The Championship Play-Off Race
The Championship playoffs begin this weekend, with four teams chasing the dream that is the Premier League. Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby are the four teams involved, and out of those only Derby doesn’t have significant Premier League experience as a club.
Fulham head into the playoffs as favourites for promotion after a great campaign that nearly saw them bag automatic promotion. However, a loss on the final day of the season stopped them from having a chance, and they were beaten to the final automatic spot by Cardiff. They are 13/8 favourites to grab the final promotion spot with Ladbrokes, a price that will appeal to many based on how good they have looked during the season. However, we have seen in the past that those finishing third and missing out on automatic promotion have often struggled in the playoffs, and Fulham are going to be interesting this season, they have the quality, but do they have the mental strength to bounce back and win?
Their semi-final is against Derby, with the first leg taking place at Pride Park on Friday night before the return leg in London on Monday. Home advantage is likely to play a big part here, and Fulham can keep things tight before finishing Derby off at Craven Cottage on Monday night to book their place at Wembley. Derby have not been anywhere near their best in recent weeks, and this looks like being a step too far for them.
The second semi-final looks to be very even with Aston Villa taking on Middlesbrough. The first leg is played up in Middlesbrough on Saturday evening, while the return leg will be at Villa Park on Tuesday night. There is little to choose between these two, but Aston Villa have a squad full of big game experience and players like John Terry are going to be a huge help to them in the next few games. He and many others have played in some of the biggest games in the world, experience that will see them through.
Should Villa get through the tough test of Middlesbrough then they look to have a great chance of making it back to the Premier League. They are a best price 3/1 with Black Type to get back into the Premier League, and their big game experience can take them there. There is no doubting that Fulham have the quality in their team to challenge, and seeing them at Wembley would be no surprise. However, they have had their chance and missed out on automatic promotion, something that is very difficult to bounce back from. The experience that Aston Villa have can come out on top here, and take them back up to the Premier League, a place where they have created many good memories for their fans.
As ever, expect to see five very tight games in the playoffs this season, but I am backing Aston Villa to come out on top, and they are priced up at 3/1 with Black Type to do so.
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