Matches that will matter, 14 Apr 2018

As we’re approaching the business end of the season, a single match can often have a huge impact on the fortunes of the teams involved. I’ve therefore had a crack at using the ratings model to identify this weekend’s most pivotal fixtures by simulating the rest of the season and tracking what tends to happen when each match ends in a home win, a draw and an away win.

The actual numbers we’ll see after the weekend won’t be exactly the same as the ones shown here as we obviously don’t know what’ll happen in all of the other games. The best way to think about these is that they represent the best estimate assuming every other match plays out as expected.

The graphics below show the matches the model has picked out this weekend where the most appears to be at stake for both clubs involved, along with how their respective chances of achieving their main goal varies with each outcome. These can be read in conjunction with the match preview graphics – powered by the same model – to get a steer on what’s likely to happen.

Barnsley v Bolton (Championship)

We start with a pure relegation six-pointer: in all likelihood Sunderland and Burton are heading for the drop and these two are the nearest to joining them. A win for either would be huge, with each likely to see their survival prospects leap to around 90% if other results go as expected, while defeat makes it likelier than not that the loser will be relegated. Even though a draw wouldn’t be catastrophic for either side, it would be reckless to play for a point here given Birmingham’s resurgence under Garry Monk.

Charlton v Scunthorpe (League 1)

In the first of two six-pointers in the League 1 promotion race, Charlton can count the visit of a fellow challenger as one of their easier remaining fixtures and therefore perhaps their best hope of remaining in the play-off hunt. Their only match left against a bottom half side is away at Rochdale, who are rated highly by the model and will be no pushovers as they look to extricate themselves from a relegation scrap. Scunthorpe may sit outside the top six at the moment but their gentler run-in means that a win would put them in a stronger position than the Addicks, although defeat for either side would be a huge blow at this late stage.

Plymouth v Portsmouth  (League 1)

Plymouth, like Charlton, are a top six incumbent being visited by a team looking to oust them this weekend. The Pilgrims’ impressive rise means that even a draw would leave them likelier than not to secure a top six spot, although a win would probably boost this northwards of 75%. An away victory wouldn’t have quite the same impact for Portsmouth given their relatively tough run-in: both of their remaining fixtures against bottom half sides are also on the road.

Grimsby v Barnet (League 2)

You only have to look at how closely the two columns of donuts mirror each other to see how much of a zero-sum game this is. A win for Grimsby leaves them all but safe and pretty much dooms Barnet, but if the Bees win then things are left finely balanced. The Mariners have another six-pointer lined up in a trip to Forest Green, while the visitors have Chesterfield and Morecambe still to play, so I can see the relegation battle going right down to the wire.

Chesterfield v Mansfield (League 2)

The EFL’s bottom side are running out of time and even a win here would leave them – at best – two points adrift of safety. The Spireites will be hoping that Mansfield’s collapse continues: the visitors’ play-off prospects are evaporating fast and a loss here would probably leave them with too much to do. An away win however puts them right back in the mix, while adding to the pressure on their hosts to go and get results at Barnet and Forest Green in the weeks to come.