Spurs' away form could be their undoing

February, 15, 2011

With the Champions League knockout round beginning today, let's determine each team's chances in the first leg. Using ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) -- a predictive algorithm designed to forecast future soccer events -- we calculated the offensive, defensive and overall rating of each team and used those to simulate each matchup 10,000 times. A team's SPI rating projects by how many goals a club is expected to defeat (or lose to) an average opponent from the top four leagues on a neutral field. Here's a look at today's pair of matches.

AC Milan vs. Tottenham Hotspur

This fixture features two evenly matched teams entering on similar hot streaks. With an overall SPI rating of .502, Milan is in the midst of a 10-match unbeaten streak. Tottenham, rated at .582 by SPI, has lost just twice in its past 19 matches dating back to November. However, with the match being played at the San Siro, SPI gives Milan a significant advantage.

Milan has been decent at home this season, taking 27 of a possible 39 points in 13 Serie A matches and going 1-1-1 in the Champions League group stage. Although these numbers are respectable, one of the main reasons Milan is such a heavy favorite according to SPI is the away form of Tottenham.

Spurs have taken only 23 points from 18 away matches in all competitions, compared to 41 points in their 19 home fixtures. Tottenham is 6-3-4 away from home in the Premier League this season, scoring 18 and conceding 18. In the Champions League, Tottenham's home-away splits are even more drastic. Spurs won all three of their home matches in the group stage, outscoring opponents by a 10-2 margin, but went 0-2-1 away from North London, conceding nine while scoring eight.

Valencia vs. Schalke 04

This fixture also features two similar squads. Valencia, with an SPI rating of .532, is 6-1-1 in 2011 and unbeaten in 12 consecutive home matches. Schalke is 3-1-2 this year and has lost just one of its past 10 away matches. But the German club has been mediocre in the Bundesliga, currently sitting 10th, and is thus rated significantly lower at .438.

This fixture seems destined to be decided by the battle between the Valencia offense and the Schalke defense. Valencia scored 15 goals in its six Champions League group stage matches, tied for the fourth-most in the competition. The third-place La Liga side has scored multiple goals in eight of its past 11 matches overall and in nine of its past 10 played at home. Schalke allowed just three goals in its six group stage matches, and has conceded more than one goal just once in its past 11 matches.

We'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the juicy Arsenal-Barcelona showdown, along with the Roma-Shakhtar Donetsk match.



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