Championship previews, 9-11 Dec 2016

Below are the individual preview graphics for each game in the forthcoming round of fixtures. 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 based on the ratings;
  3. 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.


The division’s two best-rated teams – Newcastle and Brighton – are at home and have the highest win probabilities by far this weekend despite facing opponents sitting inside the top six.

With QPR away at lowest-rated side Rotherham and highly-rated Sheffield Wednesday travelling to Reading (whom the model is deeply suspicious of), both of these encounters look likelier to end in an away win than a home one.

Individual matches


Brighton remain a force to be reckoned with but their attack has stalled worryingly in recent matches, with some clinical finishing perhaps masking the true scale of the problem. Leeds are a far better side than they were last season – particularly up front – but it’s unclear whether their ratings will rise sufficiently to make their current high position in the table look justified, so we should learn a lot here.

I’ve still not seen a convincing uplift in Aston Villa’s performances under Steve Bruce, but it remains early days and it’ll be interesting to see if he ventures into the January transfer market. A home match with struggling Wigan, whose wasteful attack looks among the least capable of cracking Villa’s relatively well-organised defence, provides an unmissable opportunity to gain some ground.

With two sharp attacks meeting two leaky defences, it looks like there should be some goals in this one. With Norwich in decline this is a far more winnable game for Barnsley than it would have appeared at the start of the season, so hopefully both clubs will enter this contest with the intention of taking maximum points.

Both of these clubs look as though they should be sitting higher in the league table, with Brentford in particular appearing capable of far more than they’ve achieved so far. The Bees’ defence has been their main problem this season – there’s little wrong with the chances they’ve been creating and they remain one of the division’s more capable attacking sides. Wasteful finishing has marred an otherwise impressive debut season at this level for Burton (I touched on Chris O’Grady’s misfortune earlier this week) but they should be capable of getting on the scoresheet here at least.

Huddersfield aren’t currently doing enough to suggest that they’ll be able to reclaim a place in the top six, but it will be interesting to see how their defence – the least permissive in the division – handles the second tier’s most industrious attack. Bristol City are one of the most potent attacking forces in the Championship so this could provide a useful assessment of both sides’ prospects.

Two of the division’s least successful attacks and two of its better-rated defences meeting doesn’t exactly scream “goals” – it seems that both have prioritised defensive stability but it’s come at the cost of a cutting edge. Some wasteful finishing has been partly to blame but the leakiness of Cardiff’s defence will probably foster some optimism in the Ipswich ranks.

Birmingham have continued to overachieve under Gary Rowett and what looks like their toughest away trip of the season should tell us a lot about their likely finishing position. The Magpies have looked formidable at both ends of the pitch and the Blues’ defence in particular could be in for a trying afternoon.

Blackburn are in decent form at the moment but their underlying performances remain worrying, with their defence having deteriorated massively since last season and their attack one of the division’s quietest. With hosts Preston looking increasingly solid at the back lately, there may not be many opportunities for their visitors here.

This will be an interesting test for my model’s ongoing vendetta against Reading, as one of its favourite sides is visiting the Royals. Sheffield Wednesday have looked “top five” at both ends of the pitch this season, let down by some wasteful finishing, but against the seemingly permissive home defence they’d appear to have a good chance of recording an away win.

It’s hard to find anything optimistic to say about Rotherham at the moment, although this should rank as one of their more winnable encounters. QPR have underwhelmed in attack this season and a leaky defence should also give the Millers hope of inching towards safety, but the model still assesses their visitors as favourites here.

Two improved sides meet here: Wolves have added an enhanced attack to an already-respectable defence, while Fulham’s formidable forwards have an increasingly reliable back line behind them. While the hosts have looked much better than their league position suggests this season (a point I made on the Squawka podcast), they may have to wait for a less tricky match in which to demonstrate it.

Despite their recent improvements Derby remain the division’s most wasteful finishers overall, although with Forest having one of the leakiest defences that may well not be the case after Monday night. The improving visitors boast one of the sharpest attacks so this should also prove a stern test of the home side’s admirably solid defence.