Championship Playoffs Preview: Brighton, Leicester, Watford and Crystal Palace Battle It Out
The first set of playoffs to determine who will be the third team promoted from the Championship to the Premier League kick off tomorrow with Leicester, Watford, Brighton and Crystal Palace all in contention.
We have one northern team, one team who have never graced the Premier League and one team to have featured in the end of season competition on four previous occasions. The fixtures for the 2012/13 Championship play-offs are as follows:
Thursday May 9
Leicester City vs Watford, 2:45pm ET (live on beIN SPORT)
Friday, May 10
Crystal Palace vs Brighton, 2:45pm ET (live on beIN SPORT)
Sunday, May 12
Watford vs Leicester City, 7:30am ET (live on beIN SPORT)
Monday, May 13
Brighton vs Crystal Palace, 2:45pm ET (live on beIN SPORT)
Monday, May 27, FINAL
TBD vs TBD
Head To Head
Leicester v Watford – The Hornets will go into the two-legged tie confident having narrowly missed out on automatic promotion and finishing the season 11 points above their rivals, however it’s Leicester City who have the upper hand in previous meetings of the two. The Foxes have recorded 22 wins from a total of 54 matches through history with 16 draws and 16 defeats. They will be looking for their first victory against their London counterparts in four attempts though having not beaten them since October 2011 and suffering 2-1 defeats in both outings this campaign. Both these sides have spent time in the Premier League during its current format, the Foxes have enjoyed eight seasons with the latest coming in 2003/04 while Watford have endured two single seasons with the elite in 1999/00 and 2006/07
Crystal Palace v Brighton – It will be hard to find an out and out favorite in this interesting match-up as both sides recorded 3-0 victories in their respective home fixture during this domestic season. The two sides have faced each other a total of 92 times in all competitions and have proved hard to separate with the Seagulls just edging proceedings with 36 victories to 33 while 23 draws have been fought out.
Leicester – Leicester City moved into their King Power stadium (then called the Walker’s Stadium) in 2002 and in the first ever competitive game recorded a 2-0 victory against Watford – their opponents in the play-offs – in front of a crowd of 31,022. Five years ago they were playing their football in League One along with fellow play-off hopefuls Brighton.
Watford – With 85 goals the Hornets netted more times than any other team in the league this season. Striker Troy Deeney had arguably his best season in a Watford shirt finding the net 19times – his last ironically against Leicester – but was sent off in the final game against Leeds and could miss the play-off semi-finals.
Crystal Palace – Striker Glenn Murray finished the season as the league’s top scorer with 30. Palace have featured in play-off campaigns four times previously only losing on one occasion (1995/96). The last time Palace were promoted to the top division was in 2003/04 via the play-offs before being relegated after just one season. The Eagles were left manager-less in October when Dougie Freedman vacated for Bolton. New boss Ian Holloway has guided Palace to the top six while Freedman missed out with the last kick of the season.
Brighton – Despite plying his playing trade in the Premier League with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur Gus Poyet’s Brighton have never been involved in the current top flight and could join Cardiff in that feat with success over the next three games. In fact the Seagulls haven’t played in the English top division since 1983 when they were relegated to the old division Two. After winning promotion to the Championship in 2011, they moved into their new AMEX Arena stadium and have since proved hard to beat having lost 23 of their 92 (exactly one quarter) league games.