The Own Goal #001

The Own Goal is a regular short column celebrating the good, calling out the bad and giving unbiased in-depth insight into football from the local park to the World Cup.

Leading up to when it all kicks off in Lisbon (go here when it is sensible to travel again btw) an interesting note about each of the twelve teams in the Champions League. Today the four possible teams for the first quarter final.

Quarter finals (August 12 to 15th in Lisbon, single match no second legs.)

QF1: Man City or Real Madrid v Juventus or Lyon

Manchester City have an xG difference per 90 in the Premier League of +1.45 and, while the praise for Kevin De Bruyne (19 assists!) and Raheem Sterling (17 goals!) is deserved, a slightly under the radar factor is Gabriel Jesus. He might be a hot finishing streak away from being the centre of attention. Jesus is taking 4.62 shots per 90 in the league and they’re from great spots, with an average non penalty xG per shot of 0.16. In addition he makes the most pressures per 90 for City in the league; 19.1 In the Champions League he has 1.21 xG + xA per 90. One to keep an eye on in their second leg against Real Madrid.

Who’s making the most chances for Real Madrid in La Liga? Karim Benzema. The Frenchman is an excellent facilitator and has an xA of 0.25 per 90 minutes but this does point to the lack of tactical combination play in Zidane’s set up and the underwhelming seasons some of the other attackers have had. For a variety of reasons none of Eden Hazard, Isco, Vinicius, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio have started more than fourteen league games and therefore its fair to say they haven’t had a chance to build up form. Could their visit to the Etihad be the ideal time to share some of the burden with Benzema?

Juventus are top of Serie A by six points but they have conceded an average of a goal a game, have scored only the third most goals and have only the third highest xG difference per 90 in the division. Cristiano Ronaldo was brought in to try and win the Champions League for the first time since 1995/96 and, if they can overturn things against Lyon, they will be in Portugal for the quarter final; scene of La Decima and of course the country of his birth. Ronaldo is still taking an extraordinary number of shots per match despite now being in his mid thirties; 5.69 per 90 minutes. However, they have an average xG of just 0.08 – compare that to Gabriel Jesus’ cutback tap ins at City! Can Ronaldo’s relentless will to win get him a sixth Champions League trophy or are he and Sarriball incompatible?

Lyon finished this season in seventh position, outside Ligue 1’s European places, but they did actually have the second best xG difference per 90. That xG difference wasn’t too impressive however, clocking in at +0.38. They had the second most possession in Ligue 1 and made the second most passes but only took the fifth most shots. Losing Memphis Depay to a serious injury hasn’t helped but Moussa Dembélé requires a little further examination. Twelve non penalty goals in the curtailed French season seems a reasonable return but this was from an xG of only 7.3. Unless he can start generating more than his current 2.10 shots per 90 he may struggle to consistently score much more than that in a full league season. In saying that a first Champions League goal this season would be an incredible way to draw a Turin shroud over Cristiano Ronaldo’s European dream.

Hear the Pure Fitbaw thoughts about every team in depth on our podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1qa8BzdYoaNnfBIbbwqfte?si=hcE5-5WoRZyHXdppvx3m3g and check back here for the remaining eight teams.

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