The first-leg of the Championship play-offs take place on Monday evening, with Brentford going into the end-of-season showdown as the favourites to win promotion.
Having felt the heartache of a Wembley defeat last term, many thought the Bees would suffer a hangover and fade off the pace in the race for the Premier League.
But Thomas Frank’s men finished third and go into the play-offs on a 12-game unbeaten run and are
6/4 to go one better this season and reach the promised-land that is the Premier League for the first time.
Firstly though, Brentford have to get past a Bournemouth team that have surprised many following their relegation from the top flight last term.
Bournemouth Deal With Big Departures
The Cherries finished the regular season in sixth, despite losing their manager and the likes of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Aaron Ramsdale at the end of last season. But they go into this clash having lost their last three games of the regular season and are
37/20 to win the first leg on home soil on Monday.
33/20 to claim a crucial first-leg advantage and their Danish manager believes last season’s experience can be a significant factor this time around.
Frank admitted: “I think it has definitely been the fuel throughout the season and the players have used it brilliantly. “We need to go into the match with that burning desire. Leave everything out there. Be brave. Do what we normally do.”
Tykes Can Spring Another Surprise
The other semi-final first leg takes place at Oakwell, where this season’s surprise package Barnsley host to Swansea.
Having only escaped relegation in the dying moments of last season, the Tykes have exceeded all expectations and sealed their place in the play-offs with games to spare.
Despite finishing just two points behind the Swans, Valerien Ismael insists his side are underdogs, especially as their opponents have recent play-off experience.
Swansea made the end-of-season shootout last term and head to South Yorkshire having done the double over Barnsley this season, with 2-0 wins at both the Liberty Stadium and Oakwell.
Ismael stated: “When you see the four teams in the play-offs, we are the underdogs. The other three teams have bigger budgets and more player depth, but we have our intensity and our desire. Mentally we are really strong and that’s how we can compete.”
The form guide suggests though that Barnsley offer good value at
6/5 to win the first leg, with Swansea winning just one of their last five league games.
The Tykes home record is also impressive, with just one defeat at Oakwell in their last 10 home games and five clean sheets during that run.
Lowe Seeks Another Key Swans Goal
Swansea, who are
29/10 to collect a first leg success, have been impressive on the road with Steve Cooper’s side losing just four times in their last 14 away games.
Jamal Lowe had 14 league goals to his name during the regular season and scored in both matches against Barnsley. The former Portsmouth man can be backed at
5/2 to score at anytime on Monday.
*All odds correct at time of writing