Brentford, Fulham, Cardiff and Swansea sealed a top-six finish on a dramatic final night in the Championship and will battle it out for a spot in next season’s Premier League.
Brentford and Fulham had hopes of claiming the second automatic promotion spot after a strong end to the season, however, they came up just short and finished third and fourth respectively as West Brom hung on to secure passage straight back to the top flight.
Cardiff were two points shy of the playoff positions in ninth when football returned in June but a 3-0 win over rock-bottom Hull cemented their place in fifth on Wednesday and the Bluebirds are one of the form sides heading into the end of season lottery.
Meanwhile, Swansea were seemingly rank outsiders going into the final round of fixtures as they required a win and a six-goal swing to move into the top-six.
Steve Cooper’s men held up their side of the bargain, beating Reading 4-1, and they subsequently claimed a playoff spot at the expense of Nottingham Forest, who lost 4-1 to Stoke.
Swansea face Brentford in the semi-finals, hosting the Bees at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, July 26, before heading to Griffin Park on July 29.
Meanwhile, Cardiff welcome Fulham to Wales on July 27 with the second leg of that tie set to be played out on July 30.
Bees Should Frankly Have to Much
Thomas Frank’s Brentford returned from the enforced break with the bit between their teeth to launch themselves into the conversation for automatic promotion.
They were 10 points shy of second-placed West Brom but emerged as serious contenders after winning seven in a row, including victories over Fulham and the Baggies.
However, Brentford cracked just when it counted most, losing their final two matches of the regular season, and will need to dust themselves down to go again in the playoffs.
It’s often said that the late challenger for the playoffs is the one to watch and Swansea were the final side to seal a top-six berth.
But Brentford proved far too strong for them during the regular season, winning 3-0 away and 3-1 at home, and are worth backing at
6/5* to win the first leg at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Fulham to Frustrate Cardiff
Cardiff’s win over Leeds in the first game back after enforced hiatus sent out a clear message to their rivals in the race for a playoff position.
It certainly appeared to swell confidence levels within the squad and they lost just two of the following eight games to finish fifth.
However, one of those defeats came at the hands of Monday’s opponents when goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Josh Onomah handed Fulham a 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage.
Of course, Monday’s meeting comes in South Wales and Cardiff will have home advantage – even if it is behind-closed-doors – but that loss in West London could play on the minds of Neil Harris’s men heading into the tie.
It was a 1-1 draw when Cardiff hosted Fulham in the regular season, although that was back in August, and history suggests the Cottagers can take something from the first leg.
Fulham have lost just once at Cardiff in the last six visits, winning twice during that sequence, and should be good for at least a draw on Monday ahead of looking to complete the job in the return fixture.
First legs can often be tight and tense affairs and Monday’s meeting may follow that pattern, but Fulham should have the edge and backing them in the double chance market at
20/51 looks the way to go.
*All odds correct at time of writing.