Championship play-offs: Who can reach promised land of the Prem?
Semi-final action begins with Derby v Fulham
The Championship play-offs start this weekend, with high-scoring Fulham’s visit to in-form Derby County on Friday night.
Ahead of the battle for that final Premier League spot next season, the Coral News Team take a look at the respective clubs’ chances.
The Cottagers have been the best of the play-off pack this term. But after missing out on promotion with a 3-1 defeat to Birmingham City on the final day, Fulham have to dust themselves down and pick themselves up before they head to Derbyshire.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side can take great heart from the run they’d been on before last weekend’s defeat. They’d gone 19 games unbeaten, chalking up 15 wins and four draws in the process.
Still, they need to improve on their performance in last year’s play-offs, where the West London club were stifled by a functional but unspectacular Reading side.
However – they’re a more complete outfit this term. The likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Tom Cairney, Oliver Norwood and Ryan Sessegnon are amongst the league’s top talents.
Rams fans have seen one talented Derby side after another fall just short of promotion in recent years. But this year could be different. After all, they followed a mid-April wobble with resounding wins over Cardiff City (3-1) and Barnsley (4-1).
Their recent head-to-head record with Fulham has been pretty even. The last seven meetings have seen two wins apiece, with three draws. Each of the previous five clashes have seen both sides net, and it’s 3/4 for Both Teams to Score.
Boss Gary Rowett hasn’t been a promotion-winner as manager – but he has made the step up from second-tier to Prem as a Derby player. So he knows exactly what this club is all about.
The Villans have won four of their last seven games, but their away form remains a concern. Despite being superb at Villa Park, they’ve managed a meagre four points in their last five on the road – including defeat at Bolton Wanderers.
Of the play-off pack, they’ve probably got the best boss for this situation. Steve Bruce has made it up from this level four times, twice via the play-offs.
Villa can also count one of the league’s most in-form players amongst their ranks. Lewis Grabban has been a revelation since joining from AFC Bournemouth in January, netting eight times in 15 games.
Villa fans will be hoping he can prove decisive again, and it’s 21/10 he Scores Anytime in Saturday’s visit to semi-final foes Middlesbrough.
Boro are very much a product of manager Tony Pulis. The Teessiders are tough, functional and favour a pressing game with a counter-attacking threat. And they’re not short of men to put the ball in the back of the net.
The pacy and intelligent Patrick Bamford has 10 goals in his last 13 outings, and is finally fulfilling the promise he showed early in his career. Meanwhile, the powerful Britt Assombalonga is a nightmare in the air for opposition defenders.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing