Championship permutations: 9-11 Dec 2016
Here are the highest and lowest possible positions that each club can occupy after the forthcoming round of fixtures. I’ve drawn lines under the automatic promotion and play-off spots, mid-table and the last spot above the relegation zone on both “axes” for ease of reference.
These graphics are explained here, but in a nutshell I crunch through every possible combination of results to work out how far it’s mathematically possible for each club to rise and fall.
A five-point gap between Brighton and Reading insulates the current top two this weekend, but the play-off picture remains very fluid. The Royals are the only side guaranteed to remain in one of the four play-off spots and anyone down to Fulham in 10th can join them, although the Cottagers could also slide as low as 15th.
The relegation battle – Rotherham aside – is also far from settled, with two clubs (Brentford and Burton) able to finish the weekend in either the top half or the bottom three.
The above shows what’s mathematically possible but doesn’t make any allowances for what’s likely to happen, so I’ve come up with a second graphic that uses my E Ratings prediction model (used to simulate the forthcoming round of games thousands of times) to assign some probabilities to all these potential changes.
It’s structured very similarly to the one above: the clubs are still listed in the same order as the current league table down the side and the dividing lines are all in the same place, but now across each row is the percentage chance of them moving to other positions in the table. As above, green indicates a rise, red a drop and grey staying put. The darker the red or green, the higher the probability. If there’s no number in a square, it means that the club didn’t fill that position in any of the thousands of simulations I ran and is therefore very unlikely.
Brighton‘s chances of overhauling Newcastle at the top are around one in four: both are at home this weekend to clubs in the play-off zone (Leeds and Birmingham respectively), but the Magpies’ one-point advantage and superior goal difference means that the Seagulls would need to better their result.
Sheffield Wednesday are fancied to take advantage of the tough fixtures facing the teams immediately above them. The Owls’ performances have looked more convincing than their results this season while the opposite is true of their opponents Reading, so the model gives them a decent chance of getting a result and moving upwards.
With Barnsley and Nottingham Forest facing tough opposition this weekend compared to lower-placed Preston and Aston Villa, the latter pair look well-placed to shuffle above them. All four are currently on 25 points and three of them have the same goal difference.