The League One play-offs are about to begin, with four clubs battling it out to win promotion to the Championship for 2024-25. We look at the predicted chances of each side thanks to the Opta supercomputer.

The 2023-24 League One play-offs kick off on Friday night with Barnsley vs Bolton Wanderers at Oakwell, followed by Saturday night’s Oxford United vs Peterborough United clash at the Kassam Stadium.

The Opta supercomputer has been hard at work crunching the numbers and analysing the data to give us the League One play-off predictions, so here are the results…

Who Will Win the League One Play-Offs?

Considering they finished in third place behind Portsmouth and Derby County, it’ll hardly come as a surprise that Bolton are predicted to win promotion through the League One play-offs this season by the Opta supercomputer.

League One Play-offs

Ian Evatt’s side finished five points behind Derby but lost fewer games than they did (9 vs 10) over the regular season. Bolton ended the league campaign in good form, too. They went unbeaten in their final seven games (W3 D4) and lost just one of their final 12 – that defeat coming away at Derby on 16 March.

Bolton won one more point (87) than they did in 2016-17 (86) when they secured automatic promotion from League One to the Championship, while their points tally this season was their highest in a league campaign since winning 87 in the second tier in 2000-01 en route to finishing third. How did that season end? Well, they won the play-offs.

They are predicted to repeat that feat this season by the Opta supercomputer, with Bolton winning the League One play-offs in 36.6% of the latest simulations and reaching the final 63.8% of the time.

The team finishing third in League One, as in Bolton’s case this year, has won the play-offs in four of the last five seasons, with the exception being fifth-placed Sunderland in 2021-22.

Their semi-final opponents Barnsley held on to a play-off spot, finishing two points above seventh-placed Lincoln City despite a dreadful run of form to end the regular campaign. They went without a win in their final six games (L4 D2) and won just one of their final nine.

This will be a repeat of last season’s League One play-off semi-final, which Barnsley won 2-1 over the two legs, with their 1-0 victory at Oakwell in the second leg sending them through to the final against Sheffield Wednesday. They went on to lose that 1-0 with the last kick of the game in extra-time.

With the lowest chance of winning the play-offs this season (17.5%), the Opta supercomputer is obviously reading into the fact that the team finishing sixth in League One hasn’t won the play-offs since 2016-17, when Millwall beat Bradford City in the final. However, the last time Barnsley finished in the final play-off spot (2015-16 League One), they won promotion to the Championship.

Peterborough were the highest-scoring team in League One this season (89 goals), but they are also leaky at the other end of the pitch. Their 61 goals conceded was only below Barnsley (64) among the top 13 teams in the League One table.

Darren Ferguson may still be scarred by last season’s League One play-off semi-final tie. His Posh side beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 at home in the first leg, before losing 5-1 after extra-time in the second leg at Hillsborough and suffering elimination via a penalty shootout.

This will be Peterborough’s sixth time in the EFL play-offs – after earning promotion on each of the first three occasions (1991-92, 1999-00 and 2010-11), the Posh have been eliminated in the semi-finals in both 2013-14, by Leyton Orient, and 2022-23, by Sheffield Wednesday.

They are favoured to make it through this tie and to reach the final at Wembley on 26 May (54.9%) but Oxford United could offer a stiff test of their credentials. After all, Oxford beat Peterborough 5-0 at home just last month in arguably their most impressive display of the season.

This is Oxford’s third time in the EFL play-offs after losing the League One play-off final to Wycombe in 2019-20 and going out in the League One semi-finals to Blackpool in 2020-21. The supercomputer gives them a 19.7% chance of winning promotion from the play-offs for the first time ever, but they’ll have to pass Peterborough first.

League One Play-Off First Leg Predictions

Oxford United vs Peterborough United

Oxford win: 41.3%
Draw: 24.0%
Peterborough win: 34.7%

Barnsley vs Bolton Wanderers

Barnsley win: 32.7%
Draw: 25.4%
Bolton win: 41.9%

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