Hack the weekend: Norwich to struggle without star pair, Sevilla face tough Osasuna test

Hack the weekend: Norwich to struggle without star pair, Sevilla face tough Osasuna test
Hack the weekend: Norwich to struggle without star pair, Sevilla face tough Osasuna test
Hack the weekend: Norwich to struggle without star pair, Sevilla face tough Osasuna test
Who will win the big game? Well, that is the key question that sports fans and pundits around the world ask themselves daily. Most of the time, however, they are guided more by feelings and impressions than by raw data. The right answer to this question can often be extremely valuable especially if the numbers suggest that the favourites might just slip up.

That's why Flashscore.com, in cooperation with a team of analysts from Czech data company 11Hacks, is bringing you a data-driven overview every Friday about where those (un)expected results might occur in the wide world of football to help you ultimately hack the weekend.

Norwich City - Cardiff City

Norwich City are currently ninth in the Championship table, with only one point separating them from the playoff positions. On Saturday, David Wagner's side will face Cardiff at home, who are just above the relegation zone and enter the match as the clear underdog. However, the numbers tell a different story.

Data analysis shows that the two teams should be much closer in the league table than they actually are. According to the mathematical model of expected points, which takes into account the quality of chances created and allowed, Norwich should be in sixth position, while Cardiff should be in 13th place, with only five points between them.

An important prerequisite for success in a football match is to allow the opponent as few dangerous chances as possible, which Cardiff are doing well in the 2022/2023 season. In terms of goals conceded expected, they are even the sixth best team in the Championship, more impressive at the back than Norwich, who are fourteenth in this metric.

What Cardiff's defence suffers from is the poor performances of goalkeeper Ryan Allsop. If the average Championship goalkeeper faced identical shots, he would concede seven fewer goals than him. Norwich, on the other hand, solved their problems in goal when Tim Krul was replaced by the much more confident Angus Gunn during the season.

If we take into account the performances of the men between the posts, the defences of both teams are very evenly matched. As are the traditional statistics of real goals scored (excluding penalties) - Norwich 33, Cardiff 34.

Normally, the Canaries' wins would be more influenced by their attack, which is the third most dangerous in the league from an xG perspective. However, the key attacking duo of Teemu Pukki (32) and Josh Sargent (23) did not start Tuesday's game against Birmingham, and at the time of writing it is still unclear whether at least one of them will be involved in this weekend's game.

If the duo's health doesn't improve, Norwich would lose almost 50% of their xG. Pukki has taken care of 25% of it so far this season, while Sargent is responsible for 23%. Even the mere absence of one of them would be a major issue, as the team lacks sufficient replacements. Adam Idah (22) may have only played around 1,000 minutes in the Championship during his career, but in terms of movement across the pitch he is below average for players in his position.

Teemu Pukki's stats

Against Birmingham City, Norwich scored three times, but it must be taken into account that their opponent has one of the worst defences in the league. And behind it is John Ruddy (36), who is well below average in all the important models that assess the quality of goalkeeping.

Norwich are one of the Championship's most counter-attacking units. In terms of the volume and quality of chances created, only Sheffield United are more active in this regard. However, the possible absence of Pukki and Sargent will also be reflected in this activity - in fact, out of 17 xG created by counter-attacks, these two are responsible for nine xG.

Moreover, Cardiff are doing well against similar teams. If we look at their ability to defend counterattacks, they are among the best according to mathematical models. And this is confirmed in reality, as only Millwall have received fewer goals from quick counters.

Norwich are also among the top in terms of offensive standard situations, but Cardiff have the potential to erase this strength of theirs as well - they allow the least dangerous chances in the Championship. So far in the competition they have conceded only five goals after corners or direct free-kicks, the second lowest number in the league.

Sevilla - Osasuna

In the 2021/2022 season, Sevilla went straight from fourth place to the group stage of the Champions League, but in the current season they are only three points above the relegation zone after 22 rounds.

This is mainly due to a porous defence that allows their opponents a high volume of shots from dangerous areas. The statistics of xG are quite telling in this case - only Almeria and Elche, a pair of teams fighting for survival, defend worse. The management has failed to replace stoppers Jules Kounde (24) and Diego Carlos (29), and if Yassine Bono (31) hadn't been in goal, it could have been even worse. The goalkeeping mainstay missed Thursday's Europa League match against PSV due to illness and it is not entirely certain whether he will start in this weekend's clash.

On the other hand, Osasuna is a good defensive outfit. Their average of 0.98 expected goals allowed per game is on par with Atletico Madrid. The reason why one team plays at the top of the table and the other in the middle of it is offensive. While Atleti are at 1.42 xG per game, Osasuna are creating 0.89, which is 37% less.

Osasuna are ninth for xGA in LaLiga

Against Sevilla, however, it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem for Osasuna as they will probably get chances against their poor defence. Going forward, they are not too far behind. The crisis of the Andalusian team is also reflected in the attack, which is currently around 1 xG per game, which is only a slight difference compared to Osasuna.

In their last league game, Sevilla played Rayo Vallecano and although they came away from the game with a 1-1 draw, they were not level on the statistical front. The opponent had a much higher territorial advantage and managed to create several dangerous chances. Sevilla, on the other hand, was invisible in attack and only got three shots from inside the sixteen. The final xG? Just 0.38.

Osasuna, like Vallecano, create chances mainly with crosses and long throw-ins, which Sevilla will have great difficulty with. This is also because Osasuna have the second highest success rate in the final third in winning rebounds, something Sevilla do not do well at all. Only Mallorca and Villarreal have more problems with second balls.

Osasuna should not miss any of their important players, while Sevilla's injury list is much higher. For example, stoppers Karim Rekik (28) and Loic Bade (22) missed the last game, which is another disruption to the shaky defensive line.

Bonus: PSV Eindhoven - Twente

One of the highlights of the 23rd round of the Eredivisie will be the duel between fourth-placed PSV Eindhoven and fifth-placed FC Twente, who can close the gap on their opponents with a win. Both are defensively very good and balanced teams. Both teams concede an average of one expected goal per game, which is joint third behind Ajax and Feyenoord, who are around 0.85 xGA.

PSV may stand out above their rivals in attack (2.19 xG per game vs 1.6), but the imaginary tongue in cheek might be the goalkeeping performance that makes Twente the best defensive team in the league.

German Lars Unnerstall (32) has already grabbed five goals above the expected figure, clearly the best result among the five leading teams in the competition. In contrast, PSV's Walter Benitez (30) is not doing well at all - if the average Eredivisie goalkeeper faced the same shots, he would concede four goals less than them.

PSV create a lot of chances from standard situations and at the same time they have a plethora of players who can finish from them, be it Armando Obispo (23), defensive midfielder Ibrahim Sangare (25) or striker Luuk de Jong (32).

They have already scored 11 goals, the most among all league teams. However, Twente are among the league's best at defending according to mathematical models, so it might not be such a significant advantage for PSV.

Counter-attacks are also a big weapon for PSV, but defending them is one of Twente's strengths - they have only conceded four goals from them so far, the fewest in the league. In comparison - PSV have conceded 11 with Ajax coming in at 10. Twente's solid defence could be the catalyst for a surprising result.


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