The Most Predictable and Unpredictable xG Based Results In European Football

By Andrew Puopolo

On Wednesday, I published an article that detailed the most unlikely scorelines in European football over the last 5 years, inspired by the unlikely 0-0 draw between Hoffenheim and Borussia Mönchengladbach. After reading some of the feedback on this article, I decided that it would make more sense to look at what most unlikely “results” were (as opposed to the most unlikely “scorelines”). The reasoning behind this was that it was obvious that high scoring matches would have unlikely scorelines (because there isn’t too much difference between scoring 5 versus 6 goals as both are incredibly unlikely). Instead, people seemed to be much more interested in matches where one team dominated and should have won, but the result went the other way.

In my unlikely scorelines article, I simulated each shot in each match 10,000 times, and then calculated the number of simulations where the home team scored the number of goals that they scored in the match, and the number of simulations where the away team scored the number of goals that they scored in the match. I then multiplied these 2 probabilities together to get the probability of that exact scoreline.

This time, I was looking for the probability of the final result (Home Win, Away Win, or Draw). To do this, I decided to implement a very similar methodology. I simulated each shot in every match 50,000 times and calculated the number of times that the home team scored more goals, the number of times the away team scored more goals and the number of times the home and away teams scored an equal number of goals. From that, I matched up the appropriate probability with the actual result from the match (home win, away win or draw). Below are the most “unlikely” results in the Big Six European Leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Russia), and then league by league breakdowns for the England, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Top 20 Most Unlikely:


Top 15 Premier League


Top 10 La Liga:

Top 10 Bundesliga:

Top 10 Serie A:

It is quite interesting to note that very few of these matches were matches that instantly stand out as memorable matches. Many of the top Premier League matches were battles between teams from outside the top 6, which didn’t match my expectation of seeing matches of big teams unluckily dropping points. Now, let’s take a look at some matches where the result was never in doubt, and the team that won should have won an overwhelming percentage of the time based on the xG of the shots that they took.

Top 20 Most Likely:

Top 15 Premier League

Overall, there were quite a few recognizable matches that came under the “most likely” results, and every single Premier League match came from a team that is currently in the top 6. Many of these matches were, as expected goals enthusiast Michael Caley would describe it, “a paddlin,” where the big team asserted their dominance at home over over lesser opposition.

If you have any feedback or questions about this article, please reach out to Andrew on Twitter @andrew_puopolo or by email at andrewpuopolo@college.harvard.edu

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