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Serie A Returns: A Reminder Of The Current State Of Play

 

Serie A will resume with the four games that were lost from matchday 26. A lot has happened since a ball was last kicked in Italy, but Stats Perform has all the data you need for a quick refresher – as well as some predictions for how the final table may look.

By: Enrico Turcato

It’s back: The Italian Serie A is set to restart after over 100 days without football. The last image that we have seared into our memories is that of Francesco “Ciccio” Caputo, who, in the last match played before lockdown celebrated his first goal for Sassuolo by revealing a sign with the words ‘everything will be fine.’

As we now know, everything was not fine. But after a three-month hiatus, the league will resume with Torino vs. Parma, and the 20 teams in the Italian top-flight will play 124 matches in just 43 days. With so much to unpack, here’s a data-driven reminder of the key narratives from the Serie A 2019/20.

Three Teams Gunning For the Title

Juventus, Lazio and Inter Milan. One of these three clubs will be the next Italian champion.

Coming into the break, Lazio might have been the side in the best shape: Simone Inzaghi’s team are unbeaten in their last 21 league games (W17 D4), the longest unbeaten run in the club’s history. The Biancocelesti have scored at least two goals in 19 Serie A games, more than any other team.

With that said, one can never rule out the eight-time consecutive champions, Juventus. The Old Lady are masters at winning the crunch matches against sides around them. They’ve taken the most points (30) against teams currently in the first half of the table. At home, Maurizio Sarri’s side are unbeaten in their last 34 Serie A games (W29, D5), more than double the streak of any other team (Lazio second at 15). The fact the Bianconeri have trailed for only for 133 minutes this season – less than any other side – shows how difficult it is to get the upper hand on Juve.

In third position are Inter Milan, who slumped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Juventus before the break. The Nerazzurri have won nine of their 13 Serie A away games this season (D2 L2): only in the 2006/07 campaign did they win more away from home (11). Inter have been quick out of the blocks in matches this season. They’ve led for the most minutes in the league (1,024), and this has largely been to the firepower of attacking duo Romelu Lukaku (17 goals) and Lautaro Martinez (11 goals).

Magical Atalanta

The Lords of Lombardy are synonymous with one thing: firepower. Currently in fourth place and already qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals, Atalanta have been this season’s surprise package. Gian Piero Gasperini’s team have scored 70 league goals so far: only once in their history have they scored more goals in a single campaign (77 in 2018/19), and they have 13 games to eclipse this record. Three Atalanta players boast double figures in front of goal in 2019/20: Josip Iličić, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata. La Dea has only had two other seasons with as many players scoring 10+ goals (1949/50 and 1951/52).

One of the cornerstones of the unmistakable style of Gasperini and his Atalanta side is a relentless high press, allowing them to win the ball back high up the pitch. Indeed, Atalanta have completed the most high turnovers in the current Serie A campaign (138), defined as winning back possession within 40 metres of the opposition goal.

Illustrates the number of high turnovers won by teams in the Serie A 2019/20

With 48 points picked up in their first 25 matches, Atalanta have equalled their best-ever start to the top flight, matching their start in Gasperini’s first season in 2016/17.

Battle at the Bottom

At the bottom of the table, one team seems destined to be relegated. That’s poor Brescia, with their situation summed up by the enigmatic Mario Balotelli, now deemed surplus to requirements by President Cellino. Brescia have won only four games out of their first 26, scoring only 22 goals. They currently sit nine points from safety.

The outlook also looks gloomy for SPAL who are just two points better off than Brescia. Just before the break, the Ferraresi gave themselves a glimmer of hope with a win at Parma, but the future still looks bleak. Lecce, Genoa, Sampdoria and Torino are the last four teams flirting with relegation to Serie B. Torino in particular look shaky, having lost their last six Serie A games, conceding 19 goals in the process (including an unbelievable 0-7 defeat to Atalanta). New coach Moreno Longo will have the task of rejuvenating Andrea Belotti, Torino’s main striker, who has only scored twice in his last 11 outings. His form will be key in their quest for survival.

Predicted Finish

The Stats Perform AI team has provided a simulation to generate a predicted Serie A final table. The statistical model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team’s attacking and defensive quality. Those ratings are allocated based on four years of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for changes in form and personnel over time.

Based on this data, here are the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table:

Click to enlarge

Juventus led by only one point at the top when the season was brought to a temporary pause, and our model has them finishing five clear to clinch a ninth successive title, with the simulation giving them a 72% chance of claiming first place. Juventus’ 87 points would be their lowest tally since 2014/15 (also 87 points).

In the chasing pack, the model has Lazio edging Inter Milan for second, with the simulation giving them around a 15% better chance of finishing behind Juventus than Inter Milan (45.6% to 30.9%), due to their easier fixtures.

The race for fourth place and the final Champions League qualification sees Atalanta triumph. This would be the third time in their history that the Bergamaschi finish in the top four, all of which have come in their last four campaigns.

Unsurprisingly, Genoa, SPAL and Brescia are predicted to finish at the foot of the table. The model gives Brescia just a 1.8% chance to avoid the drop. The relegation of Genoa would be their first since 1994/95.

The Scoring Charts: Immobile Chases the Record

Ciro Immobile already has 27 goals to his name. Only Antonio Valentin Angelillo in 1959 had scored more after the first 26 Serie A matchdays. The Lazio striker is well-positioned to take on Gonzalo Higuain’s all-time record of 36 goals for Napoli in 2015/16.

Immobile has been an elite finisher this season. His 81 minutes-per-goal ratio is the best in his career and he’s fired a total of 101 shots, with a scoring conversion rate of 26%.

Behind Immobile, is football’s bionic man, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar has already equalled the goals tally he set in his first Serie A campaign (21 in 2018/19), in nine fewer appearances. Ronaldo has averaged 0.95 goals per game this season, compared to 0.68 last term. Romelu Lukaku (17 goals) and Cagliari star Joao Pedro (16 goals) are in the chasing pack, with Pedro’s tally already being his best in a single Italian top-flight campaign.

The Creators: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez

The Serie A magician against the Serie A serial dribbler: Luis Alberto vs. Alejandro Gómez. The Spanish midfielder has provided 12 assists so far, more than any other player in the league. He’s only two assists off his personal record (14 in 2017/18), which is also the Serie A assist record (shared with Marek Hamsik (2012/13) and Ronaldinho (2009/10).

Luis Alberto xA plot

Creatively, Gómez has been a remarkably consistent performer for Atalanta. He is the only player to have provided at least 10 assists in each of the last four seasons across the top five European leagues.

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Stats Perform provide pre- and post-match Opta facts for every Serie A game, as well as data-filled match day packs for the biggest fixtures. For more information on these products, or to find out more about Stats Perform’s AI simulation model, get in touch.