The former will fancy their chances after last year’s third-placed side, Watford, made it all the way to the promised land, where they’ve put on a fine show in survival, but the fact that the previous three sides who finished one place off automatic promotion missed out should give cause for pause before betting.
Chris Hughton’s men will go into the mini-tournament off the back of an energy-sapping 1-1 draw away to Middlesbrough, who edged promotion ahead of them on goal difference, whereas next opponents Sheffield Wednesday could afford to lose 2-1 at Wolves, having booked sixth place.
Wednesday look a very tidy price at 13/8 to win the first leg at home next weekend.
In the other semi-final, Derby fans will hope it’s their season after losing in the final two years ago, and missing out completely last term despite leading the super-tight Championship going into March 2015.
However, they face a Hull side who have been there and done that under Steve Bruce, taking in promotion, Premier League survival, relegation, an FA Cup final and even a little bit of Europe.
Bruce’s boys’ Champo challenge stuttered between late February and mid-April, when they went on a run of just one win in eight league matches, but four victories in their past six, including thrashing Rotherham 5-1 at home last time out, see the Northerners head into the mega-money lottery in form.
Hull will be vying with Brighton for overall playoff favouritism ahead of the semi-final first legs, where they’re 19/10 outsiders to score an await victory against Darren Wassall’s Rams at the iPro Stadium.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.