Derby, Aston Villa, West Brom and Leeds are getting ready to fight for a Premier League promotion in the play-offs, which are set to start on May 11th.
May is a month packed with football drama. With top leagues coming to an end, the UEFA Champions League playoffs and Europa League playoffs taking place at the same time, it surely does not leave any football fan indifferent. However, while there are “major” events taking place, we cannot forget about the Championship promotion battle, which never fails to amuse with just as much drama and action as any other title race.
The Championship league finished with its 46 game-long seasons on May 5th, with Norwich City ending the season as champions and Sheffield United finishing 2nd, securing the second spot for the highly desired Premier League spot. This now leaves the third and last Premier League spot up for grabs for one of the remaining 4 teams that finished third up to sixth, who will now have to face off against each other in the playoffs. The playoffs will feature Derby, Leeds, West Brom and Aston Villa. The third and last spot that will catapult one of the Championship teams into the Premier League will not only bring them the chance to play against some of the best teams in the world, at some of the biggest stadiums in the world, but also a huge amount of money, which could turn a 2nd division team into a strong competitor on the Premier League and European tournaments in the years to come.
The promotion playoffs will consist of a pair of two-leg (home and away) semi-finals. The winner of each semi-final will be directly promoted into finals, where they will face off against the winner of the 2nd pair of semi-finalists. This season will feature Leeds United facing off against Derby County and West Brom taking on Aston Villa. With 4 strong teams and only 1 seat left on the bus that will head into the Premier League, we can’t help but wonder which team does have the best chance of winning it all and join the English elite. The playoffs groups are as follows:
Derby vs Leeds
West Brom vs Aston Villa
Derby County who finished the season 6th were one of the members of inaugural Football League in 1888 alongside West Brom and Aston Villa. While this team managed to win the First Division in 1972 and 1975, the Rams failed to appear in the 1st division ever since 2008, when they had one of the worst seasons in English football history. They finished dead last with only 1 win and 11 points. This season, they barely got themselves into the playoffs but will hope that they can perform better against Leeds, who failed to advance through the playoffs three times in the last 5 years.
Leeds looked like a strong contender to win the Championship, however, failed to push on and found themselves finishing 3rd. A team that was once a force to be reckoned with will get yet another shot at playoffs, which were not too kind to them in the last 5 years. Nonetheless, the team looks strong and should be able to defeat Derby, who did not look too promising this season. In fact, Leeds is the favourite to go all the way, if they can continue with their performances.
After leaving Premier League last season, West Brom are in a good spot to return to the first division once more. The Baggies looked strong throughout this season, in fact, they looked like a sure thing to finish in the top 6. West Brom even led the league for a short amount of time in October, and while they failed to hold on to the first spot, The Baggies never fell out of the top 6. Should they return to the Premier League, West Brom needs to overcome Aston Villa, a team who is in great form.
Aston Villa did not look too good this season, as it all pointed towards yet another season in the Championship for them. They were standing around the mid-table for most of the season but managed to impress us with a run of 10 wins in their last 12 games, which catapulted them into the top 6. Should they extend their blazing form into playoffs, there is no stopping them, and while they are faced off against a tough opponent, it would not surprise me if they end up in EPL next season.