With the Championship’s regular season over, attention turns to the play-offs with four teams fighting for the final Premier League spot.
Leeds United and West Brom are already up. Marcelo Bielsa ended the Whites’ 16-year exile from the top-flight with a first-place finish while the Baggies have bounced back under Slaven Bilic, despite a late hiccup in form during their concluding fixtures.
Brentford, Fulham, Cardiff City and Swansea City were the four teams to make it into the play-offs, all experiencing very different final days. Brentford missed out on automatic promotion and were pitted against Swansea, who snuck in thanks to the most dramatic of wins. And it was the Swans who have control of the tie, winning the first leg 1-0 at home.
The other play-off semi-final sees Swansea’s rivals Cardiff up against Fulham after their comfortable final day win, but they will need to mount a big comeback if they are to get past the Cottagers. Fulham won the first leg 2-0 thanks to two second-half goals and will be hopeful of holding the lead as they look to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
So, to get you up to date ahead of the second legs and final, we’ve picked out some key stats, odds and players to look out for in the coming weeks.
Championship play-off fixtures & odds | SBK
Semi-finals (first leg)
Sunday 26th July: Swansea 1-0 Brentford
Monday 27th July: Cardiff 0-2 Fulham
Semi-finals (second leg)
Wednesday 29th July: Brentford vs Swansea (19:45)
- FULL TIME RESULT: Brentford to win 4/6 | Draw 16/5 | Swansea to win 5/1
Thursday 30th July: Fulham vs Cardiff (19:45)
- FULL TIME RESULT: Fulham to win 21/20 | Draw 13/5 | Cardiff to win 33/10
Tuesday 4th August: Semi-final 1 winner vs Semi-final 2 winner (19:45)
Championship promotion odds* 2019/20 season | SBK
- Brentford: 33.3%
- Swansea: 25.00%
- Cardiff: 20.0%
- Fulham: N/A
*Odds correct at time of publishing (09:30, 28/07/20). Displayed odds and calculated return may differ slightly because returns are calculated using a raw number.
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Who’s in the driving seat?
The Bees have been sensational under Thomas Frank this season, fittingly concluding their 116-year stay at Griffin Park in some style. An eight-game winning run saw them really ramp up the pressure on West Brom for the final stretch, but they just ran out of steam towards the end.
That’s not to say they won’t pose a threat in the semi-final second-leg and potentially the final. Ollie Watkins finished the season on 25 goals, just one behind Golden Boot winner Aleksandar Mitrovic while Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo both chipped in with 17 and 15 goals respectively.
Those numbers are simply frightening and will be giving Steve Cooper plenty of food for thought. Brentford scored three goals in each of the two league meetings this season, while Andre Ayew’s winner on Sunday was just the second goal Swansea have managed against the Bees – heavily tips this contest in the capital club’s favour. And they will be able to call upon Rico Henry after his controversial red card in the first leg was rescinded.
Key stat: Brentford are the overall top goalscorers in the Championship this season (80) and boast the joint-best goal difference (+42).
It has been a rebuild mission for Parker after the Cottagers dropped out of the top flight last season, but the former England international has done a commendable job and will be quietly confident of joining West Brom and Leeds in the Premier League next season.
With top scorer Mitrovic in the ranks he has a very meaning threat up-top, and he is likely to be flanked by Ivan Cavaleiro (if he is fit) and Anthony Knockaert. Plenty of Premier League experience there. Former Spurs midfielder Josh Onomah also offers a creative threat in the middle of the park and is something of a secret weapon for Parker, scoring the opening goal on Monday.
Fulham will have their tails up, and will head into the second leg full of confidence with the club on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run. Captain Tom Cairney has also returned from an injury and he partnered Harrison Reed in a two-man pivot.
Key stat: Only Leeds (22) managed to keep more clean sheets than Fulham (17) in the Championship this season.
Neil Harris took over from the evergreen Neil Warnock back in November and has performed superbly in the dugout to mastermind a fifth-place finish. The Welsh outfit were 14th upon his appointment and some seven points adrift the top six.
Since then he has injected a new lease of life to the Bluebirds and will be looking towards the likes of talismanic duo Lee Tomlin and Junior Hoilett for the crucial date against Fulham. The former is just one of five players to register 10+ assists this season in the Championship, and he only featured in 33 games.
Despite the two-goal lead, this will not be an easy game for Fulham because, unlike the west Londoners who rely heavily on Mitrovic, Cardiff have an even distribution of goalscorers across their squad. Danny Ward, Hoilett, Joe Ralls and Robert Glatzel have all netted seven, while Tomlin has eight. There is finishing prowess across the turf and Fulham must be wary of this threat.
Key stat: Cardiff scored in 18 of their 23 away games during the Championship’s regular season.
He won’t be counting his chickens just yet but what an amazing job Cooper has done to navigate the Swans into their current position, in the most unlikely and dramatic of circumstances as well. The twists and turns would have been unbearable for those of a Swansea persuasion, but there is still plenty to do before the celebrations can really kick off.
There is a real mix of experience and youth in this Swansea squad. Wayne Routledge (no, this is not 2013/14) is still on the books aged 35 while the Andre Ayew-Rhian Brewster partnership up-top is the stuff of dreams for a Championship manager; they have scored 25 goals combined. Liverpool fans will be pining for Brewster to feature more heavily next season…
Rhian Brewster absolutely fantastic strike ?❤️ pic.twitter.com/U7mzKZDlhT
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) July 22, 2020
Matt Grimes has been the key figure in midfield and was a near-ever present in 2019/20, while Bersant Celina offers that moment of spontaneity and panache in the attacking third. The squad is also dotted with experienced figures like Kyle Naughton and Nathan Dyer. Brentford will need to bring their A-game to turn this tie around.
Key stat: Swansea lost the least number of games away from home of any club in the Championship this season (four) — two fewer than Leeds.