Championship permutations: 3-5 Feb 2017
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 are a few “pinch points” in the table at the moment which divide it into a series of mini-leagues. Despite their slips, Newcastle remain four points clear of Reading and Huddersfield are now six points ahead of Derby, who can be displaced from the play-off zone by any of the four sides beneath them.
Seven different clubs could be sitting 12th at the end of this round of games and the same number could be in 19th, which goes to show just how difficult it is to measure team strength using the league table even at this relatively advanced stage.
Rotherham will remain rooted to the foot of the table for some time but there could be some different company in the bottom three, with both Bristol City and Burton able to be dragged into the relegation zone this weekend.
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.
Derby and Sheffield Wednesday are roughly equally likely to occupy sixth place after the weekend’s games. The Rams have to travel to Newcastle while the Owls have an easier away trip to Wigan this evening.
With Birmingham having to host in-form Fulham it’s likelier than not that the Blues will be displaced from the top half by a member of the horde breathing down their necks.
At the bottom it isn’t particularly likely that the relegation zone will see a change of membership: Bristol City and Burton are both at home and have three-point leads over Wigan and Blackburn, so they don’t need to do much to remain safe.