League 1 permutations: 18 Feb 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.


Sheffield United are five points clear at the top but could have a different set of neighbours in the top two if Bolton can continue to take advantage of Scunthorpe‘s stumbles.

With Millwall not involved this weekend – their game with Oxford has been moved due to FA Cup commitments – three clubs are capable of turfing them out of the play-off zone.

New Bury boss Lee Clark could make an excellent first impression by steering the Shakers out of the relegation zone at either Oldham or Port Vale‘s expense.

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 Bolton away at Bradford, Scunthorpe should be safe in the top two for now despite facing an even tougher test at Bramall Lane – the combined probability of the Trotters winning and the Iron losing is just 13%.

Millwall look likelier than not to be ejected from the top six in absentia, with Southend at home to Northampton and therefore likely to pick up the point they’d need to edge ahead on goal difference.

Bury have a relatively straightforward away game at struggling Chesterfield but need a win combined with a home defeat for Port Vale to move out of the bottom four.