The stats behind the match: How did PSG Dominate on foreign ground?

The stats behind the match: How did PSG Dominate on foreign ground?

Feb 18, 2021 | Champions League, News

Tuesday in the return of the UCL we started off with a battle of the titans between FCB and PSG. FCB had previously never lost before to PSG on home ground, and with PSG having to leave Neymar at home predictions were not in their favor, even if their seasonal stats were slightly better than FCB’s.

In a cruel twist for Barca however, PSG’s Kylian Mbappé went unchecked and became a serious problem, scoring 3 goals for the French squad. Adding to that the cheeky header that Kean knocked in for them, PSG really dominated Barca on in their holy land.

So how could this have happened? Let us take a closer look at the stats of the match.

Above is the graph of the eXpected Goals (xG) over the duration of the match. The expected goal count goes up based on an algorithm that determines whether the actions of a team of the field should contribute to scoring a goal. Here we can see Barca started off very strong, making many plays that normally contribute to a goal after the 25th minute mark, and getting results from it. Meanwhile PSG comes back after 32 minutes, scoring and slowly building to more expected goals. Here we can see where it went wrong for Barca. From the 30th minute mark until the 60 they barely make any plays that contributed to them being expected to score, and although they are ahead in expected goals until around the 70-minute mark, that is primarily built upon the offensive of their first goal, and they have not been able to contribute much in later stages.

Although a timeline like this can explain when less actions were taken that normally contribute to scoring a goal, it is still pretty abstract. Let’s compare some more specific stats.


If we look at the passes the only market difference between the two teams are their key passes and their crosses, them being in favor for PSG and FCB respectively. (The red and green arrows indicate whether the stat was higher or lower than the teams seasonal average). Key passes are passes that directly lead to a shot or goal attempt. In essence this means that PSG found more openings in Barca’s defensive line to pass to a player who then was free enough to make an attempt at the goal. Taking that into considderation, lets look at the general pass matrix for PSG and the individual pass matrix for their top scorer this match: Mbappé.

The thicker the line is, the more frequent a pass connected between the two players. Looking at the general matrix, it becomes obvious that PSG connected a lot of their passes from the midfield to Mbappé on the left. Especially Verrati managed to find the feet of Mbappé very frequently with the ball.

If we look at the average position of players, we can see something interesting. Mbappé’s average position was PAST the average position of the last defender of FCB. Combine this with the passes that found Mbappé so frequently and we can see why he is the match’s top scorer.

Unsurprisingly PSG has a lot more shots than FCB. If we look at the position of every goal attempt by PSG within the box we can also clearly see that not only most successful attempts came from the left side of the box (By Mbappé) but also most attempts in general.

Looking at the two squad’s possession, there are very little differences. With a 50-50 split in possession time the only difference is within the length of the possession moments.

The duels do show a market difference. In both offensive and defensive duels PSG won over 50%, and in air duels even 85%. Being able to pluck the ball out of the air whenever they wanted gave PSG another advantage to dominate the game.

The UCL is back and came out swinging with a banger straight off the bat!