Predictions for 2019
What we love doing more than anything else us helping people prepare for risk and uncertainty, and so with that in mind we’ve made some predictions for the year ahead.
The closest title race in Europe is the Bundesliga’s
After a few years of slightly underwhelming title races in Europe’s biggest leagues, two underdog challengers have emerged at once: Liverpool in England, and Borussia Dortmund in Germany. Our World Super League model rates Liverpool at the same level as Man City this season – and teams with that kind of lead could expect to win the league 70% of the time. De Bruyne’s return from injury and Liverpool’s unfamiliarity with this situation could still tilt the odds towards City, but for now we make Liverpool favourites. Dortmund, however, are still not quite at the level of Bayern, and so despite having a bigger lead than Liverpool’s our league projections model sees the Bundesliga as a coin flip – or, to be precise, Bayern 51% favourites.
All eyes on Olsen
Our Player Model allows us to identify players all over the world who are on the rise. Outside Europe’s big 5 leagues – but capable of playing at that level – last year’s most improved under-21 player in our model was Nordsjaelland’s Andreas Skov Olsen, who has started the Danish Superliga season in stunning form. Not far behind is Derby County’s Mason Mount (albeit on loan from Chelsea), Dinamo Zagreb’s Daniel Olmo and CSKA Moscow’s Fedor Chalov. Moves or regular playing time in major leagues will surely follow soon for these players.
Potential for upsets in national competitions
2019 is a year of continental competitions. Our League of Nations model puts Brazil as strong favourites for the Copa América; despite only making the quarter finals of the World Cup, we still rate them as the world’s best national team, and home advantage only increases their chances of lifting the trophy. In the UEFA Nations League, home advantage also gives Portugal a potentially decisive edge. In the AFC Asian Cup, we make Iran favourites, though they are vulnerable to upsets with their defensive approach, and exactly the same can be said for Morocco in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Second-half comebacks are on for Monaco and Atalanta
Two of the unluckier teams in Europe’s major leagues are Atalanta and Monaco. We still rate the former as the fifth-best team in Italy, and estimate that they have won eight fewer points than their performances have deserved. While most see it as a three-horse race for Serie A’s final Champions League spot, our models still give Atalanta a 17% chance of playing among Europe’s elite next season. Monaco, meanwhile, are more than 10 points behind where they deserve to be, and while performances are in decline under Thierry Henry, survival is still by far their most likely outcome this season.
The development of Pulisic
Christian Pulisic will face stronger defences when he moves to the Premier League in the summer. Our Football Exchange rate model estimates that a player’s scoring and assist rate when moving from the Bundesliga to the Premier League falls by about 8%. However, this small negative impact is outweighed by the fact that 19-year-olds – as Pulisic was last season – can expect their goal contribution rate to nearly double by peak age, and increase by around 50% in the next two years. As such, we’d expect him to deliver around 0.5 goals and assists per 90 within 18 months at Stamford Bridge.
With good prediction skills being fundamental to good decision making, smart clubs are always looking to hone their approach to forecasting. Uncertainty makes football the great sport it is – but being able to appreciate or even quantify that uncertainty can be a major competitive edge.