Fulham odds make them favourites for Championship play-offs
FootyOn experts assess the Championship play-offs in detail, with Fulham odds heading the betting.
That lethal lottery with the coveted prize of Premier League promotion is upon us again!
It can only be the Championship play-offs, where four teams get an extra chance at returning to the promised land of English football.
Premier League TV revenue deals are in the billions these days, so who will secure a spot in the big time and a slice of that cash?
We look at the picture of this season’s Championship play-offs.
Bookies may take a bashing through Fulham odds
BetVictor are a best-price 15/8 about Fulham making a top-flight return, and several other bookmakers are shorter.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side were the chief beneficiaries of Leeds United collapsing at the regular season’s tail-end.
No team in the Championship scored more goals than Fulham (85) over 46 games.
Division winners Newcastle United and fellow relegated Premier League fare Norwich City matched the Craven Cottage club’s tally.
Fulham come into the Championship play-offs in sparkling form, losing one of eight and winning six as well as a unbeaten run of half-a-dozen games.
Although Jokanovic has seen his side win the fewest league games of the Championship play-offs contenders (22), they lost the least in the regular season (10) and drew the most (14).
That means Fulham are tough to beat, but also exciting to watch.
Each of the west London outfit’s last seven games have all contained goals in the first 20 minutes.
Five of those saw the deadlock broken inside the opening 10 minutes (twice for and three times against).
This also shows resilience, but there is also a real team spirit and work ethic at the Cottage.
Ensemble cast in attack
Fulham’s front five have all chipped in with goals and assists, so that has helped propel them into the Championship play-offs.
Led by Tom Cairney (12 goals, 11 assists), who has been linked with a £10m move to promoted Newcastle, there are genuine threats from midfield, out wide and up front for the other play-offs contenders to worry about.
Norway midfielder Stefan Johansen (11 goals, eight assists), who operates in a similarly forward-thinking fashion, has meanwhile made a successful switch from Celtic.
Derby County loanee Chris Martin (10 goals, three assists) has provided a focal point that gives opposition defenders plenty to think about.
He has still managed a return of around a goal every three games despite being a foil that has brought other Fulham attackers into play.
Floyd Ayite (nine goals and as many assists) and Sone Aluko (eight goals, 12 assists) offer plenty of danger out wide as well as guile.
The only slight worry is Fulham keeping just a single clean sheet since February, and that against rock-bottom relegated Rotherham United.
Such is the expansive style under Jokanovic, though, that they have simply outscored opposition regularly.
Victims of this include Championship play-offs semi-final opposition Reading, who took a 5-0 hammering at the Cottage in December.
Fulham odds do look well worth taking, though, and for the record they boast the second-best defence of the quartet (57).
Huddersfield form cause for concern
One of two Yorkshire teams contest this year’s Championship play-offs is Huddersfield Town.
They were pushing top two Newcastle and Brighton and Hove Albion, but David Wagner’s boys tailed off.
Missing out on automatic promotion has also seen them slip from third to fifth, losing six of their last 10 matches.
The Terriers are the lowest scorers in the Championship play-offs (56), have suffered the most defeats (15), drawn the least (six) and won 25 times in the regular season.
What is most concerning, though, is Huddersfield failing to score in half of the final 10 games.
Does that mean Wagner has finally been found out? Well, he has been resting some players.
Top scorer Elias Kachunga (12 goals, four assists) has missed the last four with a calf problem.
Goalkeeper Danny Ward is also banned, and he is set to miss the semi-final first leg.
Nahki Wells (10 goals, three assists) always offers plenty in attack, though, and loan signings Aaron Moy (four goals, seven assists) and Izzy Brown are among players to watch.
At 100/30 with Paddy Power for promotion, the Terriers do have questions to answer.
Owls seek to go one better
Huddersfield will play fellow White Rose county club Sheffield Wednesday, who finished above them in fourth, first in the Championship play-offs.
Carlos Carvalhal has managed to keep the bulk of his Owls squad that missed out to Hull City in last year’s final together at Hillsborough.
Winter window additions of Jordan Rhodes and Sam Winnall in attack have yet to bear much fruit, though, with just six goals between them.
Fernando Forestieri (12 goals, six assists) and Steven Fletcher (10 goals, two assists), Carvalhal’s striking alternatives, are seasoned campaigners, though.
Wednesday do boast the best defence, however, after letting just 45 goals in 46 games.
Only automatically promoted pair Newcastle and Brighton let in fewer goals during the regular season.
That impressive average of just under a goal per game comes courtesy of captain Glenn Loovens, Tom Lees, Jack Hunt and Daniel Pudil – broadly the same back four from last term.
As the Owls did the double over Yorkshire rivals the Terriers, they will be fancied to make the final again.
They enter the Championship play-offs having just seen a six-match winning streak come to an end.
Reading rank outsiders
Jaap Stam’s return to England as manager of Reading has been pretty successful so far.
The Royals won the most matches of the Championship play-offs contender (26), but surprisingly had the worst regular season defensive record.
Stam, a no-nonsense Netherlands international centre back, saw his side ship 64 goals but score 68 at the other end.
Reading’s form is decent, winning seven and losing three of their final 10 games.
Veteran French frontman Yann Kermorgant has been key, netting nine in as many matches and 18 overall.
Despite him, former Chelsea youth player John Swift (eight goals, seven assists) in midfield and wide threat Garath McCleary (nine goals, 10 assists), the Royals are outsiders for promotion.
Watch out for Roy Beerens, who has scored four of his six goals this term against the other Championship play-offs contenders.
Fulham do look worthy favourites, though, both to beat the Royals over two legs and get back in the Premier League.
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