81 Different Relegation Scenarios for Premier League Survival Sunday

On Premier League Survival Sunday, how many times during the 90 minutes do you think the league table will change near the bottom of the table? Depending on which teams score and when, the league table positions of the five teams battling to avoid the drop may resemble a roulette wheel at times as teams jump up and down the five places. This relegation battle is already the closest finish in the history of the Premier League. And it could end up being the most dramatic conclusion to a league season in the history of the English game since Michael Thomas’s last minute goal for Arsenal to win the league on the final day of the season in 1989.

It’s definitely going to be one of those days where a lot of people will have their pens and paper out to quickly figure out who is staying up and who is going down at any moment’s notice. It’s also going to be the only day in the season where almost all eyes will be transfixed on the bottom of the table rather than the top.

All this week, EPL Talk reader Stacy Richardson and I have been trying to put together a guide to the final day of the season and the different scenarios to show how each of the five clubs could stay up. But it’s a mind-boggling task especially since there are an incredible 81 different scenarios of what could happen to Blackburn, Wolves, Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan on Sunday. Yes, eighty one. The closer to the bottom of the table the clubs are, the more scenarios there are of the club going down.

So instead of creating a complicated list of what each club would have to do to avoid relegation, which would be filled with a multitude of if and or then statements, I decided to show you, in exhaustive detail, two charts which illustrate the scenarios courtesy of the Engineering Sport website. The first one you’ll definitely find eye-opening:

First, here’s a chart showing the 81 different scenarios of what can happen between the five teams on Sunday (click the image for a larger picture). Note that the chart shows the total possible points gained by each team (the teams relegated are in red).

Second, here’s a chart showing the number of possible scenarios where each club could get relegated:

It’s fascinating that the last day of the season has come down to just a one-point difference between five clubs. It may be years or more than a decade before this happens again. Then again, it could end up being a boring end to the season if Wolves and Blackburn draw, and Wigan, Blackpool and Birmingham lose. But with so much on the line for all five teams trying to avoid relegation, teams will be fighting for their lives to score goals and keep their team up.

In many ways, Survival Sunday has become what we hope the title race would be. Often, the title race is sewn up weeks before the season ends. But the relegation battle, and the sheer luxury of teams staying in the Premier League and knowing what it means to the supporters, means that the end of the season is now more romantic at the bottom of the league. I’ll be watching closely and hoping that there’ll be a fun rollercoaster ride on Sunday. Sadly, two teams will join West Ham in their fall to the Championship on Sunday. Unless, of course, that there will be a tie-breaker where two of the clubs have to play one more game. That’ll only happen if both clubs are tied on points, tied on goal difference and tied on goals scored. The chances of that happening are slim given the nature of goals flying in during games. But it is possible. And that would be an insane way to end the season.

15 thoughts on “81 Different Relegation Scenarios for Premier League Survival Sunday”

  1. There are more than 81 scenarios due to goal differential. E.G. if the 3 teams on 39 points all lose, then it goes down to who loses by the most goals.

    1. No there are 81 game scenarios. No matter what each team can only win, lose or draw. Yes, scoring differential is important but it doesn’t effect the game scenarios. So technically the relegation pie graph shows the most likely outcomes from the scenarios but not the real life % chance of relegation because you would need to add in all the scoring probabilities (like scoring 9 goal is 1% chance while scoring more than 2 is 50%, etc.), which is IMPOSSIBLE without taking a year to do.

      1. Sorry I wasn’t 100% clear in re-reading my comment. The pie graph correctly shows the total outcomes from the 81 scenarios but it doesn’t show the real world chances of relegation because as Bruce said goal scoring differential matters. However, there are only 81 scenarios and accounting all the scoring odds is impossible so the pie graph is more or less similar to the real percentages.

      2. And we get the 81 because two teams play each other so Wigan has 3 scenarios (win, lose, draw) as does Birmingham City, and Blackpool. From Blackburn and Wolves there are a combined 3 scenarios (Blackburn can win and Wolves lose, Wolves win and Blakcburn loses, or they tie). So 3^4 = 81.

        1. Yes, Keith, there are 81 game outcome scenarios. However, if the question is “how many different relegation scenarios are there”, you are correct – it would take forever to do that, because there are a lot more possible outcomes than 81. But that’s the point! It’s much, much better than a simple win, lose or draw scenario. The following scenario is possible: Wigan lose 1-0 at Stoke (Header from a Delap throw, of course). Blackpool has to travel to Old Trafford, and Man U always has the ability to crush a team by 3 goals at home. Birmingham can easily get crushed by 3 goals at White Hart Lane by a Spurs club that needs the win. In that case Blackpool go down in 19th on goal differential, and Wigan stay up on goals scored over Birmingham (which I think would give Liverpool their Europa League place)!

  2. My observations, 1 more win during the season would make so much of a difference for any of these teams, especially the 2 40 points teams. Also, Mark Hughes, Fulham manager is known for his draws; so what do Birmingham do? Lose to Fulham AT home. That’s rather poor but I think they have a good chance Sunday but the Spurs will be fighting for the 5th place spot along with Liverpool who will play Aston Villa. Most likely, Liverpool will win their game making Tottenham needing their match.

  3. Very interesting way to look at it. Thanks for doing this. I notice that over half of the outcomes are decided on goal difference (41 out of 81) rather than points and that throws quite a lot of variance into the pie chart in terms of who is likely to go down on Sunday. But it’s fascinating nonetheless.

  4. This is definitely a fascinating piece, thanks for it.

    No pen and paper needed, though. ESPN Soccernet does the math for you in it’s ‘Live’ table mode. Or maybe I’m just lazy haha.

  5. Intereseting quirk for scenario 65, Blackburn loses to stay at 40pts, Birmingham draws to stay get to 40pts with GD -20. I guess Blackburn was chosen at random to be relegated, however, given their current GD, they would have to lose by 6+ goals to Wolves. Not likely.

  6. I think Wigan, Blackpool and Birmingham will all lose. It will then come down to goal difference. Blackpool and Birmingham are up against United and Spurs both teams that can score. If both these teams lose by more than 2 goals and Wigan lose by just one goal then Wigan will avoid the drop. That’s what I predict will happen.

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