Championship previews, 27 Sep 2016

Below are preview graphics for each of the midweek games. These smash together minimalist versions of two visualisations: each club’s E Ratings and their relative positions on the attack and defence scatter graphics. I’ve explained them fully here, but in summary they’re intended as a simple pre-match comparison of two teams using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:

  1. The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
  2. A probability forecast for the match;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.


Barnsley have impressed upon their return to the second tier – particularly up front – and could well cause Aston Villa some problems. The visitors’ performances haven’t been screaming “immediate return to the Premier League” so far, although their relatively resilient defence could frustrate their hosts’ all-action attack.2016-09-27-birmingham-v-preston

Preston’s attack has been their weaker suit for a while and against a defence as stubborn as Birmingham’s they could easily draw a blank. The Blues are one of the EFL’s most enigmatic sides – regularly overperforming their E Ratings – and despite recent improvements it’s difficult to judge just how good they really are.2016-09-27-blackburn-v-sheff-wed

For every Birmingham there is a Blackburn: a team who underperform despite solid E Ratings. However Rovers’ look to be declining rapidly after a poor start, with a quiet attack and a leaky defence, and may not be able to contain Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls’ defence isn’t as strong as it was during the back half of last season but overall they still look capable of sustaining another promotion challenge.

Reading have overachieved significantly so far and at this rate I’d be surprised if they’re still in the play-off zone at the end of the season. Brentford’s attack – one of the most dangerous around – should help to assess exactly what the Royals are made of, although their defence looks to have been riding its luck a bit so far.2016-09-27-bristol-c-v-leeds

This match brings two improving sides together, with both particularly impressing in attack. Bristol City’s front line has made an incredible transformation into one of the most dangerous in the division, while Leeds’ sharpness has continued to improve under Garry Monk. The visitors are building from a lower base so aren’t fancied to do all that well here, but they’re a far trickier opponent than they were last season.2016-09-27-burton-v-qpr

Neither of these two sides has had much luck at the back this season, with both conceding at an above-average rate, which coupled with some decent finishing could mean goals here. QPR’s defence has actually looked reasonably strong, although a quiet attack definitely needs some life injecting into it, so the “Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink derby” could be a close match.

While both having seen performances decline slightly since last season, these two clubs appear to be punching well below their weight so far. Nigel Pearson desperately needs to fix Derby’s misfiring attack but he’s made the defence tougher than ever, so Cardiff’s own stuttering front line may struggle to break them down. The hosts’ win over Rotherham will have settled some nerves but this represents a far sterner test.

These two have taken fewer shots than anyone else this season but they’re chalk and cheese at the back. Huddersfield have been incredibly tough to break down while Rotherham have conceded at least twice in all but one of their matches so far. Huddersfield look to have overachieved so far but are likely to remain near the summit for another week after this encounter, with the struggling Millers unfortunately looking like relegation favourites already.

The attack ratings of these two clubs are moving in opposite directions: Ipswich have been looking progressively blunter for some time and are now the division’s lowest-rated attacking side, while Brighton have gone from strength to strength and look to be operating the most dangerous forward line around. Both have been stubborn at the back but the visitors look likely to ask repeated questions of their hosts’ defence.

Forest’s clinical finishing so far looks to be masking a worrying decline in their overall performances, which is more apparent at the back. Visitors Fulham are a tougher proposition since Slaviša Jokanović’s arrival and could silence the City Ground if they can start converting their chances more reliably.2016-09-27-wigan-v-wolves

Wigan’s performances so far deserve better than bottom spot so I’m expecting them to rise in the coming months, although they’ll do well to get maximum points here. Wolves’ current 8th place is all the more impressive considering that six of their games have been against clubs in the top nine and their tough defence won’t be easy for their hosts to crack.2016-09-28-newcastle-v-norwich

Newcastle’s second Premier League reunion in the space of four days looks set to be the tougher of the two, with Norwich looking equally sharp in front of goal and even less permissive at the back. However the Magpies have been both more prolific up front and more resilient in defence, so enter this contest as favourites.