League 1 permutations: 15-17 Dec 2016

What’s possible

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 Sheffield United and Bradford keeps the top three apart from the rest this weekend, although the lower end of the play-off zone remains interesting. Anyone down to 10th-placed Wimbledon can finish the weekend in the top six, although they can also fall as far as 17th.

Nobody is guaranteed to start next week in the relegation zone, with only two points separating 20th-placed Bury from bottom club Shrewsbury at the moment, although four of the five lowest-placed teams will occupy the bottom four.

What’s likely

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.


Scunthorpe’s position at the top of the table looks relatively secure thanks to them playing at home, Bolton away and Sheffield United needing a big swing in goal difference to overhaul them. Bradford look very likely to fend off any challenge from Rochdale for the same reason.

While anyone can escape the relegation zone this weekend, it’s relatively unlikely that either Chesterfield or Shrewsbury will. All five of the teams at the bottom are at home to teams far further up the table, so the big results needed to leapfrog others don’t look that probable.