The Covid-19 season rumbles on. After a week of intense off the field trials and tribulations, we’re on the field. What can we expect? More of the same?
If so, our forecasts will be half decent, since they’re based on past results. It’s not a crystal ball, it’s just projecting patterns in the past into the future – extrapolating, the essence of forecasting. They churn out each week, they’re based on Elo ratings, and information from recent games (goals scored and outcomes from the most recent match, and also the last six).
Here, we look at Leagues One and Two, the third and fourth divisions of English football.
Below are the League One forecasts. The table has further left the abbreviations for team names taken from Reuters (though with a bug for AFC Wimbledon, who are AW’, and Bristol Rovers, who are BR). Expected goals are those drawn from a Poisson model based on past results given the information listed above from recent games, and Elo ratings. Hence Fleetwood are expected to score 2.16 goals, Doncaster just 0.88. This then feeds into scoreline probability forecasts, nine of which are listed for the nine most common scorelines.
We sum up all these probabilities to give an overall probability of each outcome, under “Outcome Probs”. The most likely scoreline is then in the “Score Picks” columns under “Most”. This is often 1-1, since 1-1 historically is the most likely scoreline, though not exclusively. The column “Cond” is the most likely scoreline conditional on the most likely outcome occurring – that’s usually, but not always, a home win since our forecast model builds in the home advantage.
The final two columns are the average bookmaker prices for match outcomes according to Oddsportal.
This is a weekend of strong home teams in League One. Only Sunderland at Swindon, and Hull at Rochdale are expected to win, according to the bookmakers. Our model agrees on Sunderland, but dissents on Hull, giving plucky Rochdale a 49% chance of upsetting newly relegated Hull.
In League Two, below, there’s a Lancashire Derby taking place at Bolton, as they host Oldham. The bookmakers rightly fancy Bolton, who have picked up from a slow start, though seem to find goals hard to come by. Our model expects a tighter encounter, with each team expected to hit 1.4 goals. Oldham have scored many goals, but have conceded many more. What will happen this afternoon?
There’s also a battle of the newly promoted clubs, as Harrogate host Barrow. League Two has been fairly unpredictable so far, though with one exception – Oldham always lose. Will Grimsby follow up their impressive win against Cheltenham? Can Morecambe, who struggled last season but sit atop the league, carry on at Crawley?