Hack the weekend: Real Sociedad seeking points at Atletico to secure Champions League spot

Hack the weekend: Real Sociedad seeking points at Atletico to secure Champions League spot
In the autumn, Real Sociedad drew 1-1 with Atletico
In the autumn, Real Sociedad drew 1-1 with Atletico
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.

Atletico Madrid - Real Sociedad (Sunday)

Real Sociedad pulled off a couple of surprises in May under 51-year-old Spanish coach Imanol Alguacil. At the beginning of the month, they first beat Real Madrid at home and then took all three points from Barcelona at Camp Nou. Moreover, they were certainly no coincidences as, in both games, the team from San Sebastian created a significantly higher number of dangerous scoring opportunities and scored four goals in total.

Thanks to those two valuable triumphs, the team has extended its unbeaten streak to seven games and, according to mathematical models, has a 95% chance of qualifying directly for the Champions League group stage two rounds before the end of LaLiga.

Alguacil has already beaten Barcelona and Real but can he do the same this weekend against another confirmed participant in next year's most prestigious club competition?

The data suggests that he definitely can do just that. Although Atletico coach Diego Simeone is much more often credited in the media for his side's excellent defensive performances, his counterpart is doing similarly good things at the back this season.

While Atletico allow their opponents an average of 0.91 expected goals per game, Real Sociedad are even better at just 0.87. Real Madrid is just as effective defensively.

In short, this means that all of these teams allow their opponents a similar amount of dangerous goal-scoring opportunities, which is a great claim for a significantly economically weaker club.

Although Sociedad will face the league's third-best attack, data analysis shows that the team has great potential to blunt Atletico's biggest weapons. These are, in the current season, mainly quick transitions into attack (only Athletic Bilbao produces more breakaways per game) and set pieces, especially corner kicks.

However, Sociedad are the second-best team in the league, behind Mallorca, in terms of average xG allowed per corner, which is the most objective indicator of the quality of their defence of these set pieces.

None of La Real's usual mainstays should be missing this weekend, while Atletico's injury list is quite long. Morata, Depay, Lemar, and Llorente shouldn't be involved in the match, while Simeone can't count on Mandava, Savic or goalkeeper Oblak in the back line.

Valenciennes - Grenoble (Friday)

The fight for safety in the French second tier is still very intense. Niort and Nimes are assured of relegation with two rounds to go, and they will be joined very soon by two more teams, out of seven possible candidates.

One of them is Valenciennes, who are just one point ahead of the first relegation spot and will welcome eighth-placed Grenoble to their home ground. The latter is only playing for position in the league so it is possible that they will rotate the starting line-up. However, if they start with a strong squad, Valenciennes will have a difficult time despite their home advantage.

In terms of quality, Valenciennes is indeed one of the worst teams in Ligue 2 and the data indicates that their potential relegation would not be surprising.

Along with Annecy, they have the worst attack of the competition, generating an average of only 0.85 xG per game, and the second most porous defence behind already-relegated Niort. The team is not helped by the poor performances of the inexperienced Stefan Bajic, who is one of the league's worst goalkeepers.

Grenoble's recent form

Grenoble is only marginally more capable up front but has a much better defence and, above all, massive support between the posts. Brice Maubleu is often criticized for his shortcomings but he is the clear goalkeeper of the season in terms of saves. The data shows that if an average Ligue 2 goalkeeper had stood in his place, Grenoble would very likely be in the relegation zone right now.

U Craiova 1948 - Voluntari (Friday)

The championship and relegation teams may be decided in the Romanian top flight but there is still a team to be determined to win the remaining spot in the Europa Conference League preliminary round. From the championship group, that could still be either CFR Cluj or Universitatea Craiova, depending on who finishes in third place.

Romanian league's Championship group

The third-place team will then play for Conference League qualification against one of either Universitatea Craiova 1948 and Voluntari, who will face each other in the semi-finals of the Conference League playoffs as the top two teams in the relegation group.

Romanian league's relegation group

The bookmakers are backing U Craiova 1948 ahead of the match. However, both teams have been performing very similarly throughout the season and detailed analysis shows that Voluntari could be capable of a surprise result.

As a rule, Voluntari don't do well against opponents who create chances mainly via crosses but Craiova are the exact opposite of that. They like to play on the ground and often create shooting opportunities from back passes into the box or from short crosses.

At the same time, they are proving to have great difficulty defending crosses from the wings and from deep, which is precisely Voluntari's most-effective offensive weapon. Playing in the air is their great strength and this is also shown in corner statistics - they are the third most effective team of the current season from corners. Craiova, on the other hand, defend corners the worst in the league.

For all these reasons, the visitors could generate a number of dangerous opportunities in this match and an upset could be on the cards.

Keep an eye on all these fixtures and you might just be able to hack the weekend.


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