Milan and Inter's Scudetto scrap, the battle for Europe and a tight relegation tussle – Stats Perform AI predicts Serie A run-in

By Sports Desk May 06, 2022

Three matchdays remain in Serie A, and yet there is plenty still to be decided at both ends of the table – not least which side will be crowned champions.

Milan occupy top spot in their quest for a first Scudetto since 2011, but fierce rivals Inter are just two points behind and arguably have an easier set of fixtures to conclude the campaign.

Napoli and Juventus are not officially out of the title race just yet, though they are seven and eight points off first place respectively, therefore requiring a remarkable set of results.

Both Napoli and Juventus are already assured of a top-four finish, but there are several other teams still battling it out for the three remaining European spots.

Venezia appear doomed at the opposite end of the table after losing to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday, with the latter's victory lifting them out of the bottom three – in all, six teams remain in trouble.

But just how will the remaining two and a half weeks of the season unfold? Using the Stats Perform League Prediction Model, we can try to forecast the final standings.

Created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, the model has analysed the division to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results.

Weighting is based on recency and the quality of opposition, with the rest of the matches then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Let's take a look...

 

MILAN TO SEE THE JOB THROUGH

Milan still have Hellas Verona (ninth), Atalanta (eighth) and Sassuolo (11th) to face, whereas Inter's final fixtures are against Empoli (14th), Cagliari (18th) and Sampdoria (15th).

However, it is worth noting that if they finish level on points, Milan would be crowned champions by virtue of a superior head-to-read record against their rivals this term.

With that in mind, while Inter are only two points behind, they essentially need to take three more points than Milan over the final three matchdays.

And our model suggests the Rossoneri have a 62 per cent chance of retaining top spot, compared to a 37.7 per cent chance of defending champions Inter overtaking them.

Just to highlight how unlikely it is either Napoli or Juventus will pip the current top two to the summit, they have a 0.2 and 0.1 per cent chance of winning the title respectively.

A ROME ONE-TWO FOR EUROPA LEAGUE?

The Champions League places may now officially be wrapped up, but five teams are still battling it out for the three remaining European berths.

The sides that finish in fifth and sixth, currently occupied by Roma and Lazio, will qualify for the Europa League group stage.

Roma, according to the model, have a 59.1 per cent chance of nailing down fifth place – though if they were to drop to seventh, the Europa Conference League finalists could get into the Europa League by winning UEFA's third-tier competition.

Lazio would take great enjoyment from finishing above their neighbours and have a 36.9 per cent chance of doing so.

The first priority for Maurizio Sarri will be locking down sixth, though, and there is a 46.7 per cent likelihood of achieving that with Fiorentina three points further back.

ATALANTA TO PIP FIORENTINA

While the top six are forecast to remain where they are, our model predicts seventh-placed Fiorentina will miss out to Atalanta in the Europa Conference League play-off position.

After losing three games in a row, La Viola now have a 31.2 per cent chance of staying seventh, compared to 47.6 for Atalanta, whom they are currently level with on 56 points.

Verona are four points further back and that appears to be too big a gap to bridge, with the Gialloblu seemingly certain to remain in eighth.

Indeed, the 80.8 per cent likelihood of Verona finishing in that position is bettered only by the chances of Empoli staying 14th (90.2 per cent) and Venezia remaining bottom (87.4 per cent) given the points margin either side.

VENEZIA AND TWO OTHERS TO DESCEND

Thursday's 2-1 defeat away to Salernitana looks to have spelled the end for Venezia's brief stint back in the top flight as it leaves them seven points from safety. Their chances of escaping the drop sit at 0.1 per cent.

Salernitana still have a 36.2 per cent chance of dropping into the bottom three, but given they face the team directly below them – Cagliari – and Empoli in their next two games, they will surely like those odds.

Another win for Salernitana on Sunday would be massive at the bottom, as such a result will relegate Venezia and potentially Genoa, whom the model gives only a 1.2 per cent likelihood of climbing up to 17th.

Spezia and Sampdoria aren't quite out of the woods yet, but their five-point cushions should be enough to keep them in Serie A. Everything points to Sunday's contest being almost a straight relegation play-off between Salernitana and Cagliari.

The model suggests with a 63.3 per cent probability that Cagliari will go down, but their fate is in their own hands.

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    Maybe this time football really is 'coming home'.

    Hosts England are widely considered among the favourites to win Euro 2022 as Sarina Wiegman leads the Lionesses onto the big stage, and they can be considered marginal front-runners for a wide-open tournament.

    That conclusion is based on modelling from Stats Perform's Artificial Intelligence team, using Opta's data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

    Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Women's Euro prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

    The model takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

    The rest of the tournament is then simulated thousands of times and analysed, providing the probability of each team progressing round by round and ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 31.

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    MOST LIKELY CHAMPIONS

    1. England (19.3 per cent)

    Runners-up in 1984 and 2009, perhaps England's second European finals on home soil could bring about a triumph the Lionesses have longed to achieve.

    They have such immense strength in their forward ranks that Ellen White, joint top scorer at the 2019 World Cup, is not assured of her place in the team. The likes of Ella Toone, Beth Mead and Alessia Russo could push White for the starting spot as striker, with three attackers set to feature in behind, as manager Wiegman looks to blow away the opposition.

    England are given an 81.9 per cent chance of coming through the group stage to reach the quarter-finals, a 54.1 per cent shot at getting through to the semi-finals, and a 31.1 per cent hope of making it through to the Wembley trophy match. Their 19.3 per cent chance of carrying off the trophy means it is hardly a given that England will finish bathed in glory, and that is because the opposition is so strong.

    2. France (18.5 per cent)

    Les Bleues left Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer out of their squad, meaning two of their recognised stars will be conspicuously absent from Corinne Diacre's team.

    Stats Perform's women's football Power Rankings puts France second on the global list, behind only the United States, but coach Diacre is dicing with danger by omitting proven performers. Should things go wrong, fingers will likely be pointing her way.

    However, at the back France have the stalwart Wendie Renard skippering the side, while in attack the Paris Saint-Germain striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto should make a big impact on her first major senior tournament. They possess quality, notwithstanding the notable absentees.

    France have Italy, Belgium and Iceland as Group D rivals and are given a 74.8 per cent chance of advancing and are rated 49.1 per cent shots to make in into the semi-finals.

    3. Sweden (14.6 per cent)

    FIFA ranks Sweden second in its own rankings, and the Scandinavians were only denied Olympic gold in Tokyo last year after a penalty shoot-out loss to Canada in the final.

    They might lack superstar names, but the likes of Barcelona's Fridolina Rolfo, Milan's Kosovare Asllani and Arsenal's Stina Blackstenius are players to keep an eye on.

    The Swedes are given an 84.2 per cent chance of reaching the quarter-finals – the highest percentage of all teams – as they head into a group that also features defending champions the Netherlands along with Switzerland and Portugal.

    4. Germany (11.5 per cent)

    The eight-time winners cannot be ruled out, but they are no longer the team that everyone fears. Starting off in the same pool as Spain complicates their task considerably, with Euro 2017 runners-up Denmark also in Group C, along with Finland.

    Given that line-up, Germany are given a 72.8 per cent shot at finishing in the top two and reaching the quarter-finals, plus a 43.2 per cent chance of making the last four and  a 22.0 per cent prospect of getting through to the final.

    5. Spain (8.8 per cent)

    Some might scoff at Spain being given such a low rating, but they face the same problem as Germany initially, with no guarantee of escaping Group C.

    Jorge Vilda's Spain are built on formidable foundations, with players from Barcelona and Real Madrid dominating their squad. Barcelona won all 30 of their domestic league games last year, but their players were knocked out of stride by defeat to Lyon in the Champions League final.

    Having the likes of 100-cap playmaker Alexia Putellas in their ranks makes Spain an undoubted threat. However, she has suffered an injury on the eve of the tournament, and Spain have yet to triumph on the big-tournament stage. Like Spain's men before they found a winning formula, the women's football can be a joy to watch, but their efficiency in front of goal can be lacking.

    They have reached quarter-finals at the last two editions of the Euros, and are rated as 71.6 per cent likely to at least go that far this time around. Will they reach a final first? The AI analysis gives them just a 19.0 per cent chance of featuring in the Wembley showpiece.

    6. Netherlands 7.2 per cent

    Champions last time out when they hosted, the Dutch will believe they can defend their title, and the team's opener against Sweden will tell us a lot about their potential.

    Englishman Mark Parsons has stepped in to replace Euro 2017-winning boss Wiegman, inheriting a group containing the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens and Danielle van de Donk, who are all potential stars of the tournament.

    This time the Netherlands are given only a 64.6 per cent chance of advancing to the quarters, and a 15.8 per cent hope of reaching another final. A 5-1 pasting by England in a pre-finals friendly has cast doubt on whether they can be the same force as five years ago. If they fail to top Group C, a likely quarter-final with France awaits.

    TITLE CHANCES OF THE REST (all figures are percentages): Belgium 4.5, Italy 2.9, Iceland 2.8, Austria 2.6, Norway 2.3, Switzerland 2.3, Denmark 1.1, Finland 0.6, Portugal 0.6, Northern Ireland 0.3

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    Maria also matched a feat achieved by Serena Williams and only two other players since 1984 – Mirjana Lucic (1999) and Zheng Jie (2008) – in reaching the last four at Wimbledon as a player ranked outside the top 100 on the WTA list.

    The 34-year-old German, who beat compatriot Jule Niemeier 4-6 6-2 7-5 on Tuesday, is ranked 103rd, and despite her efforts at Wimbledon she will not soar in the standings after the WTA's decision to strip the grand slam of ranking points.

    Yet that will matter little for the mother of two, who knew she would face either Marie Bouzkova or Ons Jabeur in her first slam semi-final.

    "I have goosebumps everywhere. It was such a tough match against Jule. I think today we made Germany really proud after our match," said Maria in her on-court interview.

    "My two little girls, it's a dream to live this with my family, to live this with my two girls. Almost one year ago I gave birth, it's crazy.

    "Ons [Jabeur], I mean it would be really nice to play her [in the semi-final]. She is part of my family, she loves my kids, she is playing with them every day.

    "It would be great to play her, we never know. But I am only happy that I am in a semi-final now."

  • Women's Euros: Spain's Putellas a doubt for tournament after suffering knee injury Women's Euros: Spain's Putellas a doubt for tournament after suffering knee injury

    Spain's Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas faces a race to be fit for the Women's European Championship after suffering a knee injury ahead of their opener against Finland.

    Barcelona captain Putellas finished as the Champions League's top goalscorer with 11 goals last season, also ending her domestic campaign with 18 league goals. 

    Putellas, who has scored 27 goals in 100 international appearances and also picked up FIFA's The Best Women's Player award in 2021, was expected to provide creativity from out wide for La Roja, but could now miss out on Euro 2022.

    "Alexia Putellas suffered a sprain in her left knee during the session on Tuesday, July 5," read an update from the side's official Twitter account.

    "Medical tests will determine the extent of the injury."

    Spain are already without one key player for the competition, which begins when England face Austria at Old Trafford on Wednesday, after they lost record goalscorer Jennifer Hermoso to a ligament injury.

    Featuring a plethora of players from a Barcelona team that won all 30 of their domestic league games last season, Spain are considered to be among the favourites for glory in England, but must come through a tough-looking Group B which also features Germany and Denmark.  

    La Roja open their campaign against Finland at Stadium MK on Friday.

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