- Next Tuesday, August 4, it’s the English Championship Playoff Final between Brentford and Fulham
- Brentford start as favorites after just missing out on automatics but Fulham have recent Playoff Final experience
- We’ll preview the game, look at the odds and offer a pick
What’s often described at the ‘biggest prize in soccer’ is up for grabs next week when, on Wembley Stadium.
While Wembley will be empty, there’s still no diluting the prize on offer – a Premier League place is worth an estimated £170 million – and next season one of these two west London neighbors will be mixing it with the elite of the English game. We’ll preview the game, look at their form going into the final, and see if we can find some value for the bettors.
Brentford vs Fulham Championship Playoff Final Odds
|Team||Spread||Moneyline||Total at DraftKings|
|Brentford||-1.25 (+275)||+110||Ov 1.5 (+123)|
|Fulham||+1.25 (-400)||+245||Un 1.5 (-167)|
Odds taken July 31
A Fine Farewell to Griffin Park
Brentford’s 3-1 win over Swansea on Tuesday was significant for many reasons, not least because it was the club’s final game ever at Griffin Park – their home since 1904. And what better way to sign off than to qualify for a one-off chance to take the club into the English Premier League for the first time. The win was also important because it turned around a run of three straight defeats – a run that threatened to derail any hopes they had of promotion.
Prior to lockdown, the Bees were third but looked almost certain to miss out on automatic promotion, with Leeds and West Brom flying at the top of the table and ten points separating the second-placed Baggies and Brentford. But all that changed in the weeks following the restart when Thomas Frank’s men went on a seven-game winning run, which coincidentally included a win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) July 30, 2020
Brentford Choke With Two to Go
With West Brom struggling for consistency, second place was literally in the Bees’ own hands as they entered the final two games of the regular season, but with the pressure on they choked and lost twice. To pick them up from that disappointment was a massive task for Frank and it was no surprise they lost the first leg of the playoff semifinal in Swansea. In a feisty encounter, Brentford lost Rico Henry to a red card before conceding a late goal that gave the Swans a slender lead.
But the Bees showed what they were made of in the second-leg and gave Griffin Park the most perfect send-off. With Henry able to play due to a successful appeal over his red card, the Bees were given a perfect pre-match boost and carried that momentum into their performance, playing some of their best soccer of the season to go into a 3-0 lead. A late Swansea goal, courtesy of a rare Pontus Jansson error, gave the visitors hope, but the Bees were able to see it through and set up the Wembley showdown.
While they began the playoffs as favorites due to their fine league form, they entered this mini-tournament in a bad place and the job Frank has done to lift them from the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion has been exceptional.
Brentford vs Fulham Head-to-Head Stats
|46 / 24||Championship games played / Wins||46 / 23|
|7-0 vs Luton (h)||Biggest win in 2019/20||4-0 vs Millwall (h)|
|2-0 vs Preston North End (a)||Heaviest defeat in 2019/20||3-0 vs Hull (h), Barnsley (h) & Leeds (a)|
Comfortable Route to Playoffs
Fulham’s route to the Playoff Final has been less dramatic than Brentford’s but their place at Wembley no less deserved. While their restart didn’t go to plan – a draw at Birmingham followed by the home defeat by Brentford – they recovered well and made it comfortably into the playoffs with few dramas. At no point did they really look like making top two, so manager Scott Parker wasn’t tasked with having to lift his players ahead of their two-legged semifinal against Cardiff City in the way Frank was.
𝔽𝕦𝕝𝕙𝕒𝕞 𝟙 (𝟛-𝟚) 𝟚 ℂ𝕒𝕣𝕕𝕚𝕗𝕗
Here's our take on a tough evening, but one where we ultimately got the job done 🙌#FULCAR
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) July 30, 2020
Cottagers’ Masterclass in Cardiff
The away leg in Cardiff was an example of this Fulham team at its best. Composed, assured, and with loads of possession, they turned in an away day masterclass and headed home with what looked an unassailable 2-0 lead, with goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano. That it was achieved without the services of the Championship’s leading scorer, Aleksandar Mitrovic, made it all the more impressive.
The job Frank has done to lift Brentford from the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion has been exceptional
The return leg at Craven Cottage was less straightforward for Parker’s men, again minus the services of Mitrovic, with Cardiff upping their tempo and making life tough for Fulham from the word go. With fire in their bellies, the Bluebirds stifled the Cottagers’ passing game and with the help of an early goal looked to turn the screw.
Parker’s men responded to Cardiff’s early goal immediately but two minutes into the second half, the Welsh side went ahead again, leaving the Cottagers with a nervy 43 minutes to negotiate. Fulham’s muted celebrations at the end were of relief rather than elation. Parker and his men knew it was a little too close for comfort.
So, oddly, it’s Brentford who head into the final with the edge after the semifinals but, for me, the key here could be that Fulham has experienced a successful Championship Playoff Final within the last two seasons. Experience counts for everything on these occasions, even at an empty Wembley, and with the Cottagers having a few older heads and, possibly, a fit-again Mitrovic, in their squad, I see them winning when it really matters, probably by a single goal.
Pick: Fulham to win (+245)
Let's have fun and keep it civil.