Of course, managers, players and supporters of those clubs in English football’s second tier would snap your hand off for an automatic promotion place. But going up via this bespoke end-of-season competition must be wonderful. Not only is it more lucrative, but a day out at Wembley and lifting a trophy at the national stadium just adds to the whole experience.
After an engrossing season at the top of the Championship, these matches are set to be absorbing. Here’s a detailed look at the two semi-final ties as the quartet of competitors bid to secure their spot at the Wembley final on May 25 (live on beIN SPORTS and fuboTV).
Brentford vs. Middlesbrough
Friday May 8, 2:45PM ET, Griffin Park, beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
Friday May 15, 2:45PM ET, Riverside Stadium, beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
The first playoff fixture should be an intriguing clash of styles, as the entertaining attacking ethos of Brentford will go up against the defensive cohesion of Middlesbrough.
Aside from league champions Bournemouth, Brentford have played the most aesthetic brand of football in the division. Mark Warburton’s men have thrilled during their first season in the second tier for 21 years, showcasing a marriage of intensity and ingenuity throughout the campaign. At one stage they were well in the hunt for an automatic promotion hunt, but a fifth place finish represents a startling achievement for this team.
It’s going to be engrossing to see quite how they fare against the best defensive outfit in the division. Aitor Karanka’s side have founded their campaign around a stringent back-line and have shown on many occasions this season they’re a team that relish these big ties, as was evident in wins away at Manchester City and Norwich earlier in the year.
Their mental state coming into this one could potentially set them back, however. After winning away at the Canaries with three games remaining, Boro had automatic promotion in their hands. But a defeat to Fulham in the next match set them back and you just wonder if this group of players will come into this one ruing letting that slip.
Against a Brentford team that have already exceeded expectations this season, that will be a dangerous mindset. Warburton is set to leave the Bees at the end of this campaign regardless of whether they go up and given the marvelous job he’s done at Griffin Park, these players will be desperate to send him out on a high.