Promotion to the Premier League is the prize on offer as Brentford and Fulham lock horns at Wembley tonight for the Championship playoff final.
The 2019/20 Championship season ends on Tuesday night as West London rivals Brentford and Fulham meet in the playoff final, with the winner to join champions Leeds United and West Brom in the Premier League next term.
Both teams lost out on the final automatic promotion spot to second-place West Brom by a mere two points. Thus, they’ll be determined to not waste this one last opportunity through the playoff final.
Brentford booked their spot by beating Swansea City 3-2 on aggregate in the playoff semi-finals. Fulham, meanwhile, oversaw Cardiff City by the same scoreline despite losing the second-leg at home. So if that’s anything to go by, tonight’s showdown should be a good one.
Brentford Form & Team News
Despite a sluggish start to the season, Brentford enjoyed a splendid second half. They even embarked on a seven-match winning run once lockdown ended. Defeats to Stoke City and Barnsley in their last two games cost them automatic promotion, though.
A 1-0 loss in the first-leg of their semi-final playoff clash against Swansea then suggested nerves had got the better of them. However, Thomas Frank pulled his side together to oversee a 3-1 win in the return leg in the club’s last game at Griffin Park; securing a spot in the final with a 3-2 aggregate win.
The Bees, who have never competed in the Premier League, have a real chance of beginning life in their 17,250-capacity stadium by competing in the English top-flight.
Striker Nikos Karelis is only confirmed absentee for tonight’s match.
Fulham Form & Team News
Unlike their opponents, Fulham have been in the battle for promotion all season. Although they lacked the consistency to take the fight to Leeds and West Brom, ultimately missing out on automatic promotion by two points. An inferior goal difference and win count left them in fourth in the standings behind Brentford.
A seven-match unbeaten run, though, left Scott Parker’s side entering the playoffs in a decent run of form. They proceeded to beat Cardiff 2-0 in Wales for their first-leg of their semi-final tie. And while the Bluebirds’ 2-1 win in the return leg wasn’t enough to knock Fulham out, it exposed their inconsistency.
Fortunately, Parker can recall top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic after the striker missed the semi-finals through a hamstring injury.
Winger Neeskens Kebano, on the other hand, remains doubtful after sustaining a hamstring problem in the second leg against Cardiff.
Prediction & Betting Tip
Considering Brentford scored the most Championship goals this season on 80 and Fulham boasting the sixth-best record on 64 goals, one may naturally expect a goal-laden affair tonight. Especially with the league’s two leading goalscorers, Ollie Watkins (25 goals) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (26 goals), in the mix.
Championship play-off finals, however, normally don’t produce many high-scoring affairs. In fact, Aston Villa’s 2-1 win against Derby County last season was the first time in seven finals to feature over two goals.
Moreover, Fulham have averaged less than 1.5 goals scored in their 11 fixtures since lockdown ended. Brentford, in comparison, averaged 1.9 goals in the same amount of games. Although the Bees have only scored more than once in just one of their last five games.
So backing another low-scoring affair of under 2.5 goals at Wembley seems a reasonable bet. While Brentford’s superior head-to-head record (see above) this season makes them favorites.
BBTS – No
If you fancy trying your luck in other bets, predicting both teams to not score tonight may be worth a chance.
A low-scoring affair is possible tonight, as both Brentford and Fulham will be wary of making errors on the big stage. Nerves may also play a part in the final. Plus, if anyone takes a lead, it could lead to some ultra-defensive football late on.
First Goalscorer – Ollie Watkins
The 24-year-old forward ended a three-match goalless run last week by scoring the opening goal in Brentford’s 3-1 win over Swansea. In fact, he’s broken the deadlock in three of the club’s last six games.
So out of all the options, Oddschecker has placed Watkins as the most likely player to score first with Spreadex offering 19/4 odds.
* Odds correct at time of writing.