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SAM predicts the football league

Thursday 26 January 2017

Fresh from predicting the final Premier League table, SAM, the prediction machine developed by experts at the University of Salford, has now looked at the rest of the football league.

In the Championship, after running the numbers through the Sport Analytics Machine (SAM) more than one million times, Newcastle have a 71% chance of winning the league with Brighton on 27%. It is pretty much a done deal for as the rest of the top six have less than 1% chance of winning the league.

Newcastle and Brighton are firm favourites to go up automatically; both have over 95% chance of finishing in the top two places, although all teams down to Preston in eleventh have a slight chance of making the top two.

At the other end of the table Rotherham already look doomed with a 99% chance of being relegated, Burton have 73% chance of relegation, with Wigan, Blackburn and Bristol City all fighting to avoid the final relegation place.

Interestingly the predictions show the extra excitement and intrigue that the play-offs add to the season. According to SAM, even Nottm Forest in 19th at the moment have a small chance of making the top six. They also have nearly 7% chance of being relegated.

In League One things are tighter at both ends of the table. Scunthorpe, Bolton and Sheffield United all have similar chances of winning the league and going up automatically, with Scunthorpe just slight favourites with a 43% of being champions, Bolton have a 34% chance, while Sheff Utd have 20%. The play offs are wide open, with about half the division having a realistic chance of finishing in the top six.

At the other end of the table Northampton, Swindon, Bury, Shrewsbury, Chesterfield, Coventry and Oldham look like they will be fighting it out, with Bury, Northampton and Swindon just about expected the beat the drop.

Doncaster in League two look like they have the league sown up already, with a 74% chance of being champions and an almost certain 99% for going up automatically. Plymouth are the only side with a reasonable chance of challenging them and have a 91% likelihood of automatic promotion. Again most of the top half of the division has a decent chance of making the play-offs. At the bottom Notts County and Newport are the firm favourites for the drop, with Cheltenham, Crewe and Leyton Orient not out of trouble yet.

Professor Ian McHale, who developed SAM at the University of Salford, said: “Our stats cover all the top leagues in Europe to the same level. As such, our predictions for the Championship and the other leagues are just as accurate of those for the Premier League.

“The top two and the bottom place look fairly certain but the numbers show that there is going to be a lot of twists and turns between now and the end of the season. All divisions in the football league are particularly volatile and unpredictable with very little separating the teams in the middle. Interestingly our prediction in league one don’t match the bookies expectations. They have Sheffield United as big favourites to win the league, but SAM only has them predicted to finish third. It’s going to be a fascinating end to the season in the football league.”

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Sam Wood

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