Liverpool only need a draw against Brighton to secure Champions League Football for next season, whilst Chelsea will be trying to win at Newcastle in the hope that Brighton can do them a massive favour. However, whilst the Premier League is all but wrapped-up, the Championship, League 1, and League 2 play-offs mean there should be plenty of exciting action this weekend.
Premier League Round Up
Newcastle vs Chelsea (Sunday 3.00)
Even a win for Chelsea will leave them hoping for a miracle in their quest to play Champions League Football next season, but they’ve beaten Newcastle comprehensively in their last three meetings. However, those wins were all at Stamford Bridge, and matches at Newcastle have not come so easy to Chelsea in recent seasons, having failed to win any of their last four matches there. The last match at St James’ Park ended 2-2 in September 2015, whilst Newcastle won the previous three matches. Newcastle have something to play for too, as losing this Sunday means that up to five teams could leapfrog them in the table.
Liverpool vs Brighton (Sunday 3.00)
Liverpool have a +15 better goal-difference than Chelsea so, regardless of the Chelsea result, a draw should be good enough to get them into the Champions League next season whether they win this year’s Champions League final against Real Madrid or not. However, despite a couple of recent draws, playing for a draw isn’t really in Liverpool’s nature. That was certainly evident in their 5-1 win at Brighton earlier in the season, where they lead 2-0 at half-time before scoring three more goals in the second-half. Mo Salah didn’t even score that day, though Roberto Firmino bagged himself two goals. Liverpool are also unbeaten in their last nine home games. Meanwhile, Brighton’s limitations were exposed by Manchester City last week in a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad and a similar result is expected.
Derby vs Fulham (Friday 7.45)
Fulham will have to bounce back quickly after just falling short of automatic promotion to the Premier League, and that could be a tough ask as they know that victory at Birmingham would have been enough to see them go straight up. However, whilst they didn’t have a great record against Birmingham, they’ve already won at Derby this season and drawn at home with them. A repeat of those results would see Fulham go through, but Derby had won their previous two home games against Fulham. They also come into the play-offs on a high having clinched the last place courtesy of winning their last two home games against Barnsley and Cardiff. Fulham are favourites to take a first-leg lead but it may be tougher than the odds suggest.
Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa (Sunday 5.15)
Villa finished seven points and one place above Middlesbrough in the Championship but the three matches between the two sides this season have produced very different results. Villa won 1-0 at Middlesbrough in December but had earlier drew 0-0 at home in a match in which both sides had a player sent-off. Villa also had a player sent-off when they lost 2-0 at home in the League Cup. However, those last two matches were both in September and Villa have made more improvement than Middlesbrough since then. However, the lack of goals in all three games means the betting strategy may be to go low in the goals markets in this one.
League 1 Play-Offs
Scunthorpe vs Rotherham (Saturday 12.30)
Rotherham finished five points in front of Scunthorpe in League 1 but their away form was weak towards the end of the season. In contrast, Scunthorpe’s home form was quite strong at the business end as they won two and drew two of their last four home games. However, Rotherham did win both matches between the two teams this season, despite losing the previous five matches. Rotherham also lead at half-time and full-time in both games if you think Rotherham can uphold this season’s form.
Shrewsbury vs Charlton (Sunday 5.15)
The play-offs can be very unfair to the side that just missed out on automatic promotion, but fate would be especially unfair if Shrewsbury lose to Charlton after finishing 16 points ahead of them in the League 1 Table. However, if this season’s results are repeated in the play-offs, that’s exactly what will happen with Charlton winning 2-0 at Shrewsbury and Shrewsbury winning 1-0 at Charlton. However, that 1-0 away win by Shrewsbury was the last game of the season and they will be fancied to carry that momentum into this tie.
League 2 Play-Offs
Lincoln vs Exeter (Saturday 3.00)
Lincoln may have only claimed the last play-off place, whilst Exeter finished five points ahead of them in fourth, but it’s Lincoln who are favourites to win this match and the tie and are second favourites to win the League 2 Play-offs. However, Lincoln only beat Exeter 3-2 when they met at Lincoln on March 30, and that win stopped a run of four straight victories for Exeter who had earlier won the reverse fixture 1-0. The reason why Lincoln are favourites is they finished the season strongly having gone unbeaten in their last six home games, whilst Exeter only managed to win seven points out of their last six away games. I’m not sure Lincoln deserve to be odds-on to win this match though, with the last four matches between the two teams won by a solitary goal.
Coventry vs Notts County (Saturday 12.30)
Coventry finished just two points behind Notts County and will be looking forward to taking them on again after beating them 3-0 in August, which was the second time they have beaten them by that score-line at home in the last few seasons. Notts County did win the other of those three matches 1-0 though. County also won their home match this season 2-1, making it seven points from their last three home encounters against Coventry. Coventry also got the jitters as they took just one point from their last two home games, but County also lost their last away match. A match the stats suggest could go either way but, having won two of their last three home games against Notts County, a shade off odds-against is probably fair enough for Coventry to get off to a winning start.