Hack the Weekend: One of the strongest defences in Europe travels to Lyon


Hack the Weekend: One of the strongest defences in Europe travels to Lyon

Lyon will face a tough test against Brest
Lyon will face a tough test against Brest Profimedia, Flashscore
Who will win? Well, that's 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 than by raw data. The right answer to this question can be hugely 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 unexpected results might occur in the world of football to help you ultimately hack the weekend.

Bochum vs Heidenheim, Saturday - 15:30 CET

While the title race is all but decided in the Bundesliga, the battle to stay in the league is heating up. Just like last season, Bochum, currently just three points away from the relegation zone, have not escaped it. Moreover, there is a very heated atmosphere inside the club, as evidenced by the fact that the management decided to dismiss coach Thomas Letsch just six rounds before the end of the season. Moreover, he won't be replaced by a big-name manager, as one might expect in such a situation, but by the current coach of the U19 side, Heiko Butscher.

In contrast, the mood in the Heidenheim camp is excellent. A ten-point lead over sixteenth-placed Mainz is very likely to be enough to save the day, and the fans have also been able to enjoy a couple of unexpected results in a short space of time. First, the league newcomers brought home a valuable point from third-placed Stuttgart and then inflicted a shocking but well-deserved defeat on home soil to Bayern Munich.

It's quite possible that they can build on that excellent performance against an opponent that should suit their style of play. Despite their position in the table, Bochum have one of the highest defensive blocks in the league and often struggle to stop their opponents' counter-attacks. This is evidenced not only by the high number of expected goals scored against them from these situations but also by the third-highest number of actual ones.

While Heidenheim usually find it very difficult to assert themselves with continuous pressure, there is currently no team in the Bundesliga that counter-attacks more effectively. They have scored 56% of their goals (excluding penalties) from them, an even 20. That's one more goal than titans Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig have scored thanks to counters.

Another area that coach Frank Schmidt has been implementing at Heidenheim for almost 17 years is the aerial game. This is not only evident in perfectly managed set-piece situations but also from open play in the final third, and that doesn't suit their weekend opponents at all.

Bochum dipped into their own resources when choosing a new coach and therefore will probably not change their basic game principles for the rest of the season. For this reason, they will find it very difficult to get points this weekend.

Lecce vs Empoli, Saturday - 15:00 CET

It's very tight at the tail-end of the table in Serie A, where the teams in 13th and 19th place are separated by just five points.

This match will also see a battle between two fairly new managers in coaching positions; while Empoli welcomed Davide Nicola in mid-January, Luca Gotti only took up his new role less than a month ago, so a passable sample of data exists only in the case of the former.

Such data shows that the first thing to improve was the defensive performance of Empoli. While in the pre-Nicola era, the team was allowing 1.33 expected goals per game, in the last 11 games it's only 1.13, the 10th best in the entire league in the period under review. That's very bad news for a dysfunctional Lecce attack.

This calendar year, they're only creating chances at 0.97 xG per game, and the high number of chances wasted is also a big problem for them. According to the data models, the team should have scored about 13 goals, but have only hit the back of the net seven times. Given the small sample size, it is very likely that the poor productivity is largely due to simply bad luck in finishing, but it is still an alarming record.

What is a guaranteed problem for Lecce is the absence of out-of-sorts striker Nikola Krstovic. Although he too has contributed greatly to the missed chances, he is still the team's top scorer and a player who can cause big problems for the opposition in the final third with his movement, but is suspended for this clash.

Although the bookmakers favour the home team, the current form book is more in Empoli's favour.

Lyon vs Brest, Sunday - 20:45 CET

Although the wild 4-3 win over Metz a week ago does not suggest it at first sight, Brest currently boast one of the best defences in the top five leagues in the world. As of December, they have conceded only eight goals in 15 matches and allow their opponents less than one expected goal per game.

30-year-old Frenchman Pierre Lees-Melou is having the season of his life, not only defending fantastically but also standing out with his ball progression in the middle of the park and his ability to resist the opposition's press. Centre-backs Brendan Chardonnet and Lilian Brassier are also doing well, right-back Kenny Lala is an impenetrable wall and we must not forget Marco Bizot, who is one of the best goalkeepers in Ligue 1 according to the data models.

Although Lyon will take on this perfectly blended defensive cocktail with a very good attack, the truth is that both teams should have scored the same number of points in the last 15 matches according to the models and the upcoming duel has no clear favourite.


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