Hack the Weekend: Villarreal struggling in defence, Rio Ave rising & a Rotterdam derby

Hack the Weekend: Villarreal struggling in defence, Rio Ave rising & a Rotterdam derby
The pillar of Villarreal's defence, Raul Albiol, is struggling with a hand injury
The pillar of Villarreal's defence, Raul Albiol, is struggling with a hand injury
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, 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.

Villarreal vs Getafe - Friday, 21:00 CET

In Friday's encounter in the 25th round of LaLiga, the bookmakers are favouring the home side Villarreal but they will not face an easy match against visitors Getafe. The yellow submarine, even after the arrival of new coach Marcelino in November, haven't won many games and that is mainly down due to their poorly functioning defence.

Under the new management, the team is allowing an average of 1.48 expected goals (xG) per game, which is the fourth-worst result among all teams in the league. Only Almeria, Las Palmas and the offensive-minded Girona have allowed more dangerous chances for their opponents this season. If it wasn't for a very good goalkeeping by Filip Jorgensen, Villarreal could be dangerously close to the relegation places.

The quality of LaLiga defences since November 24th last year
11Hacks, Flashscore

They also have to deal with a few unpleasant absences at the moment. The protracted health problems of stopper Eric Bailly are a concern and there are also question marks over Juan Foyth, who is one of the best defenders in the current season. The veteran Dani Parejo will certainly be missing. He not only excels in the centre of the pitch with his defensive skills but is also very important in the midfield.

Getafe, on the other hand, should travel to the match at full strength. Analysing the same period starting back in November, the visitors' defence is average in the league and, as in the case of Villarreal, is backed up by the decent performances of their goalkeeper David Soria, who according to mathematical models is roughly on par with his counterpart Sorensen in the quality of his saves.

Where Villarreal will have the upper hand is in attack. While Getafe are again rather average, Villarreal have been very active in the final third over the last three months, creating a high volume of shots from dangerous areas. Only Barcelona and the two Madrid giants have managed to better them in terms of overall xG. Gerard Moreno and Alexander Sorloth are having a great time and will once again be a big threat. However, due to the host's defensive shortcomings, at least a draw is a very likely result.

Famalicao vs Rio Ave - Friday,  21:15 CET

Rio Ave are teetering on the edge of the relegation zone in the current Liga Portugal season. This is despite the fact that they haven't lost in four and snatched a valuable point at the ground of third-placed FC Porto. What's more, according to the data metric of expected points, which takes into account performances at both ends of the pitch, they should be in eighth place in the league table. And that's with a six-point lead over Famalicao.

While defensively the two teams are very similar, the away team visibly stands out upfront. Famalicao is even roughly on par with last-place Chaves in terms of the quality of chances created. In addition, Rio Ave can count on the return of Emmanuel Boateng, one of their key offensive players. The Ghanaian striker excels with his excellent movement inside the box and when he does get a shot off, it is usually a very dangerous attempt from a central area.

Boateng is one of the leaders in the expected goals metric, in which he is currently performing better than the much-vaunted Viktor Gyokeres of Sporting Lisbon or Evanilson of Porto. Boateng's teammates very often try to find him with passes along the ground close to the box or from the cutback areas and are very effective at this. Famalicao, moreover, have obvious problems in defending these situations.

The home side will want to make the most of their excellent aerial play. They are the best team in the league in terms of offensive headers. While crosses from the flanks will be very difficult for Rio Ave to defend, their defensive players are also very good at defending balls from deep and set pieces.

Sparta Rotterdam vs Excelsior Rotterdam - Saturday, 18:45 CET

There will be no shortage of motivation in this match between two teams that are not exactly in dazzling form in the Eredivisie. While Sparta are attacking the European places, Excelsior are dangerously close to the relegation zone, just one place above it. However, according to the metric of expected points, the visitors should be eighth, roughly a point ahead of their weekend opponents.

Excelsior will go into the derby with a clear tactic. They have the deepest defensive unit in the league, which relies heavily on quick breaks, as the data clearly shows. They average four per game, the fourth-highest in the league, and produce the third-most dangerous shots, just behind PSV and Feyenoord. After winning the ball, they try to transition as quickly as possible and threaten the opponent's goal. Sparta have already allowed more than 11 expected goals from such situations, only three other teams have a worse record.

Thus, rather than intricate creative solutions, Excelsior are more likely to attack down the flanks as quickly as possible and send crosses or passes into the area. Sparta have issues dealing with these as the sides' first encounter of the season already proved. Excelsior clearly dominated that match, both in terms of game control and chances created.


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