Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
It’s not been a great Championship year for those who want to see new blood in the Premier League next season. Both Norwich and Watford claimed automatic promotion after relegation last year. Bournemouth could follow, but they have to navigate a tricky Play-Off path.
However, Brentford finished third and could be on the verge of their first ever Premier League campaign. Barnsley could return for the first time since 1998, while Swansea have rebuilt in their absence and they’re a very different side to the one which went down a few years ago.
It’s all built up for an exciting conclusion to the season, after plenty of thrills during the regular season. Ahead of the Play-Offs we’ve taken a look at all four sides and picked out our favourites, with betting tips for both semis and the overall winners below.
Don’t forget you’ll get more Play-Off analysis in our football match predictions, where we’ll cover all the big games from the domestic run in through to Euro 2020.
Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs schedule
18:00 – Bournemouth vs Brentford (Semi-final first-leg)
20:15 – Barnsley vs Swansea (Semi-final first-leg)
12:30 – Brentford vs Bournemouth (Semi-final second-leg)
18:30 – Swansea vs Barnsley (Semi-final second-leg)
Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs odds
To be promoted:
- Brentford – 6/4
- Bournemouth – 12/5
- Barnsley – 7/2
- Swansea – 9/2
Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs predictions
Bournemouth vs Brentford
Regular season head-to-head:
Dec 30: Brentford 2-1 Bournemouth
Apr 24: Bournemouth 0-1 Brentford
This tie is more even than the 10-point gap or the betting odds suggest. Bournemouth lost their final three games but that came after a brilliant winning run which wrapped up their place in the top-six.
However, they need another big step up to stop a Brentford side who lost out in the final to Fulham last year. The Bees haven’t been as brilliant as their impressive 2019/20 campaign, but they finished this term with a four-game winning run and they’re unbeaten in 12 games.
Thomas Frank has done a good job taking the Bees forward after Dean Smith departed and he could make the difference given that his opposite number Jonathan Woodgate has a hands-off style and little track record. These two look like the most likely promotion candidates but we back Brentford to edge it.
Verdict: Brentford to qualify for the final at 4/9
Barnsley vs Swansea
Regular season head-to-head:
Dec 19: Swansea 2-0 Barnsley
Jan 16: Barnsley 0-2 Swansea
Swansea finished the season in fourth place, but they’re the fourth-favourites to win promotion through the Play-Offs. The Swans won only three of their final 11 matches to slump out of the automatic promotion picture. Not only did they blow that opportunity, but they now head into this semi-final as the most out-of-form of all four sides.
The Swans did win both clashes with Barnsley this term, but the Tykes did their best work after that defeat. Since losing to Swansea in January, Barnsley have won 13 of 22 games. In the same timeframe, Swansea have the league’s ninth-best record.
Despite being the underdogs according to the league table, we see Barnsley as the favourites here. We expect them to take advantage of Swansea’s poor form and make it to Wembley.
Verdict: Barnsley to qualify for the final at 19/20
Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs winner predictions
As we mentioned, the most likely winners look to be Brentford or Bournemouth. They have too much for the other two teams, with Barnsley struggling to score from open play and Swansea missing the extra dimension provided by Andre Ayew.
In the tense Play-Off ties a moment of attacking brilliance can swing it and that’s exactly what Brentford have. They are also more defensively solid than Bournemouth, giving them the edge over the Cherries and making them a tough proposition for Barnsley or Swansea.
Ivan Toney is coming off the back of one of the great individual seasons at this level and his goalscoring abilities could decide any of these tense ties. However, the Bees also have Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo to help out up front, with the three scoring a combined 48 goals and providing 28 assists this term.
That quality should tell by the end and we’re backing Brentford to return to Wembley and make up for the heartbreak of last summer.
Verdict: Brentford to win promotion at 6/4
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