This weekend is Play-Off Finals time in English football and the bank holiday weekend is the perfect time to spread the three matches across. Newport County take on Tranmere in the League Two Play-off Final on Saturday 25 May, whilst Charlton will battle it out with Sunderland on Sunday for promotion to the Championship.
On bank holiday Monday, it’s the turn of Aston Villa and Derby as they fight it out in the big money match, with both teams hoping to return to the Premier League.
League Two Play-Off Final – Newport County vs Tranmere (Saturday 3.00)
Newport and Tranmere qualified in sixth and seventh positions for the play-offs and it was something of a surprise that the semi-final underdogs have both made it to the final. Only two points separated the two teams at the end of the season and there are plenty of reasons to think that this match is going to be a close affair.
The bookies make Tranmere the slight favourites to be promoted, and they would be returning to League One, unlike Newport who would be creating history by reaching that level for the first time.
However, it’s Newport that have taken four points from their two league matches this season, drawing 0-0 at home and winning 1-0 away.
Those results look a good indication of how close this match may be between two primarily defensive sides. Both legs of both team’s semi-finals were also low-scoring matches, with less than 2.5 goals in all four games.
In fact, Newport’s last six matches have all produced less than three goals, whilst five of Tranmere’s last six matches have also failed to produce more than two goals. That’s why, though the outright result looks a tough call, less than 2.5 goals in 90-minutes looks the right bet.
League One Play-Off Final – Charlton vs Sunderland (Sunday 3.00)
Charlton finished the season three points in front of Sunderland, having finished the season much the stronger of the two sides. Charlton won seven of their last eight games to finish in third place in the table, whilst Sunderland didn’t win any of their last four games as they fell away slightly to finish fifth.
The League One play-off semi-finals were two very different affairs, with Charlton’s two games against Doncaster producing a total of eight goals before Charlton eventually progressed via a penalty shootout.
Sunderland’s clash with Portsmouth was much more low-key, with Sunderland going through thanks to a solitary goal.
What both teams did have in common was they turned around their league form with the two clubs they beat, as Charlton had taken just one point off Doncaster during the season, whilst Sunderland had also taken just one point off Portsmouth.
It’s Sunderland that hold the edge on this season’s form with Charlton, winning their home game and drawing away. However, that win was the opening game of the season for both clubs and Charlton have looked in the best form of the two in recent weeks.
Promotion could easily go to either team, and a better betting angle for this match may be both teams to score. That’s happened in both league games this season, whilst Charlton have scored in their last ten games. Sunderland didn’t score in their last game, but they didn’t have to, and they had scored in their last 11 games before that.
Championship Play-Off – Aston Villa vs Derby (Monday 3.00)
Both Aston Villa and Derby broke the hearts of higher-placed challengers in the Championship play-off semi-finals, with Derby’s stunning 4-2 win at Leeds being the standout performance.
But they have been outplayed by Aston Villa on both occasions they’ve met this season, with Villa winning 3-0 at Derby and 4-0 at home. It’s hard to see Derby turning around that form and Villa know that a return to the Premier League may be the only way they keep hold of some of their stars of the season, especially Jack Grealish.
Villa are fancied to win and, with this having the potential to be a high-scoring game, Conor Hourihane looks an interesting bet to score at any time. The Irish midfielder has scored in both games against Derby this season and bagged two goals in the 4-0 home win.