League 1 permutations: 20-21 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-2017-01-21Bolton have a five-point gap on either side of them at the moment, so they aren’t going anywhere this weekend. However it’s chaos beneath them as any of the next four clubs could finish the weekend in fourth and none are guaranteed to remain in the top six.

At the bottom, Coventry are the only club assured of remaining in the relegation zone for now, with MK Dons and Bury both able to be dragged back into the bottom four if results go against them.

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 Sheffield United at home and Scunthorpe away this weekend, the Iron’s chances of reclaiming top spot are only around one in five (19%) despite the gap only being one point.

Walsall‘s goal difference advantage over Port Vale means that even if Vale were to win their Friday night home game against struggling Bury, they’d need the Saddlers to lose heavily at home to stand a chance of overtaking them.

The Shakers’ chances of remaining outside the relegation fray for now are a shade worse than 50:50, with Shrewsbury likeliest to overhaul them thanks to their own winnable-looking home match against Oldham.