Fixture difficulty matrices, 5 Aug 2021
Following their initial creation back on fixture release day, I’ve updated my fixture difficulty matrices to factor in the latest bookmakers’ odds to visualise where each club’s tough and easy matches appear to be next season. 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 and the clubs themselves are sorted and numbered by where the odds imply they’ll finish in the table.
I’ve coloured the strongest-looking clubs (based purely on the odds) in red and the weakest-looking in blue, but you can use the numbers down the side to identify which fixtures are which.
Based on the distribution of odds, highlighting the seven strongest and weakest teams made the most sense. At opposite ends of the bookmakers’ predicted table, Manchester City and Norwich look to have tough starts, while Manchester United and Everton both have gentler opening schedules.
For each of the EFL divisions, the relative distributions of odds led me to draw the line at the six strongest and weakest clubs, so there’s slightly less colour on these than the one above. Cardiff have a great chance to set the early pace among the promotion challengers, while Derby open with three potential three-pointers against other sides expected to struggle.
Ipswich’s gentle start could see them becoming the early pace-setters here, while Wigan and MK Dons’ tough sets of opening fixtures could see them take a while to get going. Newly-promoted Cheltenham look set to endure a baptism of fire, with no matches against predicted relegation strugglers until mid-October.
Hartlepool have been handed a gentle reintroduction to life in the EFL with three opening fixtures against teams expected to be battling the drop. Meanwhile Leyton Orient could find themselves adrift early on thanks to a tough August and September. Oldham should enjoy the festive period more than most, with a five-game run from mid-December to mid-January against clubs expected to finish in the bottom six.