Marathonbet previews…. EFL Play-Off Finals
After each playing 46 games and two tense play-off semi-finals, the whole season comes down to a dramatic one-off shoot-out at Wembley Stadium for the six EFL teams still dreaming of promotion.
With three intriguing play-off finals across the Bank Holiday weekend, which teams will enjoy the ultimate high of securing promotion at the home of football?
EFL Championship Play-Off Final: Aston Villa vs Fulham – Saturday 26th May, 17:00 BST
This looks to be one of the most evenly-matched Championship play-off finals in years as former Premier League regulars Aston Villa and Fulham slog it out for the right to return to the top flight.
After finishing a comfortable third in the regular season, it’s the Cottagers who start with the slight edge going into this game, but history isn’t on their side. Fulham have never tasted play-off glory but have got one monkey off their back in finally reaching a final.
They have rightly won plaudits for their slick, attacking football over the last two seasons but can underperform on the big occasion. Will they freeze again on Saturday?
Villa are fortunate to have one of the division’s most experienced managers in the dugout on Saturday as Steve Bruce looks to make it a hat-trick of play-off wins after success with Birmingham in 2002 and Hull City in 2016.
With plenty of natural leaders in their side including John Terry, Glenn Whelan and Conor Hourihane, they should be able to handle the occasion, but will they have the legs to cope with Fulham’s dynamic playing style?
EFL League One Play-Off Final: Rotherham Utd vs Shrewsbury Town, Sunday 27th May, 15:00 BST
In League One, there are two intriguing sub-plots at play as Rotherham and Shrewsbury lock horns on Sunday.
The Shrews have been this year’s surprise package, pushing Wigan and Blackburn all the way at the top of the table before falling cruelly short towards the end. Rotherham, meanwhile, have put the disappointment of relegation last season behind them to mount an impressive League One campaign and will be looking to return to the Championship at the first time of asking.
After narrowly avoiding relegation last year, Paul Hurst’s Shrews side are likely to have most neutrals behind them as they look to capitalise on an unexpectedly strong season and secure a first taste of second-tier football in nearly 30 years. However, they face a resilient Rotherham side that got stronger as the season progressed.
Millers legend-turned-manager Paul Warne has steadily grown into the First Team Manager role at the New York Stadium after initial doubts he was the right man to lead the club in League One. He has the advantage of managing a side still relatively refreshed after easing off once their play-off place was confirmed in the last few weeks of the season.
EFL League Two Play-Off Final: Coventry City vs Exeter City, Monday 28th May, 15:00 BST
The Sky Blues are so close to banishing some of the league’s longest unwanted records. Up until this season, Coventry City hadn’t finished in the top six of any division for 47 years.
Mark Robins’ side kicked that stat into touch by sealing sixth place on the final day, but now have another mountain to climb as they try and secure a first promotion in a staggering 51 years. They’ve already enjoyed one recent trip to Wembley, lifting last season’s Football League Trophy. Will the long-suffering Cov fans have even more to celebrate in the capital on Bank Holiday Monday?
For Exeter City, promotion would be a fantastic achievement for England’s longest surviving manager, Paul Tisdale, who has guided the Grecians to two consecutive play-off finishes.
The teams boast two of the division’s most potent goalscorers, so if this one is on a knife-edge, how Marc McNulty (23 for Coventry) or Jayden Stockley (17 for Exeter) cope with the pressure could well tip the balance on the day.
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