Inter beat Juventus. Juventus beat Milan. Milan beat Inter. For once it has been tough to predict the title race in Serie A.
Winning the Scudetto was not enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job at Juve last season, meaning Andrea Pirlo is under significant pressure as the Bianconeri chase a 10th straight league crown.
However, they have struggled to convince under the former midfield metronome and sit seven points adrift of leaders Milan in fourth, although they hold a game in hand.
There has seemingly never been a better chance for Inter, who are two points off top in second, and Milan to end Scudetto droughts that date back to 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.
Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.
With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league campaign, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.
The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team’s attacking and defensive quality.
Those ratings are allocated based on four years’ worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.
The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.
All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams’ attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.
The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.
Without further ado, let’s have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.
INTER END JUVE’S REIGN
Although they sit second at the halfway stage, our model predicts Inter will end Juve’s dominance of Serie A.
Inter have a 35.7 per cent chance of topping the table for the first time since their treble-winning campaign of 2009-10 and it is projected they will do so by a two-point advantage.
Not only do Milan surrender top spot to the Nerazzurri, they slip behind Juve into third with the top three separated by just three points. It would still represent their best finish since 2012-13.
Juve’s chance of retaining the title is deemed to be 23.1 per cent, marginally better than Milan’s 21.6 per cent.
ATALANTA RETURN TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Gian Piero Gasperini steered Atalanta to Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in 2018-19 and made it back-to-back top-three finishes last season.
They are predicted to return to Europe’s premier club competition by finishing fourth, edging out Napoli – they even have a 6.8 per cent chance of pulling off an unlikely title win.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side have a 17 per cent probability of snatching the final Champions League qualification berth, with Atalanta’s prospects narrowly superior at 17.4 per cent.
Roma are predicted to fall from their current position of third down to sixth but that is still good enough for them to deny arch-rivals Lazio qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League.
The top six may need to beware of Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria, however. Sassuolo have a 0.3 per cent likelihood of finishing inside the top four, while Verona (0.6 per cent) and Sampdoria (0.3 per cent) also have an outside chance of stealing European qualification, though our predictor suggests Lazio will finish 12 points clear of Sassuolo in seventh.
GENOA AND TORINO ESCAPE DROP
At the turn of the year Torino were rock bottom with one win from their opening 14 games and Genoa were in the relegation zone with them.
However, Torino and Genoa have both moved out of the bottom three by claiming six points and eight points respectively over their past five games.
The two sides are predicted to maintain strong enough form to stay out of the drop zone, with Crotone (20th), Parma (19th) and Cagliari (18th) projected to suffer relegation to Serie B.
It is by no means a guarantee, though. Genoa are only 0.2 per cent more likely to come 17th than they are to suffer relegation by finishing 18th, while Torino’s differential between 15th – where they are predicted to place – and third-bottom is 2.7 per cent.