The modern Champions League has not been a hospitable competition for underdogs. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have won the last four trophies, and the closest thing to an upset winner in recent years was Chelsea in 2012. This season, though, might be different.Sure, Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid are all still in it. But no team left in the Champions League is historically dominant. Expected goals, a statistical measure of the quality of scoring chances a team creates and concedes, rates Barcelona as the top team in this year’s competition, but one with only a 28 percent change of winning the tournament.1All of the data in this article is current through April 10.This year’s Barcelona, however, does not make the top 10 list of expected goals difference for clubs since 2010-11. With fewer truly great teams in the mix, an upset winner is that much more likely. Here’s what to expect.Borussia Dortmund (60 percent chance of advancing) vs. Monaco (40 percent)With a position atop the Ligue 1 table, an impressive defeat of Manchester City in the round of 16, and an incredible 103 goals scored between Ligue 1 and the Champions League, Monaco might appear to have the resume of a quarterfinal favorite. However, Monaco’s numbers require some caution. Despite leading to 90 nonpenalty goals this season, the chances Monaco has created have been worth only about 58 expected goals (xG), according to the soccer stats-tracker Opta. Scoring 33 more goals than expected is unprecedented in the last few years. No other club has even beaten expected goals by 20 or more at this point in the season since 2010-11. While it is not terribly unusual for top teams to outperform their expected goals — top teams tend to have better finishers — Monaco is finishing chances better than any of Lionel Messi’s teams ever did.If Monaco’s goal scoring falls off, Dortmund should be well prepared to take advantage. Since returning from the winter break, Dortmund has been dominant, collecting 1.2 more xG per match than their opponents, compared with only a +0.7 margin before the break. With underlying numbers to match its goals difference and a recent spike in performance, Dortmund looks like the more likely semifinalist.In either case, this should be one of the most exciting matches of the round. Both Monaco and Dortmund depend on pace and quick-hitting attacks — both clubs lead their respective leagues in shot attempts following moves of two passes or fewer. While Thomas Tuchel may attempt to impose more control on the match than Pep Guardiola did against Monaco in the round of 16, the game is likely to be a fast-paced and attacking affair.Barcelona (65 percent) vs. Juventus (35 percent)This rematch of the 2015 Champions League final features the best attack-vs.-defense matchup of the round. This season Barcelona has created the second-most clear scoring chances (116), as defined by Opta, in the big five leagues, while Juventus has conceded the fewest clear scoring chances (20).Barcelona is well known for an attacking style that favors making the extra pass to create the highest-quality scoring chances, rather than trying to shoot the ball from far out. Juventus, under managers Max Allegri and Antonio Conte, has developed a defensive strategy that mirrors Barcelona’s attacking play. The Italian side focuses on defensive structure in order to prevent the same kinds of clear chances that Barca aims to create. A list of the best defensive seasons since 2010-11, judging teams by the number of quality chances they concede, shows Juventus dominating. And this year Juventus is preventing clear chances at its best rate ever, allowing only about one every other match.Barcelona was able to break through Juventus’ defense in the 2015 final just as Bayern Munich did during last year’s knockout stages. But in both of those cases, it took a top performance from one of the world’s best attacks to win the tie. Barcelona is rightly favored, but any slight drop-off in execution could see the Catalan side stymied by Juventus’ defense.Bayern Munich (71 percent) vs. Real Madrid (29 percent)ESPN’s Soccer Power Index rating gives a big boost to Bayern Munich based on the German side’s superior defensive numbers. Bayern has conceded just 23 goals in 36 matches between the Bundesliga and Champions League, while Real has conceded 43 in 38 matches. Some of this difference disappears when you look at expected goals, which drops Real’s total to 37. But it is not enough to erase it all.The two sides not only see different defensive outcomes, but they also play significantly different styles when out of possession. Carlo Ancelotti has his Bayern squad playing the high-pressing style preached by Pep Guardiola. When Bayern turns the ball over in midfield, it breaks up their opponents’ next possession within three passes about 55 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the Bundesliga. Real Madrid, by contrast, defends much more passively, breaking up opposition possession in only about 45 percent of cases, 12th in La Liga.It is not that Real Madrid has been particularly poor defensively, but its more passive defensive style seems like a major risk against Bayern. Under manager Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid has been an outlier among top clubs in not embracing the new, analytics-minded strategy of pressing on defense. It will be interesting to see if Real’s more old-fashioned defensive style can work. If Real fails to unsettle Bayern early in a possession, that would give time on the ball to central midfielders Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara. That outcome would be risky at best for Real. Thiago in particular is having a great season, leading the Bundesliga with 96 progressive passes and runs. (These are defined as passes which advance the ball through midfield over 10 yards beyond where the possession had reached, or runs which progress similarly while eliminating a defender on the dribble.) Real Madrid may need to adjust its pressing rate to protect the defense from Bayern’s passers if it means to make it to another Champions League final.Atletico Madrid (75 percent) vs. Leicester City (25 percent)Leicester City presents something of a conundrum to any projection system, having won five of six league matches since sacking manager Claudio Ranieri. The club’s performances under new manager Craig Shakespeare have not been quite as good as its unbeaten record suggests — despite outscoring opponents in the league and CL by a combined 17-8, Leicester’s expected goals difference is just 10.3-9.1. But Leicester has produced more expected goals than its opponents in five of its seven matches after running negative in expected goal difference under Ranieri. It is certainly possible that Leicester will continue performing at this higher level under Shakespeare.However, it is hard to identify any key changes Shakespeare made. Leicester City remains the highest-tempo team in the Premier League, with more possessions per match than anyone else. The Foxes still work best without the ball, managing the same 42 percent possession rate as under Ranieri. What seems to have changed is not Leicester’s style of play, but the effectiveness of it. This is the sort of change, not linked to any obvious tactical shift, that analysts tend to be skeptical of. It might just be form, in which case the large SPI advantage to Atletico Madrid may be correct.For Atletico, this persistent Leicester style may present a problem. Atleti prefers to concede possession and play off the ball, especially against top opponents. But while Atletico is unusual in the Champions League for its roughly 50 percent possession rate, Leicester at 42 percent is more extreme. Atletico will likely need to adjust its typical knockout strategy and make use of ball possession to get past Leicester, even if the Foxes’ current run of form may not be entirely sustainable.Check out our club soccer predictions.
As things stand, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this year. In the video above, Chris Herring looks at how the Lakers got to this point and what they would need to do to somehow keep James’s playoff streak alive.
SpiceJet had emailed its pilots early on Monday saying that its operations may be disrupted if it is unable to address the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) concerns regarding its ability to continue flying. ReutersThe airline regulator had given the cash-strapped airline time till Monday to release salary to all employees and produce a plan on detailing how its vendor dues of about ₹1,600 crore, is to be paid, said Livemint.SpiceJet’s senior vice-president and the head of operations, Sandeep Verma, said that the airline’s chief operating officer Sanjay Kapoor will meet with officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and that the outcome of the meeting would eventually determine the fate and the future of the Sun Group-owned airline.The airline scrip was trading at 13.90, down 0.80 (5.44%) at 11:52 am.
MS Dhoni, Hardik PandyaTwitterChennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI) will be battling it out for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 title and it looks like MI’s power-hitter Hardik Pandya seems to have challenged his idol and CSK captain MS Dhoni in the tournament’s final on Sunday (May 12).The day when CSK displayed their ominous form and beat Delhi Capitals in the second Qualifier, Pandya posted a tweet saying that he was all ready for the upcoming game for the IPL throne.Sharing a picture of him oozing with a badass personality, Hardik Pandya wrote on Twitter, “Ready for the battle royal” which sounded like a warning to MS Dhoni and his team to face him in the final.MI stunned a rampant Chennai Super Kings in the first Qualifier on Tuesday away from home. They won the match by six wickets and thus gained a direct entry into the final. Post the match, Pandya greeted Dhoni with a hand shake and even took to Twitter to heap praise on the captain cool and what he means to him in life. “My inspiration, my friend, my brother, my legend,” Pandya wrote on Twitter followed by a heart-shaped and helicopter emoji.Following Dhoni’s footsteps, Pandya seems to have mastered the signature helicopter shot and has executed in many innings hitting the ball out of the stadium. Pandya has been an influential figure this campaign for MI, who are looking to win a record fourth title. He has scored 393 runs, most of which came in the death overs that led MI to win the match or set a big total. He has also taken 14 wickets.Mumbai Indians were third on the league table going into their last group game of the season against Kolkata Knight Riders, who needed to win that match to qualify for the Eliminator. But MI ended up romping to a 9-wicket win. Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah and Pandya took a combined seven wickets as MI restricted KKR to 133. Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav then ensured that Mumbai chased the target down without much sweat.While CSK are known to be a team that dominates the group stage, MI are notoriously slow starters. Both sides stayed true to their reputation this season. While MI had a sputtering start to their season, before taking off, CSK remained top of the table for much of the group stages and were one of the first teams to confirm qualification to the playoffs.Unpredictability is a constant in the IPL, a fact that has been as apparent as ever this season with the numerous collapses and death over run bursts that we have seen in the group stage. There is no reason to believe that the final would be any different. But it will all boil down to the team which holds its nerves on the day of the big battle.Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhruv Shorey, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Rituraj Gaikwad, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, K M Asif, Deepak Chahar, N Jagadeesan, Scott Kuggeleijn.Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mayank Markande, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Anmolpreet Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Ankul Roy, Evin Lewis, Pankaj Jaiswal, Ben Cutting, Ishan Kishan, Aditya Tare, Rasikh Salam, Barinder Sran, Jayant Yadav, Beuran Hendricks and Lasith Malinga.(With IANS Inputs)
Two soldiers on a motorbike patrol along a street in Colombo on 25 April, 2019, following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. Photo: AFPAuthorities in Sri Lanka on Thursday lowered the death toll in a spate of Easter bombings by more than 100 to 253, admitting some of the badly mutilated bodies had been erroneously double-counted.The toll revision will boost the pressure on a government already under fire over its apparent failure to act on intelligence about the attacks, and follows the resignation of a top defence official.The top bureaucrat in the island nation’s defence ministry, Hemasiri Fernando, was the first official to step down in the wake of the attacks — the worst since a civil war ended more than a decade ago.”Many of the victims were badly mutilated… There was double counting,” the health ministry said in explaining the new death toll of 253, down from 359 announced on Wednesday.Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) personnel gesture outside a house during a raid — after a suicide blast had killed police searching the property — in the Orugodawatta area of the capital Colombo on 21 April, 2019, following a series of blasts in churches and hotels. Photo: AFPThe ministry said that once all autopsies were completed, and cross-referenced with DNA samples, the new lower toll was reached.The ministry did not offer a new breakdown of the tally in terms of locals and foreigners. Earlier, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry had said 40 of the victims were foreign nationals.Indian intelligence shared several specific warnings about plans for attacks with Sri Lankan authorities, an Indian source told AFP, but the information was not given to ministers, in what Colombo has called a “major” lapse.Authorities are now in a desperate hunt for suspects linked to the bloodshed. On Thursday, police released the names and photos of three men and three women they want to question.Tensions remained high, with the capital on alert over rumours of fresh bombs, but police said there had been no credible reports of explosive devices.Sri Lanka’s Catholic church nonetheless suspended all public services and closed churches “on the advice of security forces”.Private burials were still to be carried out.President Maithripala Sirisena met Thursday with political party leaders and announced he would revive a military-police body last used during the country’s fight against Tamil insurgents to coordinate operations after the bombings.In the past, the joint operations command was headed by a senior military figure and included members of the military as well as police and intelligence.- Visa-free plan halted -Security forces using special powers granted under a state of emergency have arrested 16 more suspects, bringing the total in custody to 74.The army, navy and air force poured more than 3,000 additional troops onto the streets to help police.Authorities have banned drone flights and the government suspended plans to implement visa-free travel for tourists from 39 countries — including European Union nations, Australia and the United States — for six months from May 1.Sri Lanka’s police chief warned on April 11 of possible suicide bombings against churches by local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), citing information from a foreign intelligence agency.India warned Sri Lanka several times of possible attacks, based on information from suspects arrested in India over links to the Islamic State group, a source close to the Indian investigation told AFP.But that information was not shared with top ministers in Sri Lanka, the government has conceded.”It was a major lapse in the sharing of information,” deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene said Wednesday.Sirisena, who is also defence and law and order minister, has pledged to make “major changes in the leadership of the security forces.Fernando was the first to go, telling Sirisena in a letter that he was “accepting responsibility and resigning,” a defence ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.Additional resignations were expected.Investigators are still piecing information together about the attacks and those involved, with officials revealing one attacker had studied in Britain and did post-graduate studies in Australia before returning to Sri Lanka.Wijewardene said most of the assailants were “well-educated and come from middle, upper-middle class families, so they are financially quite independent.”- FBI investigating -Experts say the bombings had many of the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.An FBI team on the ground is helping with the investigation.Among the suspects unaccounted for is NTJ leader Zahran Hashim, who appeared to be among eight people seen in a video released Tuesday by IS.Officials said it was still unclear whether Hashim was among the suicide attackers or had escaped.In all, nine people are believed to have blown themselves up on Sunday, either during attacks or when police attempted to arrest them.Among them were two Muslim brothers, sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader who is now in custody. The brothers blew themselves up at the Shangri-La and the Cinnamon Grand hotels.The Kingsbury hotel in the capital was also hit, along with three churches. A fourth attack on a hotel failed, authorities said. The would-be attacker was followed back to a Colombo guest house, where he blew himself up, killing two people.Two more people — a man and a woman — blew themselves up at another location as security forces launched a raid, killing three police, sources said.