Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund : Statistical Averages and Assessing In-Match Performance

Alexander Hassenstein

Let's talk statistics ahead of tomorrow's game.

In looking forward to this weekend's UEFA Champions League final, many, including us, have looked mostly subjectively at the two teams in comparison to each other. Tactically...historically...culturally...spiritually(?). However, on the eve of play, let us take a moment to reflect statistically at these two sides.

If you happen to be reader of Sounder at Heart here at SBNation, you'd have seen that sidereal does a series every few weeks called the Crunchy Power Rankings (which if you have any interest in soccer statistics, you should read it, because it is good fun). In this series, he looks at every team in MLS and assesses them based on several statistics that correlate well with points per game over the course of an entire season and are designed to model the overall offensive and defensive efficacy of a team. So let's take a look at which statistics he uses and their correlation to points per game in the Bundesliga.

  • Net Duels Won (Duels are 50/50 balls, either aerial or on the ground) (R2 = .36)
  • Net Recoveries (R2 = .24)
  • Net Passing Percentage in the Offensive Third (R2 = .62)
  • Net Shots in the Box (R2 = .52)

One thing to note on the correlation coefficients is that FC Bayern is an outlier this season in terms of ppg and they show up as a ridiculous outlier in net recoveries compared to the rest of the league. If you remove their datapoint from this dataset, the correlation jumps from .24 to .33.

Now that we know the weight we should assign to this data let's take a look at both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund through this lens, and see if there are any lessons or guides we can take from it for viewing tomorrow's match. The data you are about to be presented is domestic, meaning it is only for their play domestically in the Bundesliga for both FC Bayer Munich and Borussia Dortmund and does not include play in the DFB Pokal, in the Champions League, or any other competitions. Each of the stats below are team averages per game.

Team

Net Duels Won

Net Off Pass %

Net Recoveries

Net Shots in Box

Bayern Munich

5.21

15.28

3

7.68

Borussia Dortmund

3.06

7.91

16.5

3.74

Bayern Munich ranks first in the Bundesliga in all categories, except net recoveries where it ranks 5th. Borussia Dortmund ranks 4th in net duels won, 3rd in Net Off Pass %, 1st in recoveries, and 2nd in net shots in the box. While this is all well and good to look at, we should look at the two league draws between these two German heavyweights to get an idea of how they have matched up against each other this year.

Team

Net Duels

Net Off Pass %

Net Recoveries

Net Shots in Box

Dec-12

Bayern Munich

29

1.811594203

1

-2

May-13

Bayern Munich

-1

-11.6520743

-17

-3

Note: Borussia Dortmund performance in these matches is directly inverse

So, what lessons does this teach us, and should we be looking for anything specific going into this Saturday?

  • Borussia Dortmund is weaker than Bayern in duels. In both games, their net duels won was lower than their league average, and significantly so in December against the Bayern first choice lineup. Winning a greater proportion of 50/50 balls will be a hallmark of Bayern exercising its will on the match.
  • Both teams are equally effective in the final third and Dortmund has outshot Bayern in the box both times this year, so look for Bayern to be leading in these types of shots as an indicator of them imposing themselves on the match overall. Either team bucking this trend should be a hallmark of their dominance either in the offensive and/or defensive third.
  • Bayern needs to be proactive in recovering loose or free balls. Denying Dortmund these balls is going to be key. Loose or free balls coming off of 50/50 plays tend to be in the midfield, and these are exactly the types of plays that allow teams to spring counterattacks. Bayern approaching even with Dortmund in recoveries should be a strong indication on their strength in denying this strong aspect of their opponents game.

Keep in mind, statistics are not gospel in soccer (not yet) where systems are highly complex, and are not immune from events like losing your marker on set pieces. However, in this case they can give us a rough idea of how each team is asserting itself in a match, especially in one as important as this where our eyes are befuddled by the shenanigans of Jurgen Klopp and Nicola Rizzoli, and our objectivity is clouded by passion.

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