Hack the Weekend: Mainz facing tricky challenge as Strasbourg and Montpellier clash

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Hack the Weekend: Mainz facing tricky challenge as Strasbourg and Montpellier clash
Mainz's new manager Bo Henriksen has a tricky task at hand
Mainz's new manager Bo Henriksen has a tricky task at hand
Profimedia, Flashscore
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, in cooperation with a team of analysts from Czech data company 11Hacks, brings 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.

Jablonec vs Hradec Kralove - Saturday 15:00 CET

Saturday's clash in the Czech top tier between 11th-placed Jablonec and 12th-placed Hradec Kralove will have a very spicy subtext, and not only because of the current position of both teams in the league table. On Wednesday, coach Vaclav Kotal left Hradec Kralove due to health reasons and was replaced by former Jablonec coach David Horejs. Although it is too soon to implement some of his tactical ideas in his new team, he definitely has a decent chance to surprise his former employers.

The FORTUNA:LIGA table according to expected points
Flashscore, 11Hacks

In terms of the analytical metric of expected points, Hradec are the sixth-best team in the league, which clearly shows how good a shape Kotal is handing the team over to his successor in. According to the same model, Jablonec should be in ninth place with about a three-point gap. Therefore, we can expect a rather close battle, which will most likely be decided in the air.

Horejs will try to take advantage of the well-executed crosses his side excel at. These are very variable in their style, as the players are able to send balls into dangerous areas both from the wings and from deeper on the pitch. Moreover, their skill is also evident in set pieces, of which they are the fourth-best league side in terms of expected goals (xG) created, while Jablonec are among the worst at defending them. The big threat will be mainly stopper Filip Cihak, but a number of other players can also finish in the air, which makes Hradec unpredictable from set pieces.

Mainz vs B. Monchengladbach - Saturday 15:30 CET

While in the previous Bundesliga season, Mainz were fighting for the European places, this time the team has gradually dropped down to 17th in the league table. The management's response to the dismal situation came in mid-February when coach Jan Siewert parted ways with the team and was replaced by Denmark's Bo Henriksen.

The former Midtjylland and, more recently, FC Zurich manager started his new job with a convincing win at home against Augsburg and then his side delivered an encouraging performance at home against leaders Bayer Leverkusen despite a 2-1 defeat. However, it will be very difficult to get back on the winning track against Monchengladbach this weekend. It is unlikely that the new coach will be able to fix all the problems that have plagued Mainz this season in such a short space of time.

This is especially true of their dysfunctional attack. According to the data models, the team creates very few shots from dangerous areas, which is also reflected in the total number of goals scored per game - an average of only 0.74. Only Cologne are worse in the Bundesliga. Before Henriksen's arrival, Mainz played a high defensive block (roughly on par with Leipzig and Stuttgart) and so far it seems that they should continue to practice the same approach. Not only is this the style of play that the Dane practised during his previous managerial stints but their two previous games suggest this as well.

However, this bold approach might not pay off this weekend. Gladbach rank fifth in all the most important metrics regarding counter-attack situations this season, i.e. the total number of breakaways per game, expected goals created and actual shots from such situations. They have scored 14 times from them, which is just one less than the number of goals Bayern Munich and Stuttgart have scored from counters. Mainz, on the other hand, have scored 10 times in these situations.

What's more, the absence of Anthony Caci will be a huge loss for the home side. The team's second-busiest player is one of the best defending full-backs in the Bundesliga, and since their opponents create the greatest volume of chances down his flank, he will be sorely missed. Not to mention the fact that he is also quite a key player in the midfield. All this suggests that Borussia will not leave Mainz empty-handed.

Montpellier vs Strasbourg - Sunday 15:00 CET

This is an extremely important match for both teams. Montpellier are just a point ahead of 16th-placed Lorient, while Strasbourg have just three more points to their name. However, it should be noted that both teams are in a difficult situation, mainly due to the very unfavourable draw of the last few weeks.

Montpellier have faced Lille, Rennes, Lyon and most recently Marseille in their previous five matches, and have only taken a single point from these games. The visitors are in a similar position, having played PSG, Lens and second-placed Brest in February.

According to the metric of expected points, which assesses the quality of chances created and conceded, both teams should be around 11th in the Ligue 1 table with identical margins. Therefore, these are two very similar teams in terms of performance.

However, Strasbourg's strong defence excels in games against counter-attacking teams, which includes Montpellier. At the same time, the visitors also have a very variable approach in the final third of the pitch and, according to the analysis of chance creation, they should generate dangerous passes around the opponent's penalty area on Sunday. This was the case in their first clash of the season, which ended in a 2-2 draw, but Strasbourg controlled the game and created significantly better chances.

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