Championship previews, 4-5 Nov 2016
Below are the individual preview graphics for each of the weekend’s 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:
- The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
- A probability forecast for the match based on the ratings;
- Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.
Before we launch into them, here’s each match is listed in descending order of how likely a home win is. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but this is NOT betting advice – there’s loads of relevant stuff that the model doesn’t factor in (e.g. injuries and suspensions) that will surely have an impact.
Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle look the likeliest to record a win this weekend, with both at home to sides in the bottom half of the table.
Both Preston and Derby are favourites in their matches despite each being the away team. The Lilywhites are visiting disastrously-rated Rotherham while the model fancies the Rams’ defence to frustrate Wolves.
Both of these clubs are improving this season and looking more convincing in attack than defence, so this could well be an entertaining spectacle with a few goals in. Brentford look better all round and are clear favourites, plus some defensive heroics have often compensated for the quality of chances they’ve allowed, but Fulham gave a powerful demonstration last week of why they shouldn’t be underestimated.
Steve Bruce looks likely to continue his unbeaten start here, even if he’s yet to noticeably reverse Aston Villa’s decline. Visitors Blackburn have looked noticeably worse at both ends of the pitch this season – quiet up front and vulnerable at the back – so there won’t be many more winnable home games for Villa than this.
Bristol City’s attacking upgrades this season – they remain the division’s most frequent shooters – have put them in with a decent shout of making the top six, but the visit of a formidable-looking Brighton will be a tough test. The hosts haven’t looked anywhere near as convincing at the back and even their supercharged attack may struggle for purchase against the division’s top-rated defence.
Barnsley look to have stalled after their bright start and the model isn’t convinced by them yet: an initially prolific attack has been undermined by a leaky defence. Burton meanwhile have exceeded expectations and look far more capable of surviving at this level than many predicted. The Brewers’ attack has adapted particularly well and could expose the visitors’ back line, although defence is also their weaker suit.
It doesn’t look like Huddersfield will be getting back into the top two any time soon, but they have a strong chance of recording a home win here. Birmingham also look to have been overachieving this season, although they look a tougher opponent than they did last season; particularly up front.
Cardiff are nowhere near as bad as their league position suggests but they’re unlikely to move up the table this weekend. Newcastle look irresistible at the moment and it’s hard to see anyone taking points off them at home in particular. The visitors’ attack has been the division’s second most wasteful while their defence has been among the leakiest, so they may lack the ruthlessness necessary to frustrate the Magpies.
Their 5-0 defeat last weekend looked harsh on Norwich, but it highlighted how leaky their defence has been this season. However the Canaries have been as efficient at finishing their own chances and overall still look a decent bet to finish in the top six. Leeds have improved noticeably under Garry Monk and have already won convincingly at Sheffield Wednesday this season, but will need to be at their best to take something here.
With Forest looking better in attack than defence and QPR appearing the opposite, this could be an interesting match-up. Only three sides have outscored the hosts this season while Rotherham are the only club to have conceded more, so they’re usually a decent guarantee of goals. However matches involving the visitors have seen over a goal fewer scored on average, so the net may not bulge as often as usual.
Neither of these clubs has looked particularly dangerous in attack, so we may not see too many goals here. However Rotherham’s defence has looked exceptionally poor this season, to the extent that even a relatively blunt attack should fancy its chances, which makes Preston the likelier to prevail.
Sheffield Wednesday look to have been underachieving this season and won’t get many better opportunities to break into the top six than this. Ipswich have been stubborn in defence for a while now but have struggled to create chances and their finishing has been even more wasteful than the Owls’.
Reading are one of the most confusing teams for me this season – if you believe the model they’re worse than Wigan despite sitting 17 places higher in the league table, making the hosts narrow favourites here. While I think the Royals are probably overachieving, it’s perhaps too early to know how much until they’ve played a few more big teams away.
Derby’s opponents have found scoring almost as difficult as the Rams themselves this season but given the attacking improvements that Steve McClaren oversaw in his previous stint at Pride Park it’s likely that things will change. Wolves have been underachieving to a similar extent this season (I maintain that sacking Walter Zenga was premature) and have also looked more convincing at the back, so unless the managerial changes at both clubs precipitate huge tactical shifts then a low-scoring affair could be in the offing.