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Apr 20, 2014

Bayern favored as UCL semis begin

The Champions League semifinals begin on Tuesday. Here is a statistical look at both matches this week, complete with Soccer Power Index projections:

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich (Wednesday) Real Madrid and Bayern Munich each received its worst possible draw for the semifinals. Bayern is the favorite to win the tournament according to SPI, taking home the trophy 48 percent of the time, but its odds to reach the final dropped to 65 percent by drawing Real Madrid in the semifinals. Real Madrid was hurt even more by the draw, as it would have been favored over both Atletico Madrid and Chelsea according to SPI, and Madrid's title odds are now 21 percent.

Real Madrid is hopeful to have Cristiano Ronaldo in the lineup, as he is the leading scorer in La Liga with 28 goals and Champions League with 14. Ronaldo also leads La Liga in shots with 199 and shots on target with 83. A good portion of this comes from direct free kicks, where Ronaldo leads the league in goals (three), shots (28) and shots on target (nine). Ronaldo averages 7.3 touches per game in the penalty area, which is second only to Lionel Messi in La Liga (7.5).

Ronaldo is a big reason that Real Madrid is averaging 2.8 goals per match in league play, which is the most in the five major European leagues (94 goals). Madrid also has the most shots and shots on target, both total and per game in the top five leagues this season.

Madrid also leads the league in chances created with 513, which is 44 more than any other team in the top five leagues. Angel DiMaria has created 76 chances, second-most in La Liga, and is tied with teammate Gareth Bale and Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas for second in the league with 12 assists. Madrid has created 132 of those chances from crosses, which is the most in La Liga and second-most in the top five leagues. Its 21 assists from crosses are tied for the most with Bayern Munich.

Bayern has completed 33 percent of crosses in league play this season, second-best in top five leagues, where the average is 22.6 percent. Not surprisingly, Bayern leads the top five leagues with 20 goals from headers this season. Mario Mandzukic is responsible for seven of those headed goals, which is tied for the most in the top five leagues.

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Tuesday) Atletico Madrid and Chelsea each got its best possible draw for the semifinals according to SPI. Atletico would have been an underdog against both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, but instead is a 56 percent favorite against Chelsea and 19 percent to win it all. The Blues, currently with a 12 percent chance to win the tournament according to SPI, would have been much bigger underdogs against their other two possible opponents, with less than a 35 percent chance to advance.

The matchup between the last two Europa League winners will likely be a defensive one, as Atletico Madrid and Chelsea have allowed the fewest goals in La Liga (22) and the Premier League (26), respectively. Atletico is particularly difficult to score on at home, where it is unbeaten against English sides and has not conceded a goal since its Round of 16 match against AC Milan over a month ago.

The best way to score on Chelsea may be from corners. Chelsea has allowed 23 percent of its goals from corner kicks in league play this season (6 of 26), the highest percentage in the Premier League and second-highest in the top five leagues. This trend continues in the Champions League, where two of its seven goals allowed have come from corners (29 percent).

Atletico has scored 11 goals from corner kicks this season, tops in La Liga and tied for the most in the top five leagues with Man City and Liverpool. Four have come from Raul Garcia, who is tied for the most in La Liga.