Fridges up and down the country look sure to be crammed full of beer and barbecue food this weekend as four football finals are set to clash with a sunny bank holiday weekend.
The finals start with the Championship Play-offs Final on Saturday afternoon. This is then followed by what promises to be one of the most exciting Champions League Final ever as Real Madrid take on the equally attack-minded Liverpool on Saturday evening.
A hare of the dog then might be needed as we start it all again on Sunday with the League 1 Play-offs Final between Rotherham and Shrewsbury. If you’ve not had your fill of football, beer and barbecues by then, there’s more of the same to look forward to on Monday afternoon as Coventry take on Exeter in the League 2 Play-off Final.
Championship Play-off Final
Aston Villa vs Fulham (Saturday 26 May, 3.00, Sky Sports)
Not much separated Fulham and Aston Villa at the end of the 2017/18 Championship Season, with third-placed Fulham finishing five points ahead of Villa, whilst they also enjoyed a superior goal-difference by three goals.
However, both teams come into the final in similar form having won three, drawn one, and lost one of their last five games. Fulham came back from a 1-0 first-leg defeat by Derby by triumphing 2-1 in their home leg.
Meanwhile, Villa hung on to a 1-0 away win at Middlesbrough as they fought out a 0-0 draw in the second-leg.
There is also little to separate the two teams on their performances against each other in the last two seasons, with both teams winning their home games.
It’s a tough result to predict but, with play-off finals tending to be low-scoring matches, it could be worth taking into account how low-scoring the semi-finals were and playing the goals markets accordingly.
Champions League Final
Real Madrid vs Liverpool (Saturday 26 May, 7.45, BT Sport)
Play-off Finals may typically be low-scoring affairs but it’s hard to imagine that any match involving two attack-minded teams like Real Madrid and Liverpool is going to be – and let’s hope not!
Real Madrid’s scored 94 goals in 38 games in La Liga this season and all their last six games have produced at least four goals. Meanwhile, Liverpool scored 84 goals in 38 Premier League games this season, whilst there have been 37 goals in their last eight Champions League matches, despite one of those being a 0-0 draw against Porto when they had won the first-leg 5-0. Both teams most recent Champions League Finals were also full of goals.
Who can forget Liverpool’s 3-3 draw against Milan in 2005, which they went on to win after coming back from 3-0 down. Real Madrid also won a five-goal final last year as they beat Juventus 4-1. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine this final is going to be anything else but an edge-of-your-seat goal-fest, in which most punters will surely be betting high in the goal markets.
However, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you might want to draw reference to the last four matches played between the two teams. The teams last met in the 2014 Champions League when Real Madrid won their home-leg 1-0 having won the away-leg 3-0. Prior to that, the two met in the 2009 Champions League when Liverpool won both legs, winning 1-0 in Real Madrid and 4-0 at home. Therefore, that suggests a case for playing “no” in the both teams to score market (but let’s hope that’s wrong).
League 1 Play-offs Finals
Rotherham vs Shrewsbury (Sunday 27 May, 3.00, Sky Sports)
Just as in the Championship, the third and fourth placed teams have made it to the final. Shrewsbury finished eight points above Rotherham, but they finished the season shakily with just one win in their last five games as they faded out of contention for automatic promotion.
Meanwhile, Rotherham finished strongly by winning three of their last four games. Rotherham were also never behind in their play-off semi-final against Scunthorpe as they surrendered a 2-1 lead only in the dying moments to draw at Scunthorpe before winning their home-leg 2-0.
However, Shrewsbury also returned to winning ways in their semi-final against Charlton as they won both legs 1-0. Strangely, both their League 1 fixtures were won by the away team this season, with Rotherham winning 1-0 at Shrewsbury and Shrewsbury winning 2-1 at Rotherham. Therefore, quite what both teams will make of playing each other at Wembley is hard to fathom.
If I had to pick a winner, I’d probably go for Rotherham as they also won their previous away game against Shrewsbury, and they probably arrive here in better form. However, with three of the last four matches between the two teams producing at least three goals, it could be worth playing that sort of score in the goals markets.
League 2 Play-offs Final
Coventry vs Exeter (Monday 28 May, 3.00, Sky Sports)
Coventry became the only team in this season’s play-offs to reach a final having not finished in one of the first two play-off positions. However, they reached the final in some style having beaten Notts County 4-1 in the away-leg, having only drawn their home leg 0-0. That 4-1 win was also more meritorious than it looks at first glance as they had lost 2-1 at Notts County on April 7 this year.
Exeter made it to the finals by a more tried and tested route as they drew 0-0 away from home before winning their home-leg 3-1. That 0-0 was an excellent result though as they had lost 3-2 at Lincoln in March.
It’s again hard to split the two teams, as both teams won their home game during the 2017/18 League 2 season, though Coventry did manage to win their game 2-0 to Exeter’s 1-0 win. Coventry, despite finishing five points behind Exeter in League 2, also had a superior goal difference to their rivals. It’s another tough game to pick the winner of but, with both teams being typically tight in defence, and neither being prolific scorers, it’s easy to see this game going the way of many previous League 2 Play-offs finals and being a low-scoring affair.