Football is great all throughout the year and we all know this to be true, but there’s something about the play-offs that just makes the game feel extra special. Play-offs can happen, and do happen, all throughout the world of football – but we’re going to focus on the English Football League play-offs. It’s been one hell of a journey for the six teams that are going to be competing against one another this weekend, and beyond any results or predictions, it just feels like these clubs need to be praised for putting themselves through more than 50 competitive games this season.
Now, with just one game remaining, all of the pros and the experts are out in full force. In reality, of course, nobody truly knows what’s going to happen one way or another this weekend. That’s part of the excitement in one way, but in another, it creates a state of sheer and utter fear for these clubs. When you’re in a cup final you know that the worst thing about losing is that you don’t get to lift the trophy, but in this instance it’s a little bit different.
If you don’t win at Wembley this weekend, that’s your chance at promotion done for at least another year. That’s quite a hard pill to swallow after such a long and gruelling campaign, and it can cause clubs to act in a variety of different ways. We tend to think it brings out the best in the teams that are able to rise to the challenge, but we’ll have to wait and see whether that holds up this weekend – starting with the League 2 final.
Newport County vs Tranmere Rovers
This isn’t quite a David vs Goliath battle, but it certainly does feel like the expectation is for Tranmere to get the job done here. Newport head into the tie as slender underdogs and we think that’ll suit them just fine, especially after the season they have had. Tranmere is a club that feels like they should be back amongst the top two tiers, and this serves as a big next step in trying to get them there.
Sunderland vs Charlton Athletic
In what is a repeat of one of the greatest play-off finals of all time from 1998, Sunderland and Charlton will battle it out for a place in the second tier of English football. Despite the fact that many pundits believe the Addicks are the clear favourites heading into this one due to their overwhelming quality, the actual bookmakers fancy Sunderland to get the job done. They seem to have momentum on their side, and you just know they’re going to blow Charlton away in terms of fan support at Wembley.
Derby County vs Aston Villa
All signs point towards Villa getting back up into the big time, but it’s really difficult to rule out this Derby side after what they achieved in the semi finals against Leeds. We’re going to back Villa to get the job done but, in truth, we think this could wind up being one of the most entertaining Championship play-off finals in years.