Championship Play-Offs Preview: Four Solid Contenders

Championship play-offs
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Four League One teams have become two in the play-offs. Wycombe Wanderers disposed of MK Dons and Sunderland overcame Sheffield Wednesday with a trip to Wembley the reward. The victor will make a return to the second tier of English football. Talking of the best league in the world, the Championship play-offs are soon to get underway, the climax being the most lucrative game in football. Only one set of supporters will walk back down Wembley way with smiles on their faces.

The Championship Play-Offs Are Finally Upon Us

Luton Town vs Huddersfield Town

It still seems bizarre, in the nicest way possible, to be typing that both Luton Town and Huddersfield Town are in the Championship play-offs. The former have enjoyed a dramatic rise up the football pyramid whilst the Terriers were promoted to the top-flight against the odds, just a few years ago. Under David Wagner, they were able to retain that Premier League status for a season. Following their relegation, from Jan Siewert to the Cowley brothers, they went through a few different managers.

Huddersfield have been a well-oiled machine under the stewardship of Carlos Corberan to the point where relegation fears became a spot in the Championship play-offs. Despite the surge of Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield finished in the top play-off spot and so the table points towards them being favourites. Luton, in a similar vein, but very differently at the same time, are punching well above their weight. Nathan Jones has done a fantastic job in his second stint at Kenilworth Road and to get to this point is nothing short of remarkable.

The first of the two semi-finals will take place at the home of Luton on Friday night. When the pair met in Bedfordshire in the regular season, it was a cagey affair that finished 0-0. Fascinatingly enough, Huddersfield were the fourth-best both on their own patch and away from home. Luton on the other hand were ninth for games at Kenilworth Road and fifth for trips on the road.

Injuries were a pressing issue for Jones and Luton in the latter stages of the season. Key players such as Elijah Adebayo and James Shea were sidelined and it remains to be seen who will be absent for the post-season. On the other hand, Corberan boasts a clean bill of health at the time of writing. Huddersfield are probably the favourites but these are two sides who continue to exceed expectations. Luton defender Sonny Bradley and Huddersfield midfielder Lewis O’Brien are the two players to watch.

Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forest

Embed from Getty ImagesFrom one major clash to another in the Championship play-offs and this semi-final is intriguing for very different reasons. Nottingham Forest’s rise from the foot of the table to only just missing out on automatic promotion under Steve Cooper is nothing short of a miracle. Previous managers were unable to get the best out of a strong squad and a famous club, but Cooper has bucked this trend.

It has been an equally turbulent year for Sheffield United with the expectations pointing towards an instant return to the Premier League. They struggled for stability post-Chris Wilder though and Slavisa Jokanovic was underperforming. A familiar face in Paul Heckingbottom took over though and in the face of adversity and a lot of injuries.

Their two-legged battle will get started on Saturday afternoon at the iconic Bramall Lane. There aren’t many better fanbases and grounds in the Championship and so viewers will be duly rewarded both on and off of the pitch. Both regular-season fixtures ended 1-1 with late drama in tow, yet Forest are surely the team to beat in these Championship play-offs. Forest are a force to be reckoned with, Bournemouth and Fulham being the only two teams to score more than them and to pick up more points on the road.

A fair few Blades will feel they have a point to prove in the Premier League after their relegation back along whilst the City Ground hasn’t seen top-flight football in over two decades. Given injuries to Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick, Rhian Brewster and Billy Sharp, the role of goal scoring has fallen at the feet of two youngsters. One of which is Iliman Ndiaye and the other is the Sheffield United player to watch, the obvious one, Morgan Gibbs-White. Meanwhile, the Forest player to keep an eye on has to be Brennan Johnson, correctly awarded EFL Young Player of the Season.

Championship Play-Offs Predicted

The beauty of the Championship play-offs, and the play-offs in general, is that anything can happen. Luton Town could easily continue to defy all odds and book their spot in the Premier League. That being said, Huddersfield can be expected to go to Wembley where they’ll lose to Nottingham Forest. Steve Cooper has done such an impressive job and form is definitely on their side. Brennan Johnson is the difference maker and the stage is set for him to further explode!

 

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