Previewing the Champions League semis

Posted by Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information

With the Champions League semifinals beginning Tuesday, here is a statistical look at both matches this week, complete with Soccer Power Index projections:

Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona (Tuesday)
This matchup features the highest-scoring team and the team that has allowed the fewest goals in the five major European leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France). Barcelona averages 3.09 goals per game in league play, while Bayern Munich has conceded 14 goals in 30 league matches (0.47 per game). The next fewest goals allowed is 0.61 per match by PSG and Juventus.

According to SPI, Bayern Munich is the favorite to advance to the final, moving on 60.4 percent of the time. That margin might be surprising, since Barcelona has a lofty reputation and a slightly better offensive rating in SPI. But Bayern has a significantly better defensive rating, which is more valued in the SPI projections.

Barcelona is well known for its passing ability, leading the top five European leagues in total passing accuracy at 87.9 percent. Barcelona is also tied for the best passing accuracy on passes into the attacking penalty area, completing 42.2 percent.

In league play this season, Bayern Munich opponents are completing only 25.1 percent of passes into the penalty area, the lowest success rate in the Bundesliga and second-lowest in the top five leagues. Every other Bundesliga team allows opponents to complete at least 29.7 percent of such passes.

Barcelona has scored 16 goals from 20-plus yards in league play this season, more than any other team in the top five leagues. Bayern Munich has conceded just two goals from 20-plus yards in league play, but three in UCL play, all in the group stage.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid (Wednesday)
Borussia Dortmund got the better of Real Madrid in their two group stage matches, winning 2-1 at home and drawing 2-2 at the Bernabeu. Despite the results of the previous matchups, Real Madrid is favored to advance to the final, moving on 63.4 percent of the time according to SPI.

In the two group stage matches, Dortmund had 23 shots, putting 10 on target (43.5 percent). All other Madrid opponents in UCL and La Liga play this season have put an average of 31.1 percent of their shots on target.

Madrid was undone by its inaccuracy, putting just six of 36 shots on target (16.7 percent) over the two matches, including three of 15 (20.0 percent) from inside the penalty area. In La Liga and UCL play this season, Madrid has put 40.0 percent of its shots on target, and 46.6 percent from inside the penalty area.

Borussia Dortmund has the best crossing percentage in Europe at 32.2 percent. Only one other team has completed 30 percent of its crosses in league play (Bayern Munich - 30.7 percent). Dortmund is even better on crosses into the attacking penalty area, completing 33.0 percent, also best in the top five leagues.

This style of play may not work against Real Madrid, which has allowed opponents to complete just 17.7 percent of crosses in league play, lowest in La Liga and third-lowest in Europe.

Title odds
With its strong defensive numbers, Bayern Munich is SPI's overall title favorite at 41.5 percent. Real Madrid (26.9 percent) and Barcelona (21.8 percent) are next, with Borussia Dortmund the fourth choice at 9.8 percent.

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