The Championship play-off semi-finals always produce moments of madness and this year’s set of fixtures promises to follow a similar vein.
Predictions for the Championship Play-Off Semi-Finals
Four Teams Desperate for Promotion
Four teams will go head-to-head in a bid for the third promotion spot and the promise of Premier League football next season and we could see new or familiar faces get the chance to challenge in the top tier next campaign.
All eyes will be on these games to see which team will seal a place in the Championship play-off final at Wembley. Here, we take a look at each game and who we think will book their place in the showpiece game.
Bournemouth v Brentford
Bournemouth want an immediate return to Premier League football, while Brentford are looking to finally break their duck and secure a place in the top flight.
The Cherries would hugely benefit from bouncing back at the first time of asking. Other teams in recent seasons haven’t managed to gain instant promotion and have then gone on to struggle in mid to lower-table mediocrity. Therefore, it would be a massive boost to get back as soon as possible.
As for Brentford, they have played some of the most attractive and entertaining football in the second tier for the last few seasons. Some of their best players continue to be taken from under their noses year after year and yet they continue to challenge at the top end of the table. They’ve been well deserving of promotion after switching the way they ran their football club and Thomas Frank will be eager to finally bag it this season.
Dominic Solanke has finally proven that he can be a consistently productive performer, having impressed in the second tier for the Cherries. He’s managed more goal contributions than anyone else at the club this campaign with 23 and, if he’s on form, opposition defences should be worried.
Bournemouth will need their best forwards on the top of their game to break down a well-drilled Brentford defence and if anyone can bag the goals to get them through, it’ll be Solanke. He will be desperate to get back into the Premier League to prove he can cut it at the highest level – and if he can bag the goals in this semi-final, he’ll give himself a great chance to do so.
It’s predictable but Ivan Toney is, without doubt, Brentford’s biggest threat. There is nobody in any of the English football pyramid who can touch his current levels of production and he’ll already have Bournemouth panicking about how to stop him. He’s been on a completely different level to anybody else in the league this season and he’s proven to be a clinical finisher. If they let Toney have too much of the ball, he will definitely make Bournemouth pay for it.
Bournemouth haven’t scored a goal in any of their last three games – including in a loss to Brentford. The Cherries need to start finding the back of the net again, otherwise, it could make for a long 180 minutes for the club. Key player Solanke will definitely need to find his scoring boots again.
This will be a really interesting game to watch, with both teams desperate for promotion for two entirely separate reasons. Brentford haven’t got the greatest record in the play-offs and Bournemouth could capitalise on this. However, the Bees have been a superb side all season, with some incredible players, and they’ve beaten the Cherries twice already during this campaign.
We predict a narrow Brentford victory over two legs to see them through to another Wembley final.
Barnsley v Swansea City
Barnsley have been the surprise package of the season and there’s likely to be a lot of impartial fans cheering them on in these Championship play-off games. Despite fighting at the wrong end of the league last season, they’ve done incredibly well to bag a play-off spot this time around. Although some have criticised their style of play, there is no question it has gotten them the results and it could certainly carry them all the way to the final.
Swansea City find themselves in a similar position battling for promotion back to the Premier League. They were solid and looked like a side who could steal an automatic promotion spot, only for them to run out of steam and fall into the play-offs. However, they have experience of this type of game and that could come in useful against Barnsley. They’ve played with style and could certainly go all the way.
Alex Mowatt is likely to be a man in demand this summer if his side do not seal promotion. The 26-year old has exceptional work-rate and has become a key part of the way that Barnsley have tried to play football this season. He’s bagged seven assists and is capable of creating a chance for his side out of thin air, averaging 1.5 key passes per game. His creativity and vision have emerged as one of the best in the entire league – and if he can produce similar in these high-pressure games, it will go a long way towards getting his side to the final.
Swansea will need a consistently solid player to help them through both legs of this fixture and that could come in the form of Connor Roberts. The 25-year old has played wherever he has needed to this season so far – at right-back, right-midfield or even at right-wing. He provides a level of calm to the rest of the squad because of his ability on the ball and his composure and quick thinking has led to a number of goals and assists this campaign so far. In games like these, where every minute matters, Roberts could fly under the radar and provide the edge that Swansea need to bag a win.
Barnsley are the feel-good story of the season in the Championship and have played football that gets the job done. Swansea have been a high-level Championship team for a while now and just need something to finally take them to the next level and back to the Premier League.
The Swans have done the double over their opponents in the regular season – but that could be all the motivation that the Tykes need to make it third time lucky when it really matters. Add in the fact that Swansea’s form has been patchy heading into the play-offs and Barnsley could go another step towards sealing a surprise promotion.
Barnsley might not seal a win in both legs – but our prediction is that the Tykes will just about sneak their way through to the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium.