How tough is each League 1 club’s run-in?
At the beginning of the season I compiled my traditional fixture difficulty matrices, which colour-code each club’s schedule based on how tough each match looked. Given that we’re now at the business end of the season where a run of tough or easy games can make or break a campaign, I thought it was worth using these to assess each club’s remaining fixtures.
I can’t really use bookmakers’ odds for these like I do in pre-season, as title and relegation odds aren’t available for every club and in any case don’t marry up precisely with a team’s current strength (e.g. if they stormed ahead / fell behind early in the season, recruited well / were raided in January etc). Individual match odds would work, but it’d be a pain to harvest these even if they did exist, so instead I’ve used the probabilities generated by my E Ratings model, which I already use to power the weekly timelines, previews, ratings and predictions.
I’ve used the model to calculate each club’s win probability for every one of their games this season (using their rating at the time for games already played and their current rating for unplayed fixtures) and identified the 10 easiest and 10 toughest on this basis. I’ve then colour-coded those fixtures in the grid: red being the tough ones and blue the easy ones (I avoid green to avoid antagonising the powerful colour-blind lobby).
Each row in the matrix below lists a club’s league matches in chronological order, colour-coded based on how difficult they appear to be. Clubs are ordered and numbered based on their current position in the league table and those numbers appear again in the grid so that you can identify which fixtures are which, rather than just which category each opponent belongs to.
Sheffield United will take some dislodging from the top of the table as they appear to have a lot of winnable games left. Southend can likewise be optimistic of breaking into the final top six with their 10 toughest games having already been played while the clubs immediately above them have a few tricky fixtures remaining.
Charlton could finish the season on a high with three relatively straightforward fixtures and Northampton could do likewise with a tough-looking run relenting towards the end of April.
The relegation battlers have far more tough than easy games remaining and all of the current bottom seven end their campaigns with a tough challenge. Port Vale may have a few games in hand but three of their last four scheduled games are horrible – they have to play the top two plus highly-rated Oxford away – so they need to make these count.