What the underlying stats says about Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Reading, Bournemouth and Cardiff City's Championship play-off hopes

Middlesbrough’s play-off hopes appeared to be fading following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Millwall – but what does the Championship’s form table and underlying data tell us about Boro’s top six prospects?

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:02 pm

With eight games to go, the Teessiders are six points behind sixth-place Reading, but with matches against play-off rivals Bournemouth and Barnsley to come, there could still be twists and turns before the end of the campaign.

We’ve taken a closer look at the five teams in and around the top six and the data behind their last ten results as they enter the final run-in…

Barnsley’s promotion charge

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Chuba Akpom of Middlesborough celebrates with team-mates after scoring against Luton.

After winning nine of their last 11 league games, momentum is clear with Barnsley, with Valerien Ismael’s side sitting fifth in the table despite a 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday last time out.

Behind the Tykes, Reading occupy the final play-off position but have the worst points per game total over the last ten games (1.4) compared to the teams around them.

If current form continues, it will be Mick McCarthy’s Cardiff, currently eighth, who will sneak into the top six, after averaging 2.1 points per game over the last ten fixtures.

As for Boro their average points per game total for the last ten matches is 1.6, and if that trend continues they would finish on 69 points.

Points per game for the last 10 Championship fixtures.

The average number of points needed to finish in the top six in previous seasons is 74 points, suggesting Neil Warnock’s side will just fall short.

Reading look vulnerable

Still, if recent results are anything to go by, Reading do appear slightly vulnerable.

The Royals have scored the least amount of goals (averaging 1.1 per game) compared to their league rivals over the last 10 games, while their goals against (an average of 0.9 per game ) is slightly better than Boro and Bournemouth (both 1.1)

Expected goals and expected goals against over the last 10 Championship fixtures.

Cardiff, on the other hand, have scored the joint highest (along with Barnsley) and have conceded the least over the last ten games. The Bluebirds, therefore, look well placed to break into the top six.

Interestingly, though, when you look at the expected goals figures – for and against – McCarthy’s side are overachieving compared to the chances they are creating and conceding.

That is actually where Boro fare quite well, with the Teessiders’ XG figure over the last ten games only just shy of Reading and Barnsley, the same as Cardiff’s and better than Bournemouth’s.

And when it comes to expected goals against, Boro fare better than three of the four teams directly above them, with only Barnsley (0.81 XGA) faring better than Boro’s 0.9 XGA over the last ten matches.

What does that mean for Neil Warnock’s side?

Despite their league position and inconsistent form in recent weeks, the expected goals figures suggest Boro should be placed higher in the table heading into the final eight games.

It’s been well documented that Boro have lacked a natural goalscorer this season, and the fact only Swansea have scored less goals out of the Championship’s top nine sides highlights that.

But, as the stats suggest, if the Teessiders can just slightly improve their effectiveness in both boxes, they may be able to keep their faint play-off hopes alive.

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