As Brendan Rodgers has now got Liverpool’s Premier League campaign a little more on track with victory over Southampton, attention now turns to the final match of this season’s Europa League group stage.
The Reds travel to Italy, knowing that a win is the only result that will guarantee their progress. A draw may be enough depending on whether or not Young Boys defeat Anzhi (and as the Russians have already qualified, you would suspect the Swiss team will triumph), whilst a loss will see Liverpool eliminated. What outcome do the stats suggest is most likely?
Euro Club Index give the Reds a 32% chance of victory compared to 41% for Udinese, so an away win might not be that surprising. That said, Liverpool’s away form in Europe does not inspire confidence.
As Kristian Walsh tweeted today:
Since LFC went to Santiago Bernabeu and won 1-0 in 2009, they have won just three European away games from 15 – not counting qualifiers.
Considering that most of those subsequent matches will have been in the Europa League (albeit perhaps whilst fielding understrength sides as a result) where the standard of opposition is lower, that doesn’t make for pretty reading.
The statistics from WhoScored don’t offer all that much hope for Liverpool either (whilst acknowledging they are drawn from a limited sample).
For instance, the Italians have averaged 8 shots on target per home game in the group stage so far (the 5th best tally of the 48 teams currently in the competition), whilst the ‘Pool have only managed eight shots on target in total from their two away games. One of which they scored five in, don’t forget!
Udinese also take a very healthy 11% of their shots from inside the 6 yard box, with just 36% coming from outside the penalty area. By contrast, just 4% of Liverpool’s shots have been from six-yards-or-closer, with 44% being fired from outside the area. These figures go a long way towards explaining whilst the Italians have more shots on target, as they are shooting from closer in on average.
The dangerman will clearly be Antonio Di Natale; he has had around a quarter of Udinese’s shots (17 out of 66), and with three goals is the only player in their ranks to have bagged more than one in the competition so far.
It’s not all negative for the Reds though; Udinese’s most creative players only average 1.6 key passes per game, and six of Liverpool’s squad have performed better previously, and that excludes Suso who is joint-top in the competition for accurate through balls per game.
The Merseysiders also have the best passing accuracy in the competition (88.8%), whilst the Italians are ranked a lowly 40th out of 48 sides, and Liverpool are ranked 5th for possession with Udinese in 36th. The Reds should therefore see a lot of the ball, and can hopefully control the game that way.
Liverpool look a fair bet defensively too. They are at present the only side in the Europa League who haven’t given away a single shot within their own six yard area, and have given away 26 shots away from home in total compared to Udinese’s 24 at home, so they can hopefully maintain that to keep the contest tight.
I think it’ll end in a 1-1 draw, and a likely exit for Liverpool. There is likely to be a variety of views on whether that’s a bad thing or not…