FiveThirtyEight, a sports analytical site owned and operated by ESPN, released its UEFA Champions League probabilities for this upcoming season. Within this release were a couple of surprises, chief among them FC Bayern Munich currently having the second-best odds to win the Champions League.
According to the rankings as of September 1st, FiveThirtyEight currently have Manchester City as Champions League favorites with a ridiculous 26% probability to win the entire tournament (as well as an absurd 99% to make round of 16 and 80% to make the quarterfinals). Coming in a close second is the Rekordmeister as Bayern Munich has a solid 16% chance to win the tournament (as well as a 94% to make the round of 16 and 71% to make the quarterfinals, both second highest).
I know you may be asking, how did FiveThirtyEight come to these odds? Well, the answer to that is their Soccer Power Index, or SPI Rating for short. Basically, per FiveThirtyEight, the SPI Rating is the percentage of available points any said team (in this example, FC Bayern Munich) should earn based on their offensive output (goals scored) and defensive output (goals expected to be conceded) on a neutral field vs an average team (please note, FiveThirtyEight does not disclosure what exactly it deems an average team, so it’s up in the air exactly what it would be).
For all intents and purposes, FC Bayern currently has an SPI rating of 93.6. That rating means FiveThiryEight projects Bayern should earn 93.6% of the points available in the aforementioned scenario. In other words, if we applied the SPI rating projections over the duration of the Bundesliga Season (34 matches), their projections would have Bayern earning an incredible 94 points over the season.
This is basically the easiest way to explain a rather complex set of analytics from FiveThirtyEight that really means “bigger number = better team.”
For even more details about their ratings, I attached the link above (Soccer Power Index) that is FiveThirtyEight’s full detailed description of their SPI rating.
Now obviously the projections are anything but sure, but on FiveThirtyEight’s end, they did their research. Among other things, a teams adjusted goals, shot-based expected goals, and non-shot expected goals all go into a teams match rating which is what ultimately impacts a teams SPI rating. They also discovered when creating their SPI Rating that a teams market value is usually correlated to their success levels. Furthermore, FiveThiryEight has full access to ESPN’s soccer database, play-by-play data from Opta as well as Engsoccerdata’s GitHub Repository. So a truly remarkable amount of evidence and research went into creating this rating system.
At the end of the day, while this is a rather optimistic projection for FC Bayern, but it could also prove to be a realistic one as well. Bayern has been revamped and also has the quality to score a lot of goals. They remain rather potent in attack with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry, and now Philippe Coutinho in the mix.
Bayern Munich also has a young, but improving defense with Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, and Lucas Hernandez and the finally-back-to-form Manuel Neuer. I fully expect Bayern to learn from their mistakes from last year and make a deep run at the Champions League. It appears that I’m not the only one who believes that as well.