- The English Championship regular season is done, with Leeds going up as champions and West Brom runners-up
- Brentford just missed out on automatic promotion but are playoff favorites, just ahead of Fulham, Cardiff, and Swansea
- We list the odds for all four teams, look at their chances and offer our best picks
With Leeds already assured their place in next season’s English Premier League, it was left to West Brom and Brentford to battle it out on Matchday 46 for the final automatic spot, a battle won by the Baggies. Fulham and the Welsh pairing of Cardiff and Swansea make up the playoff quartet.
The playoff schedule was announced today and Swansea will play Brentford on July 26 and 29, while Fulham plays Cardiff City on July 27 and 30. The final will be played at Wembley on August 4. Brentford are favorites, but we’ll take a look at all four and see if there is any value elsewhere.
Championship Playoff 2019/20 Odds
|Team||Odds to Be Promoted at Bet365|
Odds taken on July 23
Brentford’s Thomas Frank has arguably the hardest job of all four coaches given how close his team went to earning automatic promotion. A scintillating run of form post-lockdown gave the Bees the chance to edge ahead of a wobbling West Brom, but two defeats in their final two games, after a run of eight consecutive wins, saw them fall at the final hurdle.
That Brentford have been the best team of the quartet counts for nothing now, and the psychological blow of missing out in such disappointing fashion will have left Frank’s men deflated. Even more damaging is the knowledge that West Brom’s 2-2 home draw with QPR meant a win for them over Barnsley would have been enough for second-place. As it transpired, the Bees buckled when the pressure was on and lost 2-1 to a Barnsley team who were battling for survival.
If Frank’s men can clear their heads in time – they only have three days – then they are the technically best-equipped team to see the job through. With a front three of Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma, and Bryan Mbeumo, who have scored 57 league goals between them this season, they have all the ammunition they need and if they’re still in the tie after the first leg in Swansea, they’ll fancy getting the job done back at Griffin Park, which will be the last ever game in their old stadium.
Scott Parker’s men will be looking to ensure their stay in the Championship is only for one season, after getting relegated from the Premier League last May. While they began Project Restart with a disappointing defeat by local rivals Brentford, they bounced back well and now head into their playoff semi with Cardiff off the back of a run of seven games unbeaten, five of which were wins.
The dead ball specialist! 🙌
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) July 22, 2020
Their1-1 draw at Wigan on Wednesday was ultimately academic but a win for them in the north-west with both West Brom and Brentford losing would have been enough. It was a long shot, however, and they won’t be suffering a Brentford-like hangover as they head to Cardiff for their semifinal first-leg, and in some ways are in better shape than Brentford.
What the Cottagers also have in their favor is Aleksandar Mitrovic, the league’s top scorer with 26 goals – one more than Watkins – and they’ll look to their home meeting with Cardiff earlier this month, which they won 2-0. They have a real chance, especially with an experienced squad.
Brentford’s Thomas Frank has arguably the hardest job of all four coaches given how close his team went to earning automatic promotion.
Like Fulham, the Bluebirds are also looking to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt, after dropping back to the Championship alongside the Cottagers last May. It’s been by no means a straightforward campaign for the South Wales club, with former manager Neil Warnock being shown the door back in November with the club a disappointing 14th in the table, but the appointment of former Millwall boss Neil Harris to the hot seat has worked perfectly.
💙 #CardiffCity will face Fulham in the Play-Off Semi-Finals.
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) July 22, 2020
The recent defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage was one of only two in their last 11 games and they enter these playoffs in good form, their 3-0 win over Hull on Wednesday being their third on the spin. In the early weeks of the season, with Warnock still in charge, they drew with Fulham 1-1 at their Cardiff City Stadium and will be hoping to go one better and take a lead back to west London.
They are without a prolific goalscorer in their ranks like Brentford and Fulham, but they have Lee Tomlin on eight and four others with seven, so can get goals from all over the pitch. They may be classed as outsiders but in the lottery of the playoffs anything is possible and they are a hard team to beat.
The Swans come into the playoffs on an absolute high after qualifying unexpectedly in the most dramatic fashion. Faced with a significantly inferior goal difference and a three-point deficit behind Nottingham Forest, they pulled off a brilliant 4-1 win at Reading, while Forest imploded at home against Stoke, losing by the same scoreline.
Swansea’s win at the Madjeski made it four wins in their last six games, a run that started with them having only just above mid-table, but it’s with huge swathes of momentum that they line up against Brentford. Few expected them to make the playoffs and so the pressure has been minimal on Steve Cooper’s men, and continues to be as they head into this mini-tournament as the outsiders.
Andre Ayew is the Swans’ main goal threat, with 15 league goals, but Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster has also chipped in with 10 since January. Momentum, at this stage, is everything. They’ll fancy this.
Best Bet for Promotion
While Brentford head into this in a bad place, they’ll take heart from the fact third-placed teams have had the most success in the last decade, winning four of the last 10 Championship playoffs. The last time a team that finished sixth won the playoffs was in 2010, but such is Swansea’s high right now, the value is with their +450 for Wembley glory.
Pick. Fulham to play Swansea in the final. Swansea to win (+450)
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