PREVIEW: Serie A Matchday 15

FOOTBALL – The following are some key facts and figures on a selected assortment of matches in the Serie A this weekend. The matches we have looked into are Catania – AC Milan, Juventus – Torino and Internazionale – Palermo.

Catania – AC Milan (Friday 30 November, 20:45 CET)

> Catania’s last home win against the Rossoneri in the Italian top flight was recorded in May 1963, when they beat AC Milan 1-0. The only goal was scored by Bruno Petroni, on loan from rivals Internazionale. The match was played only three days before AC Milan beat Benfica 2-1 in the Champions Cup final at Wembley. Goals: José Altafini (2) and Eusebio. Captain Cesare Maldini lifted the trophy as Nereo ‘Paròn’ Rocco’s team became the first Italian side to be crowned champions of Europe.

Current head coach Rolando Maran (July 14, 1963) had not even been born when Catania last recorded a home win over Milan.

 Midfielder Urby Emanuelson is on 49 Serie A matches for AC Milan. Of all (former) Dutch players only compatriots Clarence Seedorf, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit have played more Italian top flight matches for Milan.

Juventus – Torino (Saturday 01 December, 20:45 CET)

This will be the 139th derby della Mole in Serie A history and the first since March 2009.

> Juventus have not scored a single goal in their last two Serie A matches and have not won their last two Serie A home matches.

> Juventus are unbeaten in their last 12 matches (home and away) against Torino (Serie A), winning eight and drawing four. The last Torino win in the derby was recorded in April 1995, when they won 2-1 at Juve. Ruggiero Rizzitelli scored both Torino goals. Paulo Sousa (Juve) and Sean Sogliano (Torino) were both sent off.

Internazionale – Palermo (Sunday 02 December, 15:00 CET)

>  Palermo are Inter’s favourite opponent in Serie A home matches with no win in 25 visits to Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Verona are ranked second with no victory in 24 matches at Inter (10 draws).

> Inter have not won their last three Serie A matches (1 draw, 2 losses). They started this season with nine wins in 11 matches.

> In the last four editions of this fixture a total of 25 goals were scored. Last season this match ended in a 4-4 draw. Diego Milito (4) and Fabrizio Miccoli both scored a hat-trick. Andrea Mantovani scored the opening goal.

PREVIEW: La Liga Matchday 14

FOOTBALL – The following are some key facts and figures on a selected assortment of matches in the La Liga this weekend. The matches we have looked into are FC Barcelona – Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid – Atletico Madrid.

FC Barcelona – Athletic Bilbao (Saturday 01 December, 20:00 CET)

Bilbao’s last away win at Barcelona came on 24 November 2001 (1-2). Carles Puyol and Xavi played for Barcelona in this match.

FC Barcelona can set a new La Liga points record if they win: 40 points from 14 matches – one point more than Real Madrid at this stage in 1961/62.

Athletic only had more goals conceded at this stage in three previous seasons, the last time in 1980/81 (29).

Real Madrid – Atlético Madrid (Saturday 01 December, 22:00 CET)

Real have won the last six Liga matches against Atlético and they are unbeaten in their last 21 Liga derbies against Atlético since a 1-3 home defeat on 30 October 1999. Iker Casillas came on as a sub in this match. Fernando Morientes scored for Real, Jerrel Hasselbaink (2) and José Marí scored for Atlético.

As coach, Mourinho has lost two league games in a row only once – Chelsea in May 2006.

> Atlético have more points than Real after 13 Liga matches for the first time since 1995/96, when Atlético won the Liga for the last time.

PREVIEW: Bundesliga Matchday 15

FOOTBALL – The following are some key facts and figures on a selected assortment of matches in the Bundesliga this weekend. The matches we have looked into are Schalke 04 – Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen – 1. FC Nürnberg and Bayern München – Borussia Dortmund.

Schalke 04 – Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday 01 December, 15:30 CET)

> In January 1967, Gladbach handed Schalke their biggest Bundesliga defeat to date: 11-0. This is the second biggest result in Bundesliga history, only topped by Gladbach’s 12-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in April 1978.

> Schalke went winless in three consecutive Bundesliga outings (2-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen, 1-1 against Eintracht Frankfurt, 3-1 at Hamburger SV) for the first time since April 2012. Last longer run without a win: April-August 2011 (1 draw, 5 losses).

> Gladbach have lost only four Bundesliga matches this season. Only Bayern München (1), Borussia Dortmund (2) and Bayer Leverkusen (3) fewer.

Bayer Leverkusen – 1. FC Nürnberg (Saturday 01 December, 15:30 CET)

Leverkusen have not scored in their last two home matches against Nürnberg (W0, D1, L1). This has never happened before in back-to-back encounters against them at Leverkusen.

> Leverkusen have not lost a home match with the coaching duo Sascha Lewandowski/Sami Hyypiä in charge. They took over from Robin Dutt after Leverkusen’s last home loss to date (0-2 against SC Freiburg on March 31, 2012) and remained unbeaten in nine straight.

> Only twice in their last 57 Bundesliga matches, Nürnberg managed to score four goals: against Schalke (4-1) in April 2012 and against Hoffenheim (4-2) on Wednesday.

Bayern München – Borussia Dortmund (Saturday 01 December, 18:30 CET)

> This season’s Super Cup win broke a five-match losing streak for Bayern against Dortmund (4 league losses, 1 DFB-Pokal final defeat).

 Bayern have been crowned Herbstmeister after 14 matchrounds, which makes them the fastest in Bundesliga history. This is the 18th Herbstmeisterschaft for Bayern, who went on to become league champions in 14 of the past 17. However, last season Bayern finished second behind Dortmund after becoming Herbstmeister.

> Dortmund have won less than half of their away matches in the Bundesliga this season (W3, D3, L1). However, they went unbeaten in the last five and won the last three.

PREVIEW: Premier League Matchday 15

FOOTBALL – The following are some key facts and figures on a selected assortment of matches in the Premier League this weekend. The matches we have looked into are West Ham United – Chelsea, Arsenal – Swansea City, Manchester City – Everton and Reading – Manchester United.

West Ham United – Chelsea (Saturday 01 December, 13:45 CET)

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 13 matches against West Ham in all competitions (12 in the PL), since a 1-0 defeat in the PL at Upton Park in May 2003 when Paolo Di Canio scored the only goal of the game.

> Jussi Jaaskelainen (West Ham United) has made 68 saves in the PL this season, more than any other goalkeeper.

> West Ham United picked up 31 cards in the PL this season (31 yellow, 0 red), more than any other team.

> Chelsea picked up 26 points after 14 PL matches, the fewest they have gained at this stage in a PL season since Roman Abramovich bought the club.

> Rafael Benitez has failed to win in his last five PL matches in London, since his Liverpool side won 3-2 at today’s opponents, West Ham in September 2009.

Arsenal – Swansea City (Saturday 01 December, 16:00 CET)

There has only ever been one draw in 11 matches between the clubs in all competitions – 1-1 in a League Cup second round first leg tie in August 1980 at Swansea.

> Arsenal are one short of their 250th PL home victory (171 at Highbury, 78 at the Emirates Stadium). They are also one away from their 50th PL home defeat (35 at Highbury, 14 at the Emirates Stadium).

> Arsenal picked up 21 PL points by December 1 this season. They have only picked up less by this date in 1994-95 (20).

> Swansea City is unbeaten in their last five PL matches – their longest ever run without defeat in the PL and longest in the top flight since a club record nine match streak from January to March 1982.

> Michu (8) is two short of becoming the third Spanish player to score a double figure of goals in a PL season after Fernando Torres (24 in 2007-08, 18 in 2009-10, 14 in 2008-09, 10 in 2010-11) and Cesc Fabregas (15 in 2009-10).

Manchester City – Everton (Saturday 01 December, 16:00 CET)

Everton have won five out of their last six PL matches against Manchester City. Their only defeat was 2-0 away last season when Mario Balotelli and James Milner scored the goals.

> Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 36 PL home matches, winning 33, since the 2-1 defeat to today’s opponents Everton in December 2010.

> Manchester City remain the only club in all four divisions of English league football yet to lose this season. Last season they also went unbeaten in their first 14 PL matches of the season but lost in their 15th.

> Everton are unbeaten their last three PL matches against Manchester opposition, winning twice without conceding a goal. They drew 4-4 in their last PL visit to the city of Manchester – at United on April 22.

> No wins in their last four PL away matches. They last went five without a win away from home in the division between January and March. Overall, in they have won four PL away matches in 2012.

Reading – Manchester United (Saturday 01 December, 18:30 CET)

Reading’s only previous win in all 16 matches against Manchester United in all competitions was 2-1 at home in the FA Cup in January 1927.

> Reading failed to score in the opening 15 minutes of any PL match this season.

> Reading is unbeaten in their last four PL home matches, since the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham on September 16. If they avoid defeat they will equal their PL record of five home matches in a row without a defeat, set from Jan to March 2007.

> Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 18 PL matches against promoted clubs (15 wins) since a 1-0 defeat at Burnley in August 2009.

> Manchester United begins the month of December in first place in the table. This is the sixth time in PL history they have been top of the table on this date. On four of the five previous occasions they went on to win the title – the only time they failed was in 1997-98 when Arsenal became champions.

TWITTER QUIZ: Friday, 30 November

FOOTBALL – Today’s question: QUIZ – Only one person has featured in more than 100 international matches for his country as a player and a coach. Which country?

Today’s answer: Denmark (Morten Olsen)

Association quiz answer: Michael Laudrup, born in 1964 in Denmark, was one of the revelations of the 1986 World Cup. His career as a player included playing for Juventus and one of his coaching jobs was at Spartak Moskva.

Points earned in today’s quiz:

5 – @G_o_s_h_a

4 – @Yusuf_Official

3 – @therealkimblim

2 – @evadl

1 – @cathvijju

Weekly final standings:

@Yusuf_Official wins the tiebreaker for having provided the faster association quiz answer than @G_o_s_h_a

22 – @Yusuf_Official (8 bonus points from association quiz)

22 – @G_o_s_h_a (6 bonus points from association quiz)

13 – @evadl (4 bonus points from association quiz)

8 – @___10___

6 – @OfficialMick (6 bonus points from association quiz)

4 – @Jasper_

4 – @thiagoalvescar

3 – @sportzeloot

3 – @omobobo

3 – @therealkimblim

3 – @catchvijju

2 – @shivamLM

2 – @Erwingol

2 – @BasVGN (2 bonus points from association quiz)

2 – @CoquelinFrancis (2 bonus points from association quiz)

1 – @JoostNederpelt

1 – @William_Mochel

1 – @MSDsDAD

1 – @Gurpal_1

ANALYSE THIS: Was West Brom’s defeat such a surprise?

FOOTBALL – West Bromwich Albion lost 3-1 at Swansea City on Wednesday night, a result which has led to much speculation about why the performance level of the Baggies suddenly declined against an opponent they supposedly should have competed better against. Mark Lawrenson, for example, remarked that West Brom’s players were “believing their own publicity a bit”. Simon Gleave took a look at the ISG coefficients which compare a team’s results this season with those in the same matches last season, and found little difference between Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion.

Looking simply at the current league table, West Bromwich Albion’s fourth place and 26 points looks impressive but if we compare the club’s results this season to 2011/2012, they have actually managed only four points more against those same opponents this term. Away from home, West Brom have managed to beat only Wigan Athletic and Sunderland, both expected to be struggling this season.

West Bromwich Albion’s two away wins were both drawn last season and therefore represent their total improvement of four points as the other differences in results from last season to this have effectively cancelled one another out. Indeed, prior to those two fixtures, West Brom hadn’t improved on last season’s results at all but were joint fourth on points with Everton at that stage – a good illustration of how the league table can mislead.

Interestingly, Swansea had also improved their results this season, by three points prior to hosting West Brom on Wednesday evening. As they also finished on 47 points last term, there is no reason to suggest that they are inferior to the Baggies this season despite being a number of places lower in the table. 

So, after 14 matches, West Bromwich Albion are four points better off against their opponents to date and Swansea City are three points in profit. The likelihood is that both are still around the same level that they were last season when they finished level on points in 10th and 11th position, and thus a 3-1 win for Swansea (2011/2012: 3-0) can hardly be greeted with surprise. It is a more plausible explanation than the players believing in their own publicity in any case.

ANALYSE THIS: Ajax to face PSV’s firing squad

FOOTBALL – Ajax host PSV this Saturday in the Dutch top flight’s marquee match this weekend and the defending champions must prepare for an avalanche of shots from the visitors, who are the most active in front of the opponents’ goal among teams playing in one of Europe’s top domestic leagues this season.

PSV unleash on average 20.50 shots per Eredivisie match, far more than the next most trigger-happy side, Real Madrid, who are averaging 17.77 shots per league match. Ajax are firing away at 13.29 total shots per match. Our own Aernout van den Berg (@aernoutvdberg) has analysed the top flight domestic leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Holland. Click this link to interact with the graphic and see where your team stands. Click this link to download the spreadsheet with all the data.

“You have to shoot. If not, you cannot score.” – JOHAN CRUIJFF