Champions League Predictions: The 2022-23 Semi-Finals
Serie A is officially out of reach for the Milan clubs but Europe is not with the Italian neighbours comprising half of the UEFA Champions League semi-finalists. One will reach the final in Istanbul, but waiting for them will be either European darlings Real Madrid or Opta supercomputer darlings Manchester City. Here’s how we expect it to shake out among the UCL’s last four, which is without a Bundesliga or Ligue 1 club for a second straight season.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City
Opta Power Rankings: Real Madrid 4th, Manchester City 1st
First-leg win probability: Real Madrid 31.5%, draw 25.1%, Manchester City 43.4%
Chances of reaching the Champions League final: Real Madrid 29.9%, Manchester City 70.1%
Chances of winning the Champions League: Real Madrid 16.9%, Manchester City 48.6%
One more Real Madrid number: 99
Forgive us for going back to the Vinícius Júnior well, but it’s difficult not to after the weekend he had in the Copa del Rey final against Osasuna in which the Brazilian winger’s one-vs-one abilities were on full display en route to yet another trophy for Carlo Ancelotti. Vini Jr. has attempted 99 take-ons in the 2022-23 UCL, which is 23 more than runner-up Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of Napoli. That puts him in rare company since we started collecting take-ons.
Pep Guardiola is likely to deploy the fleet-footed Kyle Walker opposite the Brazilian, and while Walker has electric pace, he’s likely to be challenged time and time by Vinícius on the outside. The Englishman is 5/1 to be carded on the night with bet365.
Vinícius is going to be the first player since Neymar in 2016-17 for Barcelona to attempt 100 take-ons in a single Champions League season – a list dominated by La Liga’s giants – and with at least two matches left, it’s likely he’ll trail only Lionel Messi on the single-season list:
Man City’s entire squad haven’t attempted twice that (191). Sure, take-ons can be wasteful if taken on imprudently, and while a 42% success rate is no prime Messi rate, it’s also not going to drive Ancelotti to pull him aside and tell him to do less. More often than not, it doesn’t end with him. He leads the competition in assists (five) to go along with six goals. That goal involvement total trails only Erling Haaland (13). In a season in which 2021-22 Champions League force Karim Benzema has been comparatively limited, you’d have to go pretty far to overestimate Vinícius’ contributions. He is 13/5 to score anytime with bet365, but if you fancied combining that with him grabbing an assist too, that bet builder returns 12/1.
If Los Blancos are going to take down yet another Premier League team after already eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea from the competition in the first two knockout stages, it’s likely to happen with some activity coming up the left wing.
One more Manchester City number: 47.7
The supercomputer alleges to be impervious to love, and perhaps that’s true because putting sole remaining Premier League side Man City on over 70% to advance past European ever-presents Real Madrid might be best classified as lust. But there are plenty of numbers that will help make sense of that sky-blue optimism after City got past Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals and hung that 7-0 on RB Leipzig back in March.
47.7 could be seen as one such stat qualifying them as such heavy favourites. It’s the distance in metres Pep Guardiola’s side are starting their sequences from their own goal. That’s the most advanced in the competition and more than five metres beyond that of Real Madrid (42.2), the next closest of the remaining teams.
The gap between our UCL favourites and their remaining foes may be best measured by the number of UCL teams from this season’s competition between City anf the field in this metric: 16. That’s right, half of the competition’s eliminated teams had sequence start distances more advanced than three of the four remaining finalists. This appears to be a show of dominance for City, right?
Appears, sure. Only one club has managed to win the competition in the previous nine seasons with an average start distance from their own goal of under 43 metres. But that team was Real Madrid. And they did it all five times they’ve won the competition in that span. They’re 10/3 to repeat that feat once again.
AC Milan vs Inter Milan
Opta Power Rankings: AC Milan 13th, Inter Milan 8th
First-leg win probability: AC Milan 31.7%, draw 29.1% Inter Milan 39.2%
Chances of reaching the Champions League final: AC Milan 37.9%, Inter Milan 62.1%
Chances of winning the Champions League: AC Milan 11.5%, Inter Milan 22.9%
One more AC Milan number: 1
Someone has to be the on-paper worst team left in the competition. On our paper, those someones are Milan, someones who are unbeaten in their last nine matches with three of those coming against Scudetto winners Napoli. Such is the reality of the level of competition in Champions League football come May. Historically, though, Stefano Pioli’s side are hardly European underdogs and that’s particularly true on their own pitch at this stage. Milan have only lost one of their previous six home UCL semi-final matches at the San Siro (W4 D1). That 1-0 loss came against Barcelona in the 2005-06 first leg, and that goal was the only Milan have conceded in those six home semi-final matches to go along with five clean sheets.
History is one thing, season form is another. But for Milan, the two may be paddling in the same direction. The last goal they conceded at home in the competition was on 11 October in the 34th minute to Chelsea, and that came down a man after an 18th-minute red card. They’ve managed three consecutive clean sheets since (Napoli, Tottenham, RB Salzburg) and have allowed exactly one goal at home in the competition this season with 11 men on the pitch way back at the start of the group stage in September. Across all competitions, they’ve conceded two home goals in nine matches since the start of February.
One more Inter Milan number: 6
Inter Milan is where you want to go if you’re hunting for value on the outright market. That’s if you ask the Opta supercomputer, anyway. Our model has them at 22.9% of winning the whole thing, which makes them our second favourites. Yet they’re a meaty 13/2 to win outright with bet365 as third favourites.
Inter have scored at least two goals in five of their last six matches across all competitions with 18 goals (17 from open play plus one own goal) in that span – including five across their quarter-final tie with Benfica. That follows a dismal scoring stretch of two non-penalty goals in their previous eight matches, which included them surviving in the last 16 on a 1-0 aggregate against Porto after suffering their way through a goalless second leg.
May has been fruitful thus far with six of Simone Inzaghi’s players scoring in the past six days. That seems important because no Inter player has scored more than three goals (Nicolò Barella, Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko) in this season’s Champions League or amassed more than 2.48 expected goals (Dzeko). They’re in solid attacking form, and they’re in solid attacking form as a team, which is how they’ve gotten here rather than relying on one scorer.
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