Hack the weekend: Girona tipped to end Sevilla's streak, Sunderland pushing for playoffs

Hack the weekend: Girona tipped to end Sevilla's streak, Sunderland pushing for playoffs
Girona beat Sevilla 2-1 in their previous meeting this season
Girona beat Sevilla 2-1 in their previous meeting this season
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, 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.

Sevilla - Girona (Monday)

Not so long ago, Sevilla was in a serious crisis, which was not the result of chance but of very poor defensive and offensive performances. Back in the second half of March, according to the expected points metric (xPoints), the team was sitting down in 15th place in the LaLiga table, only two points above the relegation places.

It was at that time that the club's management dismissed head coach Jorge Sampaoli, who was replaced by Jose Luis Mendilibar, formerly of Deportivo Alaves and before that Eibar.

Under his watch, Sevilla have played seven games, none of which they have lost. As a result, they have moved up to 11th place in the standings and even knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League quarter-finals.

On Monday, the reborn Andalusian side will take on tenth-placed Girona at home and fans will be expecting more success. In reality, however, it will not be an easy match at all as Sevilla's results do not tell the whole story.

The underlying data shows that out of the seven matches mentioned, Sevilla have only significantly dominated in the second leg against United. Otherwise, all their encounters have generally been evenly matched while the home win against Villareal in the previous round was statistically undeserved.

Goals conceded and expected goals against in LaLiga
11Hacks / Flashscore

Although the match ended 2-1, Villarreal had a significant territorial advantage, which they confirmed with more dangerous shooting opportunities while the expected goals score finished: 0.7-2.3.

One of Sevilla's heroes was goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic, who has only played 716 minutes so far this season but has already conceded four fewer goals than the average LaLiga goalkeeper would have from the same shots, according to mathematical models.

However, Girona's Paulo Gazzaniga is also among the top players in this position, and this advantage is further enhanced by the fact that the visiting team has a visibly better defence in terms of the quality of shots allowed.

While Sevilla record an average of 1.44 xGa per game, Girona are at just 1.12 xGa. Sevilla don't have the upper hand in attack either, as both teams generate around 1.1 xG per match going forward.

Girona's big weapon, besides a decent defence, will be their counterattacks. They create an above-average amount of chances from them, while Sevilla are the second-worst team in the league in terms of the number of chances allowed from such situations. Moreover, they have already conceded 19 goals from counters, by far the most in the league.

Thus, even though Sevilla have been on a hot streak, Girona could well upset them on Monday.

Sunderland - Watford (Saturday)

The English Championship has just two rounds to go. Burnley and Sheffield United have secured their promotion to the Premier League, while Luton and Middlesbrough have secured their places in the play-offs. The remaining two places are yet to be decided.

The table is extremely tight as fifth-placed Coventry and 12th-placed Swansea are currently separated by just four points.

One of the candidates for promotion is Sunderland, who now sit in sixth place. However, 13th-placed Watford will visit them on Saturday in a match that is extremely difficult to predict.

According to expected points - the points tally determined by the quality of chances created and allowed - the two teams' positions should in fact be reversed. Watford should be in sixth place on 68 points, while Sunderland should be in 11th place on 63 points. This further illustrates just how competitive the league is.

Points and expected points in the Championship
11Hacks / Flashscore

While Sunderland tend to play mainly combination football and generate passes on the ground inside or near the opposition penalty area, Watford concentrate mainly on crosses into the final third as an attacking approach.

Sunderland are having a lot of trouble defending crosses and, according to an analysis, these are the situations from which they have allowed opponents their biggest chances.

The fact that they are also the worst team at collecting rebound balls is also an issue so there is a decent chance that Watford will thus exploit them on dangerous breaks. The Hornets are creating the fifth-best number of chances from counterattacks in the competition so that's something to look out for.

Can Sunderland step up and progress to the playoffs or will they be leapfrogged in one of European football's hottest contests?

Slovan Bratislava - Trnava (Friday)

Fans of Slovak football have the fortune of following an extremely tight race for the title. DAC Dunajska Streda currently lead the Fortuna Liga by a single point over Slovan Bratislava and on May 7th they will play another match in the championship group.

The current round is still to be played before that happens, however. While DAC will face sixth-placed Podbrezova, Slovan will face a very difficult home game against Trnava on Friday.

In terms of the quality of chances created and allowed, both teams are very similar in the current season to date. They both create 1.5 expected goals per game and allow around 0.9. Slovan will have the home advantage but Trnava will come to the capital as a team that excels in set pieces.

They have created the highest volume of dangerous situations and scored the highest number of goals from set pieces this season in the league. To compare, Slovan has scored four times from corner kicks, while Trnava has scored 12 times.

Slovan is the sixth-best team in the league at defending set pieces so Trnava will definitely be a threat in this way. The hosts need to win desperately, which will only open up space for the visitors to engage in quick counterattacks, from which they are also the most dangerous team in the league with 13 goals.

Watch out because this match could hold a surprise result as well.

Follow all three matches closely on Flashscore and you might just hack the weekend.


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