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Evaluating matches difficulty-level - updated on: 16 Jun 2020

When the league is well into the season, we can try to get a sense of how difficult each team's run of played matches might have been and similarly, how easy or hard their upcoming matches look like.

Ten matches into the season and our team is solidly docked to the 4th spot. A rather positive ranking we might think, considering the last two sluggish campaigns. Confidence kicks in. The prospects of a successful season are starting to materialize.

Most of our mates' teams are ranking behind. Here's that smooth feeling of pondering at all those green lights taking our team into safe bragging territory. Surely those are promising signs of swift weaving through the banter for a while. The outlook is bright. The next match can come. Our team stands strong.

Or does it? What about that early win against the newly promoted team, that has kept on struggling ever since? That draw at the current Champions' sure looks solid, yet here's an opponent that is used to slow season starts. By the way, any more opponents of that calibre already played? Not really? Well there's of course that blisful home win against the arch rivals that got everyone at the stadium beyond pleased for at least a month no matter what. That does feel good yet can this be called a convincing win over a very strong team?


That early league ranking feeling

We all know it. An early league table ranking is not very meaningful in terms of team performance. Yet any league ranking will carry along its share of influence on morale, team visibility, and rushed opinions on whether or not a club's performance is in line with its stated or perceived objectives.

Do we need another striker? How is that defense holding on? It's early season but time is already running out should there be any last hiring decision to make. Early season rankings are one of those things that may carry more importance than meaning.

Evaluating the opposition level

We look at the league table and we want to know how our team fares. How it matches up against its rivals and against its objectives. We want to see how firmly the top teams are standing their ground. Is there a tight race for the title or for the European spots? What's happening near the relegation zone? Any early signs of relative weakness, or any looming nightmare season ahead for some?

A glance at the league table will quickly give us some clues. However to help get a better sense of the underlying team performances, it would be useful to know what type of opposition have enabled each team to reach their current points tally.

What the teams have really achieved

We know that an away win at the leaders' will influence a team's ranking exactly as much as a home win against a relegation-zone team would. To get a sense of how meaningful a points tally is, we want to know more about how hard it might have been for each team to pick up their points.

One way to estimate the opposition strength is to take a look at the average points per game (PPG) of each opponent already played. For example, if two teams are ranked evenly but with Team 1 having played opponents averaging close to 3 as PPG value, and Team 2 having faced opponents with weaker records (say a combined opposition PPG below 1.5), one could argue that Team 1's points tally has been earned at the expense of "stronger" oppositions and thus could consider their current ranking as underestimated compared to Team 2's.

The goal is to evaluate PPG of played and remaining opponents based on whether such opponents were faced (or will be faced) at home or away, as obviously there can be a significant difference between a given opponent's results achieved in their home matches and those achieved in away matches. You can view an example of the complete table on the Bundesliga run-in analysis page.


How difficult each team's next matches are expected to be

To get an idea as to how difficult upcoming matches could be for a given team, the same calculation methold is also applied regarding the team's remaining matches. The calculation will thus be based on the Points Per Game of each of the opponents that the team is scheduled to play against until the end of the season, depending on whether such opponents are to be played at home or away.

Throughout the season, we may also want to get an idea of just how the next few games are shaping up for a given team. The PPG value in the "Next 4 opponents" column shows the average home or away opponent PPG values calculated regarding the team's upcoming 4 oppositions.

Played matches vs future matches difficulty levels

That value in the "Difference (Played - Remaining)" column provides a way to measure, for each team, the difference between the estimated difficulty of the matches already played, versus the same calculation applied to the team's remaining matches.

That value can also be interesting to look at when we're approaching the final stages of the season, for example to get an idea of which team from the title race might have, on paper, the "easiest" or the "most difficult" run, or to get a sense of whether a team still needs to play against most of the stronger opponents or not.

Similarly if two teams are competing to avoid relegation, and one team has yet to play against top teams away, while the other team is scheduled to face middle-range opponents, the difference between the opposition PPG values should be visible either in the Difference column or in the "Remaining opponents" column for both teams.

For more information on the run-in analysis table and the calculations used you may want to read the run-in analysis description page.

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