This month one of four teams will achieve the dream of returning to the Premier League. Brighton and Hove Albion, Hull City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday will compete in the Football League Championship Playoffs.
The playoffs start Friday night as unlucky third-place Brighton travel to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday with the return leg this Monday night at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.
The other playoff pits Hull City and Derby County together. The first leg being played at Pride Park, Derby, Saturday lunchtime and the second leg being played on Tuesday at the KC Stadium in Hull.
The winner of both these ties over two legs will meet at Wembley on the 28th May to determine the playoff champions and the final team to be promoted this season.
The Seagulls were incredibly unlucky to miss out on automatic promotion but drawing their final two games, the last of which against now promoted Middlesborough, condemned them to the pain of the playoffs.
Brighton have had a great season after faltering last year and flirting with the playoffs. They also have a history in the Championship playoffs but not a good one as they have been beaten semi-finalists in 2013 and 2014. They will be hoping to go a few steps further this time.
The Owls’ managed to qualify for the playoffs in the last available spot in 6th place but their form coming into the playoffs leaves a lot to be desired. They have won only one of their last six games and have drawn far too many at this stage of the season.
Despite this they have also only lost three games since new year so they are by no means a weak side; Added to this is their 3-0 win over Arsenal in the Capital One Cup this season.
Brighton will go into this two-legged game as favourites as I can see them going that step further they haven’t in the past two years. However they will struggle in a big way if they let the disappointment of losing automatic promotion get the better of them this week.
Hull City vs Derby County
Hull and their manager Steve Bruce have done an amazing job getting themselves in the right place to return straight away to the Premier League this season. Fellow relegation team and now newly promoted Burnley may have returned quick and easier than the Tigers’ but I always felt Burnley were more ready and prepared for a Championship title run.
Back to Hull, they have one of the best, if not the best squad on paper in this division so should make easy work of most opponents. However Derby County are also one of the best teams in this division too.
Derby had a massive breakdown last season under Steve McClaren who despite leading the whole division in January managed to lose it all and Derby finished outside the playoffs last season.
It looked to be going a similar way this season after manager Paul Clements sacking in February but new manager Darren Wassall steadied the ship enough to qualify for the playoffs.
This game is far harder to call as opposed to the previous one. As I said previously Hull have the best squad out of these four teams; but they clearly have not been getting it quite right on the pitch and that could play into Derby’s hands.
The Rams will be extra motivated after last years debacle but also have an edge of not being the favourites in this tie. In other words they have nothing to lose.
I predict the Championship Playoff final on the 28th May will be Brighton vs Derby, but who will lift the trophy? Keep an eye out for all the odds on betfect.com
(images: Sky Sports, Telegraph, Sports Mole, Daily Mail)