Home Sports Football Championship Championship Play-Offs – Jokanovic vs British trio
Championship Play-Offs – Jokanovic vs British trio

Championship Play-Offs – Jokanovic vs British trio

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Fulham appear to be the class act among the four Championship play-off hopefuls, but the other three contenders also have plenty to offer.

The Cottagers, 6/4 to win promotion, narrowly missed out on an automatic rise as a final-day defeat at Birmingham City proved costly, but they almost matched champions Wolves for goalscoring prowess across the 46-game regular season campaign.

However, defensively they have conceded a goal a game, more than both Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, and just two less than their semi-final opponents Derby County.

They do though have a manager with previous play-off experience, while Slavisa Jokanovic also led Watford to automatic promotion to the Premier League in the 2014/15 season.

The Serb was in charge of Fulham last season when they finished in the top six, only to fall to Reading in the play-off semi-finals.

So he does not lack for the knowledge of the situation his side find themselves in, but then neither do the other three managers in focus.

Villans boss Steve Bruce has won promotion from the Championship on a record four occasions, twice with Hull City and twice with Birmingham City, two of which came via the play-offs and his expertise in this situation should undoubtedly be an advantage, with Villa 11/4 to claim play-off glory.

Boro head coach Tony Pulis has made his reputation on keeping sides in the top-flight, but he did guide Stoke City to the Premier League in 2007/08, although by finishing in second place the Potters avoided the need for a play-off scrap.

The Teessiders are 3/1 to be promoted back to the top-flight this season.

Meanwhile, Rams boss Gary Rowett’s only previous play-off experience came in League Two with Burton Albion, who lost out in successive seasons to Bradford City and Fleetwood Town.

He was well on course to take Birmingham to a play-off finish last season, only to be somewhat surprisingly sacked, but has made amends this term by ensuring a top-six finish for Derby in his first full season in charge and the Rams are 5/1 to cash in by securing promotion.

Momentum is often the watch word for most pundits as the play-offs get under way, but it’s not as big a factor as many would have you believe.

More accurately, quite often the side who just missed out on automatic promotion suffer some blowback heading in the winner takes all play-offs and Fulham occupy that danger spot this time around.

Having been pipped to second place by Cardiff, the Londoners have to refocus and get ready for a tough trip to Derby on Friday evening, where they are 29/10 to gain a victory and 23/10 to secure a valuable draw.

The two sides met at Pride Park just over two months ago and the visitors claimed a 2-1 victory that day, with loan striker Aleksandar Mitrovic one of the Fulham goalscorers.

He is ideally placed to be amongst the stars of the play-offs, having scored 12 goals in 17 Championship outings since his arrival in January from Newcastle United.

Mitrovic offers little value at 23/20 to score at any time on Friday, so 7/2 to open the scoring, as he did in early March, might offer more decent prospects.

However, hosts Derby are not to be outdone in the firepower department, with Matej Vydra the leading goalscorer in the Championship over the course of the regular season with 21 goals.

Vydra is 31/20 to get on the scoresheet on Friday evening and the Rams might just need his help as they have not kept a clean sheet in their last six games.

In contrast, Fulham have blanked their opponents in five of their last eight games, so a Cottagers win to zero at 29/10 would not be a major surprise.

Middlesbrough and Aston Villa take centre stage on Saturday, with the Riverside the venue for the first leg of their semi-final tie.

The two sides have already met three times this season, with Boro claiming a goalless draw in the league at Villa Park and winning 2-0 in the EFL Cup on the same ground.

Those results suggest that Villa need to get a positive result on Teesside, as they did in late December when Robert Snodgrass netted the only goal of the game.

The Midlanders are 12/5 to gain a win on Saturday, with another 1-0 success 12/5, with a glut of goals not seeming at all likely.

Villa, like both Fulham and Derby, have a man in form in front of goal at just the right time, with loanee Lewis Grabban netting eight goals in 15 games since his January arrival, including four in his last four games.

53/20 for him to score at any time appears more than decent value, despite Boro likely to be sent out to try and be rock-solid at the back by their wily boss Pulis.

The possible ace in the pack for Villa could be Jonathan Kodjia, who scored 19 Championship goals last season, only to see his current campaign badly disrupted by injury.

Should he hit form when most needed, he and Grabban are set to be a handful for any defence they face.

Boro, meanwhile, have been more productive in front of goal in recent weeks than you might expect under the guidance of the normally cautious Pulis.

The Teessiders have scored twice in five of their last six games, so they may not sit back as much as many might predict on Saturday.

With that in mind, 6/5 for both teams to score might just be worth taking a close look at, while a draw at 2/1 and a 1-1 draw at 19/4 are also intriguing options.

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Adrian Mills Adrian has enjoyed a journalistic career spanning over three decades, with cricket his specialised topic. He also has a wealth of knowledge on football, golf and tennis and has the stats to back up his betting advice.