Championship play-off permutations favour Derby and Ipswich
As automatic promotion and relegation from the Championship are essentially done and dusted, the focus on the final day of this term’s regular second tier season is on that lethal lottery that is the play-offs.
While it is still mathematically possible Middlesbrough could overhaul Bournemouth, Aitor Karanka’s Teesside team require a win and the Cherries to lose effecting a 19-goal swing in the process that is totally implausible.
Like Norwich City, Boro are assured of a play-off place and both are 2/1 chances with Coral to be promoted, but four teams are still slugging it out for a chance to be in next term’s Premier League. Our football experts tell punters below what each of the four need for a top six finish:
Mark Warburton may be taking charge of the Bees for the last time, but he could get at least two more matches if his team beat Wigan Athletic (1/3), who are down already, and both Derby County and Ipswich Town lose.
There’s also a way to make the top six if the Rams draw and Tractor Boys lose, but Brentford require a three-goal swing on the Suffolk side to occur to pinch the last play-off spot from Mick McCarthy on goal difference.
As it’s not in the west London outfit’s own hands, their chances of finishing the top six are rated at 4/1 and promotion is a remoter prospect at 25/1.
Brentford’s reverse fixture with the Latics was a drab 0-0 draw, though they have scored two goals in each of their last three home fixtures. Key attacking trio Andre Gray (an even-money anytime chance), Alex Pritchard (better at 7/4) and Jota (11/4) must all be on song to hold an any hope.
Things could not be simpler for McCarthy and Ipswich; at least draw at Ewood Park (11/5) and they are guaranteed a play-off place.
Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes has a superb scoring record of three in four against the Tractor Boys, however, and could haunt his former club here at 6/4 anytime, and 11/2 to grab the opener.
McCarthy is rightly wary of this opposition and of playing for a share of the spoils. “They want to send their fans home happy and they’re not going to lay down and die for us,” he told local radio.
“If you aim for a point, you might not get anything. If you aim for all three, you might get a point.”
With Ipswich enjoying a four-point advantage over Brentford, they are strongly odds-on at 1/10 to keep their top six spot, and 9/2 to go up.
The only way the East Anglia outfit can miss out on the play-offs is if they lose to Rovers, and Derby and Brentford both win with that aforementioned three-goal swing taking place, or a seven-goal swing with Wolves mauling already relegated Millwall. Such permutations all coming off are highly unlikely.
Steve McClaren’s Rams also have their destiny in their own hands; defeat the Royals (2/5) and they get another crack at the play-offs.
A draw (10/3) would also almost certainly be enough for County to make the top six, even if both Brentford and Wolves win because Derby are 16 and 20 goals better off than them respectively if it comes down to goal difference.
In Chris Martin, Darren Bent and Championship Player of the Month for April, Tom Ince (5/4 to add to five in six last month anytime), there is an attacking ensemble at Pride Park more than capable of getting the Rams into the Premier League at 7/2, and it’s 1/12 for them to take part in the play-offs.
Long odds of 66/1 for promotion and 20/1 to make the top six suggest Wolves have left themselves with too much to do, but there is still a very slim chance Kenny Jackett can make the play-offs.
It will require his current charges to crush former club Millwall (4/11), Brentford to avoid victory in all likelihood, and both Derby and Ipswich to endure defeat. A 20-goal swing is not realistic on the former, but a turnaround of seven on the latter remains possible.
Bakary Sako (7/4 to net anytime) will once again have to play a starring role at Molineux, though he is backed up by winter window addition Benik Afobe in Wolvesæ ranks.