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Data guru still has Boro reaching play-offs...just!

Byline: ANTHONY VICKERS @EveningGazette

NERVOUS fans may be getting the jitters but the world's leading number-cruncher is still backing Boro to make the play-offs.

Boro have wobbled of late taking just one point from four games and some supporters fear they their top six spot is fragile.

Yet a cutting-edge data analytics firm has factored in the stutter and still has them pencilled in to finish fifth.

That would put them on course for a two-legged Championship play-off crunch with West Brom, predicted to finish fourth.

That is the forecast of a high-powered stats-based predictions system devised by the man who calls the US elections.

Stateside stats guru Nate Silver was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world after his computer modelling absolutely nailed the outcome of the 2008 and 2012 US elections.

His highly respected data firm - FIVETHIRTYEIGHT - also does sports predictions.

It analyses attacking and defensive stats and current form to give a weighting to each team to predict the outcome in future fixtures.

And given Boro's relatively gentle run-in and some tough games for their rivals, Boro are predicted to hold on. Just.

The modelling after the latest round of Championship games predicts Boro will finish fifth on 72 points.

That would leave them eight points adrift of the Baggies and just two ahead of Aston Villa, predicted to finish sixth.

The latest forecast sees Bristol City squeezed out on goal difference with Derby a further point behind.

A mooted meeting with Albion should give heart to Boro fans. Tony Pulis has beaten his former side home and away this season.

Boro won 1-0 at the Riverside in August then came from behind to win the reverse 3-2 in February.

If they get past West Brom then Boro are pencilled in to play either Villa or Leeds, who FIVETHIRTYEIGHT suggests will finish third after being narrowly edged out by Sheffield United.

The modelling chimes with most fans that the automatic spots are gone, giving Boro just a 14% chance of squeezing into the top two.

But the weighted formula gives them a 61% chance of going up through the play-offs, slightly better than Leeds on 55% - although they still believe Marcelo Bielsa's men are well placed for a top two finish.

The forecast gives the Baggies the best chance to go up via Wembley with 95% making the play-offs a tough test for Boro.

How it works: Silver's sports modelling crunches a torrent of numbers to produce a unique 'soccer performance index' for each club.

That is derived from historical data on past performance, individual player match-by-match ratings based on Opta scores, attacking and defending weighting and a complex variety of other factors including the vogue measure of 'expected goals.' The model also takes account of types of goals scored and conceded and tries to quantify 'luck', the discrepancy between data showing the team is playing well but a result going against them.

That SPI changes with every result and is used to model the projected outcomes of all the remaining fixtures for every team.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 20, 2019
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