League 1 permutations: 30-31 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.


Bolton’s seven-point cushion renders the top three inaccessible from beneath at the moment, but just two points separate them from leaders Scunthorpe.

Nobody below the Trotters is guaranteed to be sitting in a play-off place at the start of 2017, with the three cubs immediately below all capable of dislodging one of the other incumbents.

The relegation battle remains wide open, with five different clubs able to start the New Year at the foot of the table but nobody certain to end 2016 in 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.


With Scunthorpe facing a tough trip to Bolton while Sheffield United are at home, the Iron look likelier than not to surrender top spot to one of their rivals.

While nobody is guaranteed to end this round of fixtures in the bottom four, Oldham’s chances of escaping it look slim. They’d need to win at Fleetwood while Bury, Shrewsbury and Chesterfield all lose – even a draw for one of them would render 20th place inaccessible to the Latics.