Whilst empty stadiums for Premier League games felt normal as the season came to a close, there was something a little different about seeing folded seats and listening to artificial crowd noise as Europe’s elite fought it out at the weekend. The atmosphere may have been non-existent, but the football on display was perfectly fitting of the Champions League. With everything on the line, it felt like football was back in a way we hadn’t yet seen since lockdown.
This edition of The Numbers will look a little different to those previously, with only four games to review from the weekend. That isn’t just because we’re writing about bigger names than Dominic Solanke and Michail Antonio, although it certainly helps. We will touch on a few of the notable performances from the latest fixtures, but it will be easy to see why we can’t really fit them all in to a starting XI.
Robert Lewandowski – total payout 107p; base payout 35p; 2 goals, 2 assists
Bayern’s Polish hitman is nothing short of incredible. In writing this section we stumbled upon some pretty interesting figures, but this isn’t the place to discuss them – keep your eyes peeled for a bonus blog in the near future.
Given the tie was as good as over, Lewandowski’s performance on Saturday evening was spectacular. Chelsea fielded a slightly weakened side, but Bayern were militant nonetheless, and Lewandowski was at the races right from the start. He won a penalty in the opening ten minutes and converted it himself, before assisting two more and scoring a second himself late on in the game. It’s telling that Hans-Dieter Flick played more or less a full-strength lineup; he wanted to send a message. Lewandowski delivered that message in style, and Bayern advance to the quarter finals as favourites over a Barcelona side that have some issues to address.
Cristiano Ronaldo – total payout 87p; base payout 35p; 2 goals
Although Juventus weren’t able to overturn Lyon’s lead going into the second leg, it’s fair to say Cristiano Ronaldo did his bit. He stuck away a penalty to level the scores in the first half, and scored a 30-yard belter with his “weaker” left foot to put Juve ahead on the night. Ronaldo was his usual self, recording a further five shots on target – some menial defensive work outweighed the offsides and misses he chalked up. He proved a lucrative short in the first leg, paying out just 33p. Despite his big payout in the second, there were opportunities for traders to profit from a short position again, as his price dropped by around 25% in the first half an hour of the game.
Lionel Messi – total payout 70p; base payout 33p; 1 goal
With hindsight, this was perhaps the most obvious trade of all time. Lionel Messi led his team out at the Nou Camp with the onus on him as much as it ever has been to drag his side through to the next round. This was encapsulated in what ended up being his only goal of the night, as he wrestled his way through the Napoli defence, at one point fully sitting on the floor with the ball at his feet, to place it neatly into the far corner. He won Barcelona a penalty later in the first half and had a goal chalked off for a handball that few were able to reconcile with on replays.
Barca were as good as through at half-time, 3-1 up on the night. Like Ronaldo but in reverse, Messi offered some opportunities for traders to take short positions, as his price peaked above 90p before half-time. While some speculated that he’d be brought off at the interval with the tie done, he played the full 90 minutes but netted only an additional 1p payout in the second half, settling at 70p.
Although the scoreline suggests Barca won with ease, other stats would hint at a different reality – particularly those in the second half. Napoli had 18 shots to Barca’s seven, with 13 of those coming in the second half. Attack momentum was also tilted heavily in Napoli’s favour. Barca’s backline performed well on the whole, with Lenglet (41), Pique (43) and Semedo (37) recording three of the top four base payouts from the round of fixtures. While Semedo had 14p from dribbles, the combination of Lenglet and Pique earned 52p from CBIs, with Lenglet also scoring the opening goal.
A Real contrast
Barca’s defence served them well in their second leg, but the same cannot be said for Real as they travelled to the Etihad to take on Manchester City. Already a goal down, having given up two away goals, and without mercurial leader Sergio Ramos, Madrid fielded an – in theory – solid pairing of Varane and Eder Militao. This was a chance for Varane to step up on the big stage and claim leadership of a defence where he has played second fiddle to Ramos for so long, but instead it was Militao that held his own. The Brazilian finished with a payout of 53p, and had a base payout of 38p, the third highest of the weekend. In comparison, Raphael Varane paid out just 26p, his base payout was just 11p thanks to errors leading to both of City’s goals.
The forwards that did turn up
While these fixtures were largely about the big three that we have already spoken of individually, there were plenty of other forwards that performed admirably for their teams. Gabriel Jesus is an obvious one; he created goals for both Raheem Sterling and himself through intense pressing. Although Sergio Aguero would’ve almost certainly started this game had he been fit, City ultimately took the win on the back of legwork that Aguero probably wouldn’t have done as well as Jesus did. The Brazilian forward finished with a payout of 58p, with a goal and an assist.
In the same fixture, Karim Benzema was the principal threat to City’s superiority. He got himself a goal, which his own link-up play helped to create, and he tested Ederson on a couple of other occasions. Finishing with a payout of 61p away at Manchester City is no mean feat, even for a number 9 of Benzema’s stature.
The forwards that didn’t
Three names spring to mind for this category. First is Tammy Abraham – the guy can’t catch a break. Despite nabbing a poacher’s goal, he had a thankless task and was ultimately subbed off with a payout of just 37p despite finding the net. His base payout of 6p reflects the fact that he was caught offside three times, however one of those was in the buildup to Callum Hudson-Odoi’s fantastic finish, denying Chelsea an earlier route back into the game. Perhaps he should’ve received more than a 1p penalty for that one.
In a similar boat to Abraham is Memphis Depay, who paid out a measly 30p, again despite converting Lyon’s early penalty. It’s no surprise that he couldn’t contribute much offensively, given Juve controlled large stretches of the game, and actually Depay may feel a little hard done by with his base payout of -4p. When a Miralem Pjanic free kick was struck at Depay in the wall, it hit him on his right arm, which was drawn right into his body. The referee deemed it handball, and awarded Juventus a penalty and Depay a yellow card. This controversial decision alone cost Depay 13p, for the penalty, the yellow card and the goal conceded.
Finally, we have Gonzalo Higuain. Higuain played the full 90 minutes and produced a base payout of just 3p. Once one of Europe’s greatest goalscorers, Higuain managed two shots on target, with his only other positive payout coming from the nine passes he racked up.