That time of year has come up once again. The moment that fans dream of. Drama, entertainment, and excitement: it’s time for the EFL play-offs.
Teams Gun for Promotion Via the Play-Offs
Bournemouth head into the EFL play-offs seeking an immediate return to the Premier League. Their semi-final opponents, Brentford, hope to finally secure a place in the top flight.
The Bees have been well deserving of promotion this season and Thomas Frank will be eager to cross the line into the Premier League.
Barnsley have been the surprise package of the season and there will likely be a lot of impartial fans cheering them to success 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.
Having been an early-season automatic promotion contender, Swansea City must navigate their way through the Play-Offs if they want to reach the Premier League.
The Welsh side has been a high-level Championship team for a short while now and just needs something to finally take them to the next level and back to the Premier League.
Swansea City have done the double over Barnsley in the regular season; however, that could be all the motivation that the Tykes need to stop it from being third-time lucky. 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.
Bournemouth could seize upon Brentford’s poor fortune in previous play-off campaigns. The Bees have, however, won both of their meetings with Brentford this season and – with an attractive, attacking style of play – this could be enough to carry them through to Wembley.
AFC Bournemouth v Brentford – Monday, May 17, 6:00 pm KO
Barnsley v Swansea City – Monday, May 17, 8:15 pm KO
Brentford v AFC Bournemouth – Saturday, May 22, 12:30 pm KO
Swansea City v Barnsley – Saturday, May 22, 6:30 pm KO
Lincoln City, Sunderland, Blackpool and Oxford United are to go head-to-head for a spot in the Championship next season.
Just one of the quartet will join Hull City and Peterborough United in the second tier, but plenty of the sides competing will think they have a genuine chance of winning promotion.
Sunderland will be desperate to return to the Championship for the first time since 2018, but they take on a Lincoln City side who have, for much of the season, looked contenders for automatic promotion.
Having failed to achieve promotion last term, Oxford United will be making a second consecutive attempt to depart League One. The U’s, however, take on a Blackpool side looking to return to the Championship for the first time since 2015.
With Oxford United to be without boss Karl Robinson throughout the EFL play-offs due to a four-match touchline ban, the U’s may struggle for motivation from the touchline. The 40-year-old was dealt the ban by the FA following an altercation during the U’s clash with Sunderland in April.
Oxford were without Robinson for their 4-0 dismantling of Burton Albion, but the challenge of Blackpool – who are unbeaten in four league outings, managing not to concede as they did so – could prove one step too difficult.
Lincoln City have spent most of their season in the top two and so having had their hopes of automatic promotion dashed could have a lasting effect. The Imps managed just one win in ten as they concluded the season, putting the breaks firmly on their charge.
Sunderland, meanwhile, have found it difficult to pick up momentum but have a number of key players in their squad. Lee Johnson’s side should have enough within them to get past Michael Appleton’s Lincoln City.
Oxford United v Blackpool – Tuesday, May 18, 6:00 pm KO
Lincoln City v Sunderland – Wednesday, May 19, 6:00 pm KO
Blackpool v Oxford United – Friday, May 21, 7:45 pm KO
Sunderland v Lincoln City – Saturday, May 22, 3:30 pm KO
Cheltenham Town, Cambridge United and Bolton Wanderers were the three sides to win automatic promotion to League One: Newport County, Tranmere Rovers, Forest Green Rovers and Morecambe will be looking to join them.
Morecambe missed out on automatic promotion by just a single point, picking up 19 points from a possible 30. Derek Adams’ side will now face Tranmere Rovers in the semi-finals.
Forest Green Rovers – now managed by caretaker manager Jimmy Ball after Mark Cooper’s sacking – will take on Newport County. The Welsh side have, however, forfeited home advantage in the second leg, opting to host the first leg instead due to pre-booked renovations on their pitch.
The meeting between Tranmere Rovers and Morecambe is one hard for punters to call. The Shrimps could still be suffering the heartache of missing out on automatic promotion by just a point; Tranmere Rovers, meanwhile, enter the play-offs with a caretaker manager at the reins after Keith Hill left just over a week ago.
Rovers could, therefore, be buoyed by the cliched ‘new manager bounce’ and use the change to positive use in order to pass a deflated Morecambe side.
Forest Green Rovers have the advantage over Newport County heading into the play-offs (W1 D1), but Jamille Matt – who has scored 16 goals this season and netted in both fixtures – is now out injured.
County’s impressive end of season form (one defeat in nine games, including six clean sheets) – and Matt being absent – should give the Exiles enough to reach Wembley.
Newport County v Forest Green Rovers – Tuesday, May 18, 8:15 pm KO
Tranmere Rovers v Morecambe – Thursday, May 20, 6:00 pm KO
Morecambe v Tranmere Rovers – Sunday, May 23, 12.30 pm KO
Forest Green Rovers v Newport County – Sunday, May 23, 6:30 pm KO