Wednesday, May 18, 2011

English League Championship Playoff Preview

After playing conservative first legs, all sides went full bore in the second.  Swansea and Reading each scored 3 goals and are moving on to the Championship Playoff Final.  This will be Swansea's first appearance in the final.  Reading last appeared in the playoff final in 1995, losing to Bolton.  Reading also won the league title in 2006 earning an automatic promotion. 

So who to predict as the winner?  Hmmm... this is an extremely even matchup.  Including the playoff legs, both Swansea and Reading have a goal differential of 29 goals or 0.604/game.  The model I use to estimate number of goals scored projects 1.191 for Reading and 1.189 for Swansea.  So we could very easily see extra-time and possibly penalty kicks deciding this match.  The final will be played at Wembley Stadium in London so it's technically a neutral site.  However, Reading is only 40 miles west of London while Swansea is 190 miles west.  So Reading should have the big edge in supporters, practically making it a home game for them.  On the other hand, Swansea won both matches against Reading this season by identical 1-0 scores.

So not much to differentiate the two.  However, if we consider this a home game for Reading, making it a road game for Swansea, then we have to pick the Royals over the Swans.  Excluding playoffs Swansea had the best home record, leading the league in victories (15) , goal differential (30) and fewest goals allowed (11).  On the road, they struggled with a -3 goal differential.  So their success is driven by their home performance and they are merely average away from Swansea.  Reading on the other hand had a more balanced performance.  They are one of only four teams to have positive goal differential both home and away (QPR, Norwich and Cardiff were the others).  So they perform well no matter where they play.  So we can consider this match a home game for Reading or a neutral site game, but it is definitely not a home game for Swansea.  Therefore I'm giving the edge to Reading and picking them to return to the Premier League.

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