Rich man’s world: The Championship play-offs are back
It’s often said the Championship is one of the most competitive leagues in world football. And this year is proving no different with the game’s most lucrative fixture just around the corner.
Norwich City and Sheffield United have confirmed their automatic spots in the Premier League for next season.
So it’s left to the play-offs to offer the ecstasy and heartbreak, with just one place left up for grabs going into the final week of the regular season.
That being said, we run through the play-off contenders and how they could fare going into the end of season showpiece.
The Whites will be ruing a run of three matches without a win – but will this make them more dangerous?
An away game against already relegated Ipswich Town presents a chance to consolidate third-place as Marcelo Bielsa prepares his side for the post-season.
If Leeds do avoid defeat to the Tractor Boys then it’s looking likely it’ll be Derby County or Middlesbrough in the semi-final.
They didn’t lose against either side this season which will see them favourites to reach Wembley.
We go 7/4 they come out on top at the national stadium and return to the Prem for the first time in fourteen years.
West Bromwich Albion
The Baggies have been steady all season and will likely finish the campaign in a solid fourth place.
Jimmy Shan’s men have won three and drawn one in their last four games, but face a huge tie against Derby on the final day.
The Rams may well have to win to make the play-offs, but West Brom won’t want to surrender their momentum either.
If all goes to plan they will likely play their cross-city rivals Aston Villa in the semi-final.
It’ll be a feisty pair of matches with everything on the line. We have the Baggies at 3/1 third favourites for promotion but with the league’s most potent strike force – anything is possible.
Aston Villa are comfortably the form side going into the play-off campaign. Dean Smith’s side have come from nowhere and put together a twelve match unbeaten record – including a club record ten-game winning streak.
The Villans host a Norwich City side hoping to wrap up the title at the weekend – but the home side may have one eye on the play-offs already.
Villa are 2/1 to seal a return to the top-flight after two seasons in the second tier.
Jack Grealish has been instrumental to their upturn in form – but will the heartbreak of play-off final loss last season still weigh heavy on their shoulders?
Derby have shaken off their February slump to go unbeaten in their last four games. Frank Lampard’s boys have an extra game to play compared to their rivals.
They go to Swansea City on Wednesday knowing a win will all but secure a top six berth.
If they lose, it will be all in on their home tie against West Brom on the last day with Boro ready to pounce on any slip up.
If the Rams to wrap up sixth-place, then they look set to meet Leeds in the two-legged knock-out.
You can get Derby at 7/1 to go all the way and win at Wembley – but can Lampard’s young side keep their heads when the pressure is on?
Boro have woken up after losing six-matches on the spin in the last two months. Tony Pulis’ men have gone on a four game winning run and end the season with a game away to Rotherham next Sunday.
Although locked on the same points, Boro currently trail Derby by five goals – so we could see a cricket score against the already relegated Millers if there’s still something to play for.
Outsiders at 20/1, Pulis know his days may well be numbered whether or not his team bag the final play-off position.
Boro looked nailed on for much of the season, but will their salvage job be too little too late?
Bristol City have squeak of the top-six, but at 80/1 to win promotion – they require both Derby and Boro to lose their remaining games.
Stranger things have happened though…
View the latest Championship odds here.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication