We’re just past the halfway point of the season and things are looking good for Chris Wilder and Sheffield United as they push for promotion to the Premier League.
And while the hectic period of Christmas fixtures can make or break a season, this year could be the one that sees the Blades make it to the top tier according to a supercomputer produced by FiveThirtyEight.com.
Results, forecasts and a club’s Soccer Power Index – which is an estimate of a team’s overall strength using performance statistics – are used to calculate predictions including likelihood of promotion, number of goals scored and final league position.
The Blades’ Boxing Day win over promotion rivals derby County saw them return to fourth in the Championship table - but where does the supercomputer think they’ll end the season and how likely is it that United will get promoted?
Well, while Chris Wilder’s men only have a slim chance of winning the league – just 7 per cent likely according to the computer – they have a 33 per cent of promotion and a 51 per cent chance of making the play-offs.
That’s higher odds for reaching the play-offs than is forecast for any other team in the top six.
The supercomputer also simulated the rest of the Championship season based on data from the campaign so far and United ended up with 22 predicted wins and a total of 77 points, which would keep the Bramall Lane club in fourth.
Current Championship leaders Leeds came top of the league in the simulation, with the rest of the top six made up of Norwich in second, West Brom third, the Blades 4th, Aston Villa in 5th and Middlesbrough in 6th.
Leeds are 48 per cent likely to win the Championship and have a 75 per cent chance of promotion, while Norwich have a 21 per cent chance of winning the league and 52 per cent probability of promotion if the computer is to be believed.
The computer rates West Brom’s chances of securing a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking at 17 per cent for winning the Championship, 49 per cent for promotion and 47 per cent to make the play-offs.
That’s marginally better than Sheffield United’s predicted finish but the big movers are Aston Villa, currently 9th in the Championship, who the supercomputer reckons will finish behind the Blades in 5th.