League 1 permutations: 14 Jan 2017

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.

l1-permutations-2017-01-14 Sheffield United‘s four-point lead over Scunthorpe makes the Blades’ position at the summit unassailable for now, with five-point gaps underneath Bolton and Rochdale making the top end of the table pretty boring at the moment.

However it’s all going on in the race for the final play-off spot, with four other teams able to wrest sixth place from incumbents Fleetwood if the Cod Army slip up.

While the bottom five are cast adrift from the rest of the division at the moment, any one of them can start next week at the foot of the table. Current bottom side Oldham are the only club who aren’t able to move out of the drop zone, as Chesterfield hosting Coventry guarantees that one will finish the weekend with more points than the Latics.

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.


Fleetwood‘s chances of holding onto sixth spot look to be 50:50 – they have a tricky home game with Bristol Rovers (just a point behind them) but Southend also have a tough test with Rochdale coming to visit.

Swindon‘s chances of catching MK Dons look slim: in addition to their far poorer goal difference, they travel to promotion-challenging Bolton while the Dons have a far easier-looking trip to Port Vale.

With Shrewsbury facing high-flying Bradford it looks likely that they’ll be dropping into the bottom four this weekend, with Bury the most likely beneficiaries.