League 1 permutations: 26 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.


There’s not much movement likely at the top and, as in League 2, the points gap between third and fourth is sufficient to render the top three a closed shop on Boxing Day. The lower three play-off rungs are wide open though, with nobody guaranteed to occupy one of them.

The relegation battle is similarly fluid, with everyone currently in the bottom four capable of escaping it during this round of fixtures.

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.


While it’s not impossible for Sheffield United to wrest top spot from Scunthorpe’s clutches, the huge swing in goal difference required makes it very unlikely.

With Northampton facing a tough trip to Oxford, they look one of the likelier sides to drop this weekend. With Walsall and Port Vale both only beneath them on goal difference, one of them is guaranteed to benefit if the Cobblers lose.

Oldham’s chances of escaping the bottom four are only around 3% given that they have to travel to in-form Sheffield United. However all of the clubs they can overtake are also on the road, so it’s perfectly achievable if they can stun the Blades.