Going to the Riverside needing a win will be tough for Brentford and as such, the first leg of this one at the atmospheric Griffin Park will be absolutely crucial.
Alex Pritchard, Brentford: On loan from Tottenham Hotspur, Pritchard may be diminutive in stature, but he’s the heartbeat of this Bees team.
The 22-year-old is blessed with the intricacy and intelligence needed to flourish at this level and Warburton will be looking to him to grasp this game in midfield.
Patrick Bamford Middlesbrough: Voted as the division’s best player earlier in the campaign, Bamford has proven himself to be one of the country’s most exciting young prospects.
The on-loan Chelsea man is a wonderfully gifted forward; keep an eye out for his intelligent movement, refined link-up play and clinical finishing should chances arise.
Ipswich Town vs. Norwich City
Saturday May 9, 7:15AM ET, Portman Road, beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
Saturday May 16, 7:15AM ET, Carrow Road, beIN SPORTS and fuboTV
The second playoff game will be an East Anglia derby, with local rivals Ipswich and Norwich looking to progress after what will be two high-octane legs.
Like Boro, Norwich will be disappointed not to have secured automatic promotion. Granted, before Alex Neil took over there seemed to be little chance of the Canaries mounting any kind of promotion push, but a stunning run of form since the turn of the year under the new boss propelled them to the brink of the top two.
However, that loss to the Teesiders all but ended their automatic hopes and while they arguably have the best squad in the division, psychologically they may well be a little jaded. But Neil should have no problem getting his players up for this derby game.
If they are not at full tilt, Ipswich have the class to capitalize. In Mick McCarthy they have a manager who knows what’s required to secure promotion to the Premier League and their industrious playing style makes the Tractor Boys extremely difficult to beat. In a game which is set to be tenacious but tense, that fortitude will be vital.
Norwich do seem to have a little bit more ingenuity about their play and given their stunning form over the second half of the campaign, should come into this one with confidence.
But given they only had their playoff spot confirmed on the final day of the regular season, McCarthy’s men should play without the expectation levels that have so often hampered fancied sides in this format.