Real Madrid deserve more, Liverpool less: so say CIES boffins

An analysis of 31 leagues across Europe by CIES has considered how teams have performed in reality against what their model predicts.


Football may be a game full of emotion but the statistics behind it are gaining more prominence every day. The evidence may not be immediately clear to the naked eye, although once the blinkers are taken off we can sometimes get a better understanding of how things have played out. This is certainly what those at CIES, the Football Observatory, spend their time on.

Madrid top, but underperforming

The analysis undertaken by the group continues to delve deeper into different aspects of the game, and their latest study aims to demonstrate which team is most effective across 31 European leagues. The study considers the points achieved by the teams compared to their statistical model of expected points based on ball possession, as well as the number and distance of both shots taken and conceded as per InStat data.

Based on the analysis, Romanian side Astra Giurgiu takes top spot, not surprising given they are running at almost a point more than expected per game, and they are followed by Sivasspor, Benfica, Ferencvaros and Liverpool, the Reds coming in as top of those in the recognised big five leagues.

In Spain, the most efficient club in this manner is Valencia, a team that is collecting half a point more than expected for their performance on the pitch. Atlético, despite their problems in front of goal, are second with 0.10 and Barcelona are also in the positive (0.09). Real Madrid, despite being top of LaLiga after 21 games, are actually picking up 0.16 less points per game than the model estimates they should have. The suggestion from the model is that if the teams were to move closer to their predicted returns, Los Blancos would pull away from the rest.

Out-pointing the model

Liverpool are having an extraordinary season in the Premier League and would normally be happy pulling in what the model suggests they should be, 2.25 points per game. That said, the European champions are touching on perfection achieving an average of 2.91 ppg. Of the bigger leagues, only Benfica (2.82; 51 pts; 17 wins and one loss) and Juventus (2.55; 51 pts; 16 wins, three draws and two losses) are anywhere close. Manchester City are the most underperforming side in the Premier League.

For the greatest negative gap across Europe you have to look to Scotland, where relegation-threatened Heart of Midlothian have picked up just 0.62 points per game instead of the 1.39 expected by the model.