Serie A 2021-22: Inter lead three-way title tussle – Stats Perform AI predicts

By Sports Desk August 20, 2021

It has been another off-season of change in Italy, but Serie A returns this week and another intriguing campaign awaits.

Inter were champions last term, ending Juventus' run of nine straight Scudetti, but they have not been able to keep their title-winning side together.

Romelu Lukaku is gone, as is coach Antonio Conte, while Massimiliano Allegri has returned to Juve to tee up another tilt.

So, what does that all mean for the coming season? Stats Perform attempts to find out.

The Stats Perform League Prediction Model, created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, has analysed the division ahead of the new season to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results, with weighting based on recency and the quality of opposition. The season is then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Read on to see who can realistically compete with Inter and who should be looking over their shoulders...

THREE FIGHTING FOR TITLE

Inter might have lost some key men, but the model is backing a team that finished second and then first to lead the way again.

The Nerazzurri are given the best chance of taking the title (45.1 per cent), while they certainly should make the top four even without Lukaku and Conte, rated as a 94.2 per cent likelihood.

Unsurprisingly, Juve are the closest challengers to Inter's crown, with a 21.5 per cent shot.

It is not set to be a two-horse race, though, as Atalanta are the third and final team to be given a substantial chance at 19.6 per cent.

In fact, Atalanta's lowest probable finish of ninth is higher than Juve's 10th, with another exciting season expected for La Dea.

 

TOP FOUR SETTLED?

There is strength in depth in Serie A this season, but the model has identified a clear frontrunner for the fourth Champions League place.

Napoli, with a 9.4 per cent title chance, have a 68.6 per cent likelihood of making the top four, putting them well clear of the rest despite finishing fifth in 2020-21.

That means disappointment for big names like Milan, Lazio and Jose Mourinho's Roma.

Milan do have a 44.0 per cent shot at Champions League qualification, but that is a modest opportunity given they were second last term and led the league for half the season. A Scudetto triumph is rated at 3.6 per cent.

Lazio, under Maurizio Sarri, have a 14.9 per cent hope of a top-four place, while Mourinho clearly has work to do as rivals Roma are only given an 8.2 per cent likelihood.

Besides those sides, only Sassuolo – 1.1 per cent for the Champions League, 2.6 for the Europa League and 8.2 per cent for the Europa Conference League – are realistically also in the European picture.

STRAIGHT BACK DOWN AGAIN

The model does not make for pretty reading for the three promoted sides, who are all expected to spend only a single season in the top flight before returning to Serie B.

For Salernitana and Venezia, a particularly brutal campaign could be in store. They are highly likely to go down, rated at 95.9 per cent and 94.8 per cent respectively.

Empoli are given a slightly improved chance but are still expected to be relegated, at 79.3 per cent.

Torino's awful season, finishing 17th in 2020-21, should not be repeated, with merely a 4.3 per cent likelihood of demotion.

That still makes them sixth favourites for the drop, also behind Spezia (6.0 per cent) and Hellas Verona (5.4 per cent).

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    Olivier Giroud acknowledged Milan's display in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Torino was by no means impressive but applauded the team for still managing to get the job done.

    Giroud got the only goal of the game in the 14th minute, tapping in from close range after Rade Krunic flicked on a corner.

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    Torino came on strong in the latter stages, with Tonny Sanabria forcing a save from Ciprian Tatarusanu and Dennis Praet having a deflected effort hit the crossbar.

    It was hardly an emphatic performance from Milan, who had great trouble in their 4-2 weekend win at Bologna as well, but it moved them to the top of the table at least until Thursday and also ensured they reached the 10-match mark with nine victories for only the second time ever (also 1954-55).

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    Giroud's early effort was one of few clear-cut chances in the entire match, with the Frenchman becoming only the second player in the three-points-for-a-win era to score in his first three home league appearances for Milan (after Mario Balotelli in 2013).

    For the vast majority of the match, Torino looked the better side but their inability to consistently worry the Milan defence meant the hosts were able to hold on to a slender victory.

    A scrappy opening was devoid of excitement, but Milan went ahead with their first meaningful attack in the 14th minute, as Giroud met Rade Krunic's flick-on and tapped in from close range.

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    While the win puts Milan top at least until Napoli face Bologna on Thursday, their performance was hardly an emphatic statement.

    The Giroud goal aside, Milan never really looked like scoring – their cumulative expected goals figure was 1.1, though 0.8 of that was attributed to the France forward's tap-in.

    Thankfully for them, once Pierre Kalulu went off at the break, Milan were mostly solid in defence, with Torino restricted to only one major opportunity.

    Kalulu caught short

    Deployed at left-back from the start, the youngster was withdrawn at the break after struggling in the first half. He was careless in possession on several occasions and just never looked an assuring presence defensively.

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    It was a match with few standout performances in truth, but Sandro Tonali did catch the eye. He was one of only two Milan players to play more than one key pass (two) and he worked hard throughout his 65 minutes on the pitch – his 14 duels were bettered by only three team-mates, all of whom played at least 22 more minutes.

    What's next?

    A trip to Jose Mourinho's Roma awaits Milan on Sunday. Torino host Sampdoria the day before.

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