December 16, 2015

Which Champions League knock-out games should you watch? – Wednesday 16th December by @ETNAR_uk

Which Champions League knock-out games should you watch?

The Champions League draw for the round of 16 knock-outs was made on Monday 14th of December and some teams will be happier than others. About half of the draw could be called ‘clash of the titans’ ties, with PSG vs Chelsea, Roma vs Real Madrid, Arsenal vs Barcelona, and Juventus vs Bayern Munich.

Most people, though, won’t have much of a reason to watch any match over any other and, at the end of the day, what is sport for the average fan if not entertainment? This is where I step into largely uncharted and unwanted territory for ‘evil number wizards’. Contrary to the bogeyman tales kids are told before bed, football statisticians neither want to destroy nor quantify fun in the sport. However, I think there may be things that might help you choose which matches to tune into – at first, at least, until the other tie being played that night inevitably turns into a goal-fest in your viewing absence.

The ‘statistical attacks’ (as seen previously on Eastbridge here: are perhaps a way of pointing to which teams are involved in end-to-end games (when Premier League statistical attacks were calculated earlier in the season the table was topped by Leicester, with Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United in 19th). Shots may also indicate this too.

Here’s one off the bat: watch Arsenal vs Barcelona. Not only is it obviously an interesting game from a narrative point of view, but between them they created high numbers of statistical attacks, shots, and shots on target per game in their group stage matches. Of course, the 6 game group stages don’t provide a large sample, but they are what there is to go on. Barcelona featured the 3rd fewest statistical attacks per game in their group matches, with Arsenal dragging up the average with the highest, so it will also be interesting to see how these two match up.

On the first ‘Round of 16’ game-day there are, by the very rough ‘expected fun’ stats, two fairly mediocre games, so you’ll have to pick whether to watch PSG-Chelsea or Benfica-Zenit St Petersburg for other reasons.

On the next game-day I fortunately won’t be recommending that you tune in to Gent-Wolfsburg instead of Roma-Real Madrid. Both teams in the former tie have featured in games with low numbers of statistical attacks and shots while the latter match-up is more promising, if you like shots particularly. Roma were also involved in two fantastically fast-paced games against Bayer Leverkusen in their group, so they’re certainly not averse to action.

The third game-day is the one with the two heavyweight clashes, Arsenal-Barcelona and Juventus-Bayern Munich. The first has already been recommended but the second is unlikely to be a bore-fest either.

For the final pair of matches, PSV-Atletico Madrid and Dynamo Kyiv-Manchester City, my advice would be to avoid Kyiv. Their matches have featured the fewest statistical attacks of all 16, and also notably fewer than the other three teams in their group, suggesting that it was something about their particular style rather than the quality of those early matches. PSV-Atletico is another one that could just be pretty average though, so after three nights in two weeks of exciting football you might want to give yourself the evening off.

By @ETNAR_uk.

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