Believe it or not, but victory in Saturday’s Championship play-off final will net the winning team somewhere in the region of £160 million in TV rights, licensing deals etc – and that would be doubled again next season if they could avoid relegation from the Premier League. For the losing team….well, another campaign of obscurity awaits.
The pressure on the Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday players when they take to the famous Wembley turf will be excruciating then, and the ability to handle those big match nerves is likely to be crucial in determining a winner here.
So who will be taking their place in the promised land next season, and who will have to make do with a trip to Burton Albion amongst others?
Championship Play Off Final
Most pundits recognise that current form – and thus momentum – is far more important than head-to-head stats when trying to identify a winner in a one-off game. Take a look at Derby County for example, who have now beaten Hull City in three of their four meetings during the 2016/16 campaign. And yet it is the Tigers who will take their place in Saturday’s showpiece because they held their nerve when they needed to, and were in better form than their opponents (four wins in six compared to no win in three) heading into the tie.
Mind you, Sheffield Wednesday blew that trend to pieces in defeating Brighton, and while the Owls were full value for their win we have to recognise that the Seagulls were missing two of their key players through suspension and then four, yes four, of their starting eleven were injured on the night during the first leg. That is some obstacle to overcome.
We’ve already mentioned the amount of pressure on this game, and while Sheffield Wednesday go into this clash as underdogs – which helps to limit the harshness of the spotlight – their players will have never experienced anything quite like this.
Compare and contrast that to this Hull City squad: Michael Dawson has played at the highest level for Spurs, as have Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore. The likes of Curtis Davies, Mo Diame and Robert Snodgrass have all experienced the highs and lows of Premier League life, and that will make victory more ‘attainable’ for them than this Wednesday outfit for whom playing in English football’s top flight must have been a pipedream, rather than a possibility, at the start of the season.
Psychology plays just as much a part as physicality in these big matches, and while from a football-perspective there is little to choose between these two sides it is Hull’s greater experience that should win them the day.
League One Play Off Final
The riches on offer may be less, but that won’t dampen the expectation felt by Barnsley and Millwall as they battle it out for a place in the Championship.
Both of these teams have plied their trade at that level in the past, and so will be fully aware of the importance of Sunday’s encounter.
Both enjoyed comfortable passages on route to their Wembley date; Barnsley seeing off the hopes of Walsall 6-1 on aggregate, and Millwall enjoying a 4-2 triumph at the expense of Bradford. Having tasted defeat just once each in their last ten matches of the season, confidence will be running high on Sunday.
Barnsley beat Millwall home and away during the league phase, so is that a factor? Of course, but perhaps not definitive. Their last meeting came on January 2, and a lot has changed since then.
There is little to choose between these two, so picking a winner is hard. But the goal-threat of Millwall’s front two, Lewis Gregory and Steve Morison, who have notched 39 goals between them this term could be the difference-maker.
League Two Play Off Final
They say it’s one of the most difficult divisions to get out of, and having witnessed Burton Albion go from League Two to the Championship in the space of two seasons both Plymouth and AFC Wimbledon will be chomping at the bit as they complete the play-off triple header at Wembley on Bank Holiday Monday.
Another tough fixture to call, perhaps Saturday April 9 could be the defining factor here: then, Wimbledon defeated Plymouth 2-1 in their own back garden.
We’ve mentioned that the head-to-head’s don’t appear to matter too much in the grand scheme of things, but the recency of that fixture means that it could still be fresh in the players’ minds. On occasions like this, that could make all the difference.