Championship play-offs preview: Teams, matches and odds
It’s play-off season, and in the Championship that means four sides hoping to reach the promised land of the Premier League.
The play-offs often produce some of the most dramatic action in the whole campaign, and this season should be no exception.
So here’s everything you need to know about this year’s four hopeful squads, the crucial matches, and the all-important odds…
Fulham – 3rd / 88 pts
Fulham were 10th on New Year’s Day but have been the team to beat since Christmas.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s men went on a stunning 23-game run to force themselves into the play-offs, and almost the automatic spots, beating everyone in the top six along the way.
It’s their second successive appearance in the post-season. They lost to Reading in the semi-finals 12 months ago.
Aston Villa – 4th / 83 pts
Aston Villa were another side to start the season slowly. Steve Bruce’s men didn’t enter the top-six until gameweek 13, but have been near ever-present since then.
They ended the season with four defeats in their last 10 games, but had enough in hand to make their first appearance in the Championship play-offs.
Manager Bruce has experience here though, guiding both Birmingham City and Hull City into the Premier League via the back door.
Middlesbrough – 5th / 76 pts
On paper many would argue that Middlesbrough’s squad should be in the top two, and after a poor start, the Reds started showing their class in recent months.
Tony Pulis’ side have spent much of the campaign between seventh and 10th, but their late-season flurry thrust them into play-off contention.
Boro’ lost only two of their final 13 matches, and this is their fourth appearance in the play-offs. They were winners in 1988, semi-finalists in 1991 and beaten finalists in 2015.
Derby County – 6th / 75 pts
Derby are an anomaly here in that they were excellent earlier in the season and then struggled during the final weeks.
The Rams sat second for much of the Christmas and January period, but a winless eight-game run through February and March saw them slide down the order.
But they did just enough to claim sixth ahead of Preston, collecting seven points from their final three games. County make their seventh Championship play-off appearance, but they’ve only gone up once, in 2007.
When & Where
Derby and Fulham will get things started on Friday night, with the second leg in West London on Monday.
Middlesbrough and Aston Villa will play on Saturday evening, before their second clash on Tuesday.
The final will take place at Wembley on Saturday 26th May at 5pm.
Given their stunning 2018 form, Fulham are favourites to go up at 13/8.
But Villa are close behind at 13/5, with their manager Bruce already a two-time veteran of play-off success.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing