As the international break draws to a close, the Barcelona players are all returning to training ahead of the La Liga clash against Real Valladolid on Monday. With three rounds of fixtures played across different competitions, i.e the World Cup qualifiers, friendlies as well as the U21 Euros getting underway, Barça Universal brings you up to date on how each Barcelona player got on during the break, along with the ratings for their overall performances.
A total of 14 Barcelona players were on duty for their countries, as France, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, USA, Portugal U21s, and Spain U21s were all in action over the past week.
Antoine Griezmann: 7.5
The French ace continued his form for Barcelona into the international break as well. He played in all three of Les Bleus’ qualifying fixtures, being on the field for a total of 239 minutes. During the three games, Griezmann managed to score two goals, the latest of which was the crucial winner against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Thanks to his contribution, France managed to take first place in group D, with seven points. Griezmann was typically sharp throughout his three games with his linkup play and his belter against Ukraine was probably France’s best goal of the lot during the break.
Ousmane Dembele: 6.5
Dembele earned his first call-up to Didier Deschamps’ national team squad since November of 2018. The Barcelona winger played a total of 115 minutes in the two games he featured in. He seemed to be in good shape and even scored a very well taken goal in the 2-0 triumph over Kazakhstan. His form under Ronald Koeman has hit new heights, and Deschamps is clearly taking notice. If he continues to stay fit, he is sure to feature a lot more often for France in the near future.
Clement Lenglet: 7.5
Lenglet played in just one of France’s three qualifiers this month, featuring for all 90 minutes in the win against Kazakhstan. After a rocky season for Barcelona in terms of form and confidence, the defender was near impervious at the back. He helped earn his side the clean sheet and had a pass success rate of 95%, making seven recoveries as well. Hopefully, he can keep building off this display once he returns to Barcelona.
The indomitable youngster just keeps going from strength to strength this season. Pedri became Spain’s sixth youngest ever debutant with his cameo off the bench against Greece. He seemingly caught Luis Enrique’s eye immediately, as the midfielder then started both of the next qualifiers for Spain, putting in a couple of wonderful performances.
He played a total of 185 minutes and completed 141 out of 154 attempted passes, with a success rate of 92%. He was fantastic on and off the ball and even got his first assist for Spain on the board, with a delightful sweeping pass to Ferran Torres to set up his goal against Kosovo. He also showed immense strength after enduring a few crunching challenges, but he kept going and showed just why he has become such an integral part of the Barcelona squad this season.
The future is dazzlingly bright for Pedri, in both Barcelona and Spanish shirts.
Sergio Busquets: 8
After not playing in Spain’s draw against Greece, Sergio Busquets returned to the fray with starts against both Georgia and Kosovo, playing a total of 155 minutes. Busquets has been a player reborn in 2021, and it showed, as Spain looked much more fluid with him in the lineup.
He masterfully dictated the tempo of the midfield and screened his backline in typically brilliant fashion. He made ten recoveries and also created four chances in the two games that he played. His form will be key for the remainder of Barcelona’s season.
Jordi Alba: 8.5
The Barcelona left-back is another player who has enjoyed a stellar resurgence since the dawn of the new year. Jordi Alba’s offensive output has been staggering, and his rich vein of form translated through to his two games with Luis Enrique’s side Spanish side as well. The 32-year-old, like Busquets, started and played the two matches against Georgia and Kosovo after not featuring in the first clash against Greece.
Despite some friction between him and Luis Enrique in the past, Alba showed that he can still be instrumental in that left-back position. In the 180 minutes he played, he provided three assists and created eleven chances. His pace and energy were vital in earning Spain their two victories after the Greece stalemate.
Miralem Pjanic: 7
Bosnia and Herzegovina, unlike most other teams, played just two qualifiers during the March international break. Pjanic is, of course, one of the Bosnians’ key players. He started both their matches against Finland and France, playing all 180 minutes. Unfortunately, both the results were far from favourable.
In the 2-2 draw against Finland, Pjanic scored the opener as he slotted home the rebound after his penalty was saved. He was the focal point of all of his side’s attacking moves. Even in the loss against France, Pjanic was perhaps Bosnia and Herzegovina’s best player. He was trying to make things happen on the ball and was key in making recoveries as well.
Martin Braithwaite: 7.5
The Danes’ qualifying campaign got off to a blistering start, as they scored 14 goals across their three games and did not concede even one. Barcelona striker Martin Braithwaite put in solid shifts in the two appearances he made against Israel and Austria, playing a total of 167 minutes.
The marksman managed to grab a goal against Israel, as well as an assist against Austria, even hitting the woodwork once. His work rate was terrific as well, helping his side stay top of Group F with two compelling performances.
Frenkie De Jong: 8
The 23-year-old was also typically reliable in his three outings against Turkey, Latvia and especially Gibraltar. The Barcelona midfielder commanded the midfield as Frank De Boer played him for every single of the 270 minutes in the Netherlands’ three games.
De Jong amassed a stellar pass completion rate of 94% as he completed 267 out of the 284 passes he attempted across the three qualifiers. He also completed eight of his nine attempted dribbles, made four interceptions and 16 recoveries. His form with Barcelona also carried through to the break, and hopefully, it has kept him sharp for the crucial games lying ahead in La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
Francisco Trincao: 8
The young Barcelona winger helped the Portuguese U21s to maintain a perfect start to their U21 Euros campaign. He played a total of 171 minutes and scored a goal each in both of Portugal’s crucial wins over England and Switzerland.
Oscar Mingueza: 6
Unfortunately for the Barcelona youngster, he did not enjoy the best of starts to his international career. On his debut for the Spain U21s against Italy, he played a decent game for 86 minutes. The game ended in a 0-0 stalemate but Mingueza was sent off controversially for an altercation that did not have any substance to it. He will be available for the next matches of the tournament, however, where he will most certainly be able to show his class.
Riqui Puig: N/A
The Barcelona fan favourite only got his first minutes of the competition in the dying moments of Spain’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. In the eight minutes that he featured, he completed six of his seven passes and made one interception and a successful tackle as well. Hopefully, the promising young midfielder will get more chances as the tournament goes on.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen: 5.5
The Barcelona shot-stopper only featured in Germany’s last qualifying game of the break against Macedonia. He played the full 90 minutes, but Die Mannschaft’s poor defensive display saw them fall to a 2-1 defeat. He could not do much about the two goals, but they are two goals against him nonetheless. His distribution was impeccable, however, as he completed all 22 of his attempted passes and all seven long balls.
Sergino Dest: 7.5
The American started and played in both of the USA’s two friendlies against Jamaica and Northern Ireland. While his performance in the latter game was unremarkable, his showing against Jamaica was wonderful. He even scored his side’s opener in the 4-1 win with a wonderful curling effort, notching his first senior international goal.
Using Machine Learning to predict Barcelona’s 2021/22 league season
Johan Cruyff famously said, “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.” It is indisputable that money is not the only deciding factor behind a football club’s success. Time and time again, we have seen that football is chaotic and absurd. Anything can happen.
That being said, it is evident that statistically, the clubs with more money are usually the more successful ones. While one cannot predict the unpredictability that is engraved within football, an outcome that is statistically probable can be predicted. This article will explore the relationship between the points a club accumulates in a league season and the total value of the club’s squad. Then, Python will be used to build a linear regression model in order to predict the number of points Barcelona will obtain in the 21/22 season based on the club’s hypothetical squad.
Let us begin with visualizing the relationship between the total league points obtained by a club and the club’s total squad value. Since the amount of money spent on transfers has increased tremendously over the course of the last decade, in this article, only seasons 2014/15 – 2019/20 will be considered. Upon plotting the total points against the total squad value, it is evident that there is a positive correlation between the two. Granted, the correlation is not extremely strong, but it exists nonetheless.
A line of regression has been generated. The line’s gradient is approximately 0.05138986, and its y-intercept is approximately 44.5470726. There is only one dependant variable in question, club value/total value of squad, and so our line of regression can be modelled by the equation:
P = (0.05138986 )V + 44.5470726 where P is the points and V is the total squad value.
club_values = np.array(df['Values']).reshape(89,1) club_points = np.array(df['Point']).reshape(89,1) from sklearn.linear_model import LinearRegression linear_model = LinearRegression() linear_model.fit(club_values,club_points)
In order to predict the points accumulated based on Barcelona’s squad value next season, the squad value won’t directly be inputted into our equation above. The coefficient and the y-intercept have been rounded up after a certain number of decimal places, and so, to preserve the precision of the prediction, Python’s LinearRegression predict method will be utilized.
Now comes another challenging part of coming up with Barcelona’s hypothetical squad next season. Based on reports, it can be assumed that Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic, Martin Braithwaite and Phillipe Coutinho will be some of the notable players to leave. To compensate for the outgoing players, it can be assumed that Barcelona will sign Eric Garcia, David Alaba, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay. Here is a table that contains all the players in Barcelona’s hypothetical 21/22 squad and their corresponding market values:
|PLAYER NAME||MARKET VALUE (MILLION POUNDS)|
|MARC ANDRE TER STEGEN||79.34|
|FRENKIE DE JONG||84.63|
|KONRAD DE LA FUENTE||2.64|
The club’s total value comes up to be £786.60 million. It is important to note that a player’s value is volatile. Transfermarkt updates player values every few months, and so it is extremely probable that this squad’s market value will be drastically different next season.
It is also important to understand that Transfermarkt’s market values are not official and so they are not always an accurate representation of a player’s true market value. Moreover, a player’s value is not always an accurate representation of their quality. Age is a key factor in determining market value, and so while a young player might have a high market value indicating that they are a bright prospect for the future, they might not necessarily be an excellent player at the time when the value is assigned.
Now that all of this has been established, the only thing left is making the prediction.
The machine learning model predicts that Barcelona will obtain 85 points in the 21/22 La Liga season. In the 19/20 season, Real Madrid won the league with 87 points, and in the 18/19 season, Barcelona won the league with 87 points as well. The difference between the points accumulated by the last two winning La Liga squads and the predicted points that Barcelona’s 21/22 squad will obtain is a mere 2 points. This shows that it is possible for Barcelona to win the league next season.
Since the correlation between the two variables, as observed from the data from the last 6 seasons, is not even close to being extremely strong, Barcelona’s 21/22 league points tally may be drastically different from what was predicted by the machine learning model. However, at the end of the day, the model can only work with the data it is exposed to.
Erling Haaland can change the course of Barcelona’s season. It would take forever to make predictions based on Barcelona’s hypothetical squads that include all of the club’s potential transfer targets, however, due to Haaland’s influence, an exception can be made for him. Laporta’s interest in signing Haaland has been widely reported.
However, he will cost a fortune this summer, and with Barcelona’s debt situation, it is unlikely that the Catalan club will pursue him in the upcoming transfer window. That being said like mentioned previously in the article, football is chaotic, and anything can happen.
Assuming that Barcelona does end up signing Haaland in the summer, Antoine Griezmann will most definitely have to leave (due to wages and the money that can be generated from his sale). Haaland’s current value is £99 million, and so Barcelona’s total squad value for next season, after being corrected for Griezmann’s exit and Haaland’s arrival is £831.60 million.
Haaland’s addition can put 21/22 Barcelona on level with the previous two Spanish champions in terms of total points won. The difference in points between a squad containing Haaland and one not containing him is only two. However, an argument about whether signing Haaland is worth it, is not in the scope of this article.
“Transition seasons do not exist at Barcelona.”Joan Laporta | Presidential campaign
A club of Barcelona’s stature will always compete for titles. The machine learning model shows that Barcelona is in contention for the 2021/22 La Liga title. Ronald Koeman has done a splendid job at the Blaugrana club this season, and there is no logical reason for him to not do an even better job next season after getting fresh players in the summer.
While football at its core is unpredictable, statistically, it would not hurt to trust Barcelona to win the 2021/22 La Liga title.