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Analysis after the tough Christmas/New Year period

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When we hit the top of the table back in the autumn after our amazing run of form, I looked at the fixtures coming up and commented about how we were due to play 7 out of 8 games against (then) top 10 teams over Christmas and the New Year, culminating in playing Leeds then Ipswich to cap it all off. While some people argued that these results would define our season, I was more optimistic that we would be able to make up some lost ground in the following weeks with a much easier series of games. I did not imagine that we would be sitting top at this point, but here we are.

As it happens, we gained 13 points from those 8 games and only really lost ground to Sheffield Utd out of the teams competing for the top 2. The main reason we are top is that Leeds lost 4 games in that period including, crucially, to us. We are averaging below 2 points per game, which is fairly unusual for the team top of the table. However, only Leeds are within 5 points of us (although West Brom could be 4 behind by winning their game in hand) and we have a much more straightforward run of fixtures coming up.

Of course, no games are easy at this level and there are some tough fixtures in our run in but ,in comparison to the last couple of months, it should be a bit easier. In contrast, Sheffield Utd have games against Boro', West Brom and Leeds in their next 7 matches; West Brom play Forest, Villa, Sheffield Utd and Leeds in the next 5; and Leeds obviously play both. For me, this is the period where automatic promotion will be won or lost. By the international break in March we could well be 10 points clear of 3rd place; and this is what I hope will unfold.

Ultimately, it looks like a lower than normal points total will be required to win the league and I think 85 points will be enough for 2nd place, with a number of teams clustered around the 80 point mark. 8 more wins and 1 draw would get us there so we could potentially lose 5 or 6, even though we have only lost once since September. I still think we could go on and get 90+ points just by continuing our form (ignoring the awful start).

Here's the latest version of my predictive algorithm final table; could Bristol City really sneak into the top 3?


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