With the regular season just finished, let's have look at the Championship play-offs.
Champions Norwich City and runners-up Watford are already promoted to the Premier League while Wycombe Wanderers, Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday are relegated to League One.
Still in the race for the last elusive ticket to the Premier League are Brentford (finished 3rd), Swansea City (finished 4th), Barnsley (finished 5th) and Bournemouth (finished 6th).
The play-offs are scheduled to take place as follows:
|Monday 17 May||Bournemouth - Brentford|
|Monday 17 May||Barnsley - Swansea City|
|Saturday 22 May||Brentford - Bournemouth|
|Saturday 22 May||Swansea City - Barnsley|
|Saturday 29 May||Championship Final|
The away goals rule does not apply in the playoff semi-finals and the final is played at Wembley Stadium in London.
Brentford finished the season with the best points per game ratio, claiming 13 points from the last five games while scoring 8 goals and conceding just 1 goal.
Of the four play-off teams, the Bees display the healthiest shots data going into the final games of the season.
Looking at the four most recent games, Brentford have created on average 4.75 shots on target per game - one of the best attacking numbers in the league right now. In the same stretch of games, the London club have conceded on average 2.75 shots on target per game - one of the best defensive numbers in the league in recent weeks. In fact, Brentford have the fourth best shots on target difference in the Championship right now.
Swansea City picked up the fewest points of the four play-off teams in the run-in, gathering a mere 5 points from the last five games while scoring 6 goals and conceding 8 goals.
In fact, the Swans display the joint worst shots data of the Premier League hopefuls in the last couple of weeks.
Looking at the four most recent games, Swansea have created on average 2.50 shots on target per game - one of the worst attacking numbers in the league right now. In the four most recent games, the Wales club have conceded on average 4.50 shots on target per game which is above the league average in recent weeks. All in all, Swansea have the one of the worst shots on target differences in the Championship of late.
Barnsley have racked up 7 points from the five most recent games, scoring 4 goals and conceding 6 goals.
The Tykes have produced decent enough shots data during the run-in, mostly against in-form opposition.
Looking at the four most recent games, Barnsley have created on average 4.50 shots on target per game - one of the better attacking numbers in the league right now. In the four most recent games, the South Yorkshire outfit have conceded on average 3.50 shots on target per game which is slightly below the league average in recent weeks. All in all, Barnsley have a positive shots on target difference in recent weeks.
Bournemouth have accumulated 6 points in the five most recent games while also scoring 7 goals and conceding 6 goals.
The Cherries display the joint worst shots data of the four play-off teams in the last couple of weeks.
Looking at the four most recent games, Bournemouth have created on average 2.50 shots on target per game - one of the worst attacking numbers in the league right now. In the four most recent games, the Dorset team have conceded on average 4.50 shots on target per game which is above the league average in recent weeks. All in all, Bournemouth have the one of the worst shots on target differences in the Championship of late.
Brentford have no new injury concerns. Defenders Henrik Dalsgaard and Rico Henry and midfielder Josh Dasilva have missed out on the last months or so but Christian Nørgaard have returned from injury and have bolstered the defence together with compatriot Mads Rasmussen.
With the abundance of talent at Brentford, Thomas Frank has a constant job of modifying and tweaking his side, also seen in the closing stages of the regular season.
Swansea City have chopped and changed a little bit in the last couple of games, Steve Cooper looking to balance much needed rest with match fitness. The only concern is talisman Andre Ayew who's missed two of last five games due to a hamstring injury but did play 64 minutes in the final game against Watford.
Barnsley have a fit and healthy squad apart from long-term absentee Herbie Kane; defender Liam Kitching and attacking midfielder Dominik Frieser returning to action in the weekend game against Norwich.
Valérien Ismaël have been keeping the line-up changes to a minimum in the last couple of weeks.
Bournemouth also have a fit and healthy squad, apart from long-term absentee Lewis Cook.
Jonathan Woodgate reshuffled the team quite a lot after the humiliating home defeat to Brentford on 24 April. In the final game of the season he returned to the most familiar line-up but that didn't do the trick, visiting Stoke City picking up all three points rather comfortably.
Track record against Top 6
With the regular season done and dusted, how did the four promotion hopefuls do against fellow top 6 teams?
Brentford have picked up the second most points in the mini top 6 league, also producing a positive goal difference. Brentford display the best shots on target data against top 6 opposition, the Bees playing relatively close games at home but noticeably dominating Barnsley, Bournemouth and Swansea City on the road.
Swansea City display decent enough numbers against top 6 opposition, the Swans producing the best shots on target data of the lot at home but also the worst shots on target data of all on the road.
Barnsley have amassed the fewest points against top 6 opposition and also produce the second worst shots on target data. Most worryingly, the Tykes’ home advantage almost seems like a disadvantage when facing promotion rivals.
Bournemouth have picked up the most points in the mini top 6 round-robin, the Cherries looking particularly strong on the road.
Conclusion & Betting Tips
I do believe that Brentford is the most balanced and persistent of the four teams entering the play-offs. The Bees enjoyed really good form right up till the end of the regular season and display the best shots on target data against top 6 opposition. They have no new fitness issues and are used to tweaking anyway. Thomas Frank's team might not have quite the same flair about it as last season when they relied heavily on the likes of Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins, but they look more composed and that could just do the trick.
Betting Tip: To Win The Playoffs: Brentford.
Stake at 5/10 units.