2017 Championship Xmas Preview

Those of you who have read the Christmas Post before know what’s coming!

First of all, I know I promised to update the League Cup preview if there was an upset, but I thought I’d save it for today. In the absence of any official video highlights, I’ve chosen the best footage available of a dramatic and unexpected win for Bristol City at Ashton Gate:

City’s reward for beating Manchester United: a semi-final draw with Manchester City.

Back to the league and for new readers, there’s a definite correlation between where teams are in the table at the end of 26th December and where they are at the end of the season. So let’s begin:

  • In four of the last five seasons, the team that were top on Boxing Day finished as Champions. The exception: Derby in December 2015 – who eventually finished fifth.
  • In all of the last five seasons, the team that was promoted automatically was in the top five at the end of Boxing Day – in four of those seasons they were already in second place. The exception: Watford (26th December 2014) although the Hornets were in sixth place, seven points behind eventual title winners Bournemouth.
  • At least one of the playoff finalists was in the top six at the end of Boxing Day and in three of the the last five seasons both of them were.
  • At the other end of the table, the team that was bottom on Boxing Day finished bottom at the end of the season, but the interesting aspect here is that in every one of the last five campaigns the teams that were going to be relegated at the end of the season were already in the bottom five at the end of the Boxing Day programme. It’s normally the bottom two that have the most to worry about.

One aspect of the promotion battle I’ve not looked at before is the gap between the top six at close of play on Boxing Day. This time round I’ve found both the resources and the time to do so.

In four of the last five seasons only a point or two separated the clubs in the top two positions: we don’t know yet if Wolves will be top on Boxing Day (it’s a reasonable assumption), but if that’s the case then they could well have equalled the five point gap that Cardiff had over Hull five years ago. December 26th 2012 also saw the biggest gap between the first and sixth placed teams: Watford were 13 points behind Cardiff at that stage. The current gap is 14 points: if that remains the case then Wolves could win the Championship at a canter.

This weekend

For obvious reasons, Bolton Wanderers v Cardiff City and Sunderland v Birmingham City are the pick of the 3pm kick offs, especially if you don’t want to watch either ‘Frozen’ or ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’.

Game of the week is Aston Villa v Sheffield United (5:30pm, Sky Sports Football/Main Event) – Villa have only lost once at home in the league this season but they’ve not won at home for a month. The Blades have picked up one point in the last five games and have lost four of their last six aways since winning the Steel City Derby back in September. They’ve not met in a league game for over a decade and United haven’t won at Villa Park since England won the World Cup.

Boxing Day

Hull City v Derby County and Sheffield United v Sunderland are the pick of the bunch if you’re even paying attention at 3:00pm (the King George VI at Kempton is off at 3:15), although for some reason Burton v Leeds is live on Sky Sports Football/Main Event at the same time. Brentford entertain Aston Villa at 7:30pm (Sky Sports Football/Main Event), which is yet another example of Sky’s laughable scheduling – Griffin Park is less than ten miles from Sky Sports’ HQ in Hayes and I’ve lost count how many times Villa have been on telly this season.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy whatever you’re doing over the holiday season and the weather is good wherever you’re doing it. I’ll be back for the Third Round of The FA Cup.

Author: Mike Roberts

A football fan since the 1970s, I take my inspiration from the standard of writing that made Shoot! magazine streets ahead of anything else back in the day. I'm also a complete and utter stathead, which I blame on being exposed to American sports at the end of my teens.