In this blog, we preview all European qualification games to be played the next two weeks by Dutch clubs. We analyse the opponents by using the EuroClubIndex*, an objective ranking of football in Europe, developed by Hypercube and Remiqz. The ECI illustrates the relative strength of all European clubs at any given point in time. The ECI-value of a team represents the expected level of sporting success.
Ajax has drawn Sturm Graz, who finished second in the previous Austrian Bundesliga season. In terms of ECI, this should not be a big problem for Ajax, who have an ECI-score of 2767, while Sturm Graz currently has 2115. Ajax may not be able to field their big summer signings Daley Blind and Dušan Tadić, because they are not yet fit. Playmaker Hakim Ziyech however, is still in Amsterdam and will play against Sturm Graz if he is fit.
For tomorrow’s match, our model predicts a very comfortable 68% chance of Ajax winning. A draw has a statistical likelihood of 22%, while Sturm Graz gets a 10% chance of snatching a win in the Johan Cruijff ArenA.
AZ have lost their two star players of last year: Alireza Jahanbakhsh has earned a transfer to Brighton, while Wout Weghorst will play for Wolfsburg next season. This is a big blow, as the duo scored 49 goals and provided 22 assists in all competitions last year. Even though AZ have not yet made an addition to their attack in the transfer market, they still have a better ECI-score than Kairat Almaty. AZ is now at 2351, while Kairat Almaty is at 1994. The best-known player of Kairat is former Arsenal player Andrey Arshavin. They ended second in last seasons Kazakh Premier League.
Thursday, Kairat Almaty will play at home against AZ first. It’s a 6500 km trip for the Alkmaar side. According to our model, they have a 37% chance of going home with a win, while a draw gets 28% chance and a Kairat Almaty win is also valued at 35%.
FC Viitorul Constanța is a very unknown side in Western Europe, but shouldn’t be underestimated. If we compare their ECI-score to that of Vitesse, we see that these two clubs are fairly well matched. Vitesse at the moment sits at 2099, while Viitorul has 1955. The Romanian side was founded in 2009 by Romania’s biggest football legend, Gheorghe Hagi. Hagi is still president of the club and appointed himself as manager in 2014, a position he has held ever since.
Our model predicts a hard game for Vitesse, Thursday afternoon in Romania. Viitorul is considered favourites, with a 41% chance of a home win. Vitesse wins 31% of the times, while a draw gets a 28% chance.
Feyenoord will play against either Górnik Zabrze or AS Trencín, who will play each other this week. Based on their ECI-scores, AS Trencín is the likely opponent for Feyenoord, as their score of 1837 trumps Górnik Zabrze’s 1673. Feyenoord has had a relatively easy summer so far. Veteran Karim El Ahmadi left after a good World Cup in Russia, but besides that transfer, the first team has remained intact. It remains to be seen whether Feyenoord will have trouble with either side; their ECI-score of 2536 should be enough for a comfortable victory.
* The Euro Club Index is a ranking of football teams, which shows their relative playing strength at a given point in time, and the development of playing strength over time. The ranking is based on all match results in the national leagues, national cup competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. The number of points a team can win, depends on their own strength, the strength of the opponent and home playing advantage. Winning a difficult away game against a top club can, therefore, deliver more points than winning an easy home game. See https://www.euroclubindex.com/.