good morning —
The playoffs for the EFL Championship are finally here (and so are the playoffs for Leagues One and Two)! With a league that featured such great parity this season, I think it will be even more difficult to predict which side will join the Premier League.
Let’s take a look at the matchups:
3 Luton Town vs 6 Sunderland
This is Luton Town’s second consecutive trip to the playoffs, and this time they’re doing so after a 14-game unbeaten streak to end the season. Even after losing manager Ryan Edwards, this club has managed the joint second-best defensive record in the league.
Luton Town aren’t the kind of club to blow teams out of the water 3-0 or 4-0. In fact, they haven’t scored more than three goals per game since December 29. What makes them such a difficult side is that defense, as alluded to earlier. The Hatters kept 19 clean sheets this season, second-best in the league.
The Hatters typically line up in a 3-5-2 with Elijah Adebayo joining leading scorer Carlton Morris on top.
Their opponents, Sunderland, can achieve the rare double-promotion after coming up from League One. The Black Cats are coming off a resounding 3-0 away win against Preston to seal a playoff spot, but Sunderland have one of the worst home records in the league.
They also have the youngest average Starting XI in the league.
Jack Clarke remains Sunderland’s most exciting player (and I still can’t believe Spurs sold him). Clarke created 41 chances this season, including five goals and six assists.
Both meetings this season ended 1-1, with Sunderland coming back in each fixture.
First leg: 13 May / Second leg: 16 May
4 Middlesbrough vs 5 Coventry
Boro and Preston saw out a tense 1-1 draw to end the season, securing Coventry’s place in the playoffs.
Coventry won their first encounter 1-0, but Boro are more or less a different team than under then-manager Chris Wilder.
Middlesbrough boast the league’s best scorer, assists leader and one of the best scoring records in the league, but they have stumbled after losing out on automatic promotion.
They do have some serious firepower with Chuba Akpom, the league’s leading scorer, and Cameron Archer. Coventry have their own ace striker, however, in Viktor Gyokeres, who’s scored 21 goals this season. Gyokeres played 4,022 of a possible 4,140 minutes this season, according to Opta Analyst. That’s a lot of minutes!
Michael Carrick has also had the misfortune of needing to patch his lineup in recent weeks largely because of injuries, while playoff-hunting Coventry’s Starting XI mostly remained unchanged. #momentum!
First leg: 14 May / Second leg: 17 May
Fitzie’s track of the day: California, by Oh He Dead
And now for your links:
The Atheltic ($$) on Tottenham’s 1998 relegation battle
Vincent Kompany speaks on his five-year deal with Burnley, Premier League success and more
Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott makes his Premier League predictions this weekend