By the time Wednesday evening rolls around, the field of quarterfinalists for this season’s Champions League will be set. You can catch all the action Tuesday and Wednesday on Paramount+. AC Milan, Benfica, Chelsea and Bayern Munich clinched their spots last week with half of the field already set.
Before the action gets underway, here’s one key piece of information to know about each team that will help determine who’s going to head through or go home.
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1. Manchester City vs. RB Leipzig
Featured Game | Manchester City vs. RB Leipzig
Manchester City: Erling Haaland, 34 goals
This is a simple one. He’s got an astonishing rate of 34 goals in 35 matches. That means Haaland has scored 36.5% of all of Manchester City’s goals across all competitions. That also means Pep Guardiola’s side is wildly different from how it previously operated. Last season, Kevin de Bruyne led City with 15 goals across all competitions. That worked out to 15.6% of all of City’s goals. You wouldn’t exactly call City a one-man team. Almost two-thirds of their goals come from somebody not named Haaland, but feeding the big man is clearly what this team is all about.
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RB Leipzig: Dominik Szoboszlai, 13 assists
Man City might have a featured player and a backup band, but RB Leipzig spreads the love around. Across all competitions, four players have nine goals or more: Christopher Nkunku, Timo Werner, Andres Silva and Emil Forsberg. But Szoboszlai is the one conducting the symphony with 13 assists. He has eight assists if we were to filter to only Bundesliga stats, which is double the output of anybody else on his team and tied for second in the league, behind only Randal Kolo Muani (we would have more on him later but he’s suspended for Frankfurt’s match against Napoli).
But whereas most players with lots of assists far outstrip their expected goals assisted (Kolo Muani’s xGA is 3.5, for example), the Szoboszlai’s total is an impressive 6.6, also good for second in the Bundesliga, this time behind only Borussia Monchengladbach’s Jonas Hoffman who has seven assists on 7.1 xGA. It’s hard to predict who on Leipzig might score, but whoever it is, there’s a good chance it’s Szoboszlai getting them the ball.
2. FC Porto vs. Inter
Featured Game | Porto vs. Inter
FC Porto: Evanilson xG + xGA per 90, 0.97
Evanilson might not make it back from a muscular injury to start for Porto, and that’s a huge problem. Whether he’s a starter or super-sub, he’s got the kind of numbers that scream “breakout star” thanks to his massive 0.78 xG per 90 minutes. Because he’s a center forward, it’s a little bit odd that he accounts for 0.19 expected goals assisted over that same rate. Nevertheless, Porto will have a hard time replacing his production even with the ever-capable Mehdi Taremi on hand.
Inter: 3.87 xG vs. Spezia
Inter suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Spezia on Friday — the kind of result against an inferior opponent that might raise all sorts of alarms under normal circumstances. Then again, take a look at this shot map.
That’s 28 shots on 3.87 xG for those of you keeping score at home. That’s a season-high xG output and the second-highest shot total all season. So, I think they’re probably OK. Sometimes the ball, hilariously, just won’t go in the net.
3. Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
Featured Game | Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
Liverpool: Four matches under 1.0 xG conceded
Football is a funny old game. Since losing 5-2 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League tie, Liverpool seem to have fixed their defense. They’ve yet to concede over 1.0 xG since that match. Prior to this four-game run, they’ve only done that seven times all season. Four of the seven came in the Champions League group stage: Twice against Rangers, once against Ajax and once in a dead rubber against Napoli (Napoli, it should be noted, ran up an exorbitant total of 4.0 xG in the match that mattered). And yet, in those four matches, Liverpool managed to lose once against Bournemouth and draw once against Crystal Palace. Of course, they also snuck in a 7-0 defeat against Manchester United. So, who knows.
Real Madrid: Nine shots
It only took nine shots for Real Madrid to score five goals against Liverpool. It was their lowest output of shots in their last 16 matches. It was one of only four times this season they’d been held under 10 shots. One of the other three instances came in a cup match against a lower division side where one assumes they were mostly just going through the motions. The other two came against Barcelona and against Atletico Madrid. So Liverpool seem to have done a lot right against Real Madrid, except for the most important thing. Real Madrid have an overwhelming lead heading into these two leagues, but it is just impossible not to get the sense that these sides are very, very weird. Who knows what could happen.
4. Napoli vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Featured Game | Napoli vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Frankfurt: Randal Kolo Muani, 21 combined goals and assists
Those are Randal Kolo Muani’s combined goals and assists in the Bundesliga. His team has 45 total goals in league play. That means he’s in some way responsible for almost half of Frankfurt’s goals. He’s suspended for the second leg against Napoli. Napoli are maybe the best team in the world. Not great for Frankfurt.
Napoli: 1.08 expected goal difference per match
Napoli came out of nowhere this season to establish themselves as clear-cut favorites to win Serie A, with a cozy 18-point cushion atop the table. Usually when something this unexpected happens, it means a team is getting incredibly lucky or running hot in a way that suggests maybe it really isn’t as good as advertised. You can make the case that the soccer gods have blessed this club, especially when you consider that their goal difference of 1.69 per match is a hefty amount higher than their xG difference of 1.08 per match.
Here’s the thing: That xG difference — the difference between how much they’d be expected to score and concede on average given the chances they’re creating — is the fifth-best total in Europe’s top five leagues. Even if you want to suggest that 1.08 xGD per 90 figure represents their “true” level, only Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are ahead of them. Napoli are nestled comfortably between Bayern and PSG on that list. Godspeed to Frankfurt.
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Publish Date:2023-03-14 05:08:23