Maris with 61 from 1961.

    "It's a big relief," Judge said. "I think that everyone can sit back down in their seats and watch the ball game, you know? But it's been a fun ride so far.

    "Getting a chance to do this, with the team we've got, the guys surrounding me, the constant support from my family whose been with me through this whole thing, it's been a great honor.

    "Getting a chance to have my name next to someone as great as Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, those guys, is incredible."

    Judge's pursuit of his 62nd home run has felt like a circus with the anticipation surrounding him every time he was at bat, from both the dugout and the stands.

    The outfielder's teammates gathered at the home plate after his historic home run to congratulate him, before receiving a standing ovation from the Texas crowd.

    "Pretty surreal," Judge said. "Just like in Toronto, it was pretty awesome, having their support. I think, in Texas, they were a little more excited, they could finally exhale.

    "At home, in the dugout, I can see right in and see all the guys sitting at the top steps. Here on the road, they are behind me, so I didn't see the 40-plus people sitting in the dugout.

    "To finally see them run out on the field, and get a chance to hug them all, that's what it's about for me."

    Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, who made his own history with a franchise record 257th strikeout in a single season, was glowing in praise of Judge.

    "Even just to tie the record, let alone break it is a bit surreal," Cole said. "And obviously, on a night like tonight, it's just like, 'Woah'… It's hard to put into words."

    Judge has hit the most home runs in a single season of any center fielder in MLB history, previously 56 held by Hack Wilson (1930) and Ken Griffey Jr (1997 and 1998).

    The Yankee's latest blast means he is 16 homers ahead of the MLB's next best, Kyle Schwarber with 46. Judge's 16-homer lead is the largest since Jimmie Foxx's 17-homer margin over Ruth from 1932.

    Judge's 62 home runs have totaled a distance of 25,520 feet which is nearly five miles, and a single-season record since Statcast started tracking that in 2015, exceeding teammate Giancarlo Stanton's 2017 mark of 24,641 feet.

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