Championship Play-Off Final | Saturday 28 May | Wembley Stadium | 18:00
Favourites Hull City are looking to secure a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking in what is considered the world’s most lucrative single football match. Well over £100 million is up for grabs for the club that can rise to the occasion at majestic Wembley Stadium. Sheffield Wednesday have spent 16 years outside of England’s top division and will be highly motivated do a number on the Tigers and bring top flight football back to the Hillsborough faithful.
To Win (90mins)
Hull City 11/10 | Draw 21/10 | Sheffield Wednesday 24/10
Hull City booked their place in the Championship Play-Offs following a long and gruelling season amid England’s next-best clubs. Finishing fourth with 83 points, nine clear of opposition Sheffield Wednesday, the Tigers were pitted against a Derby County side who had challenged for the title earlier in the season but lost their way through January and February. Returning to the scene of a 4-0 hammering just a month previously, Hull City soaked up early pressure at Derby’s iPro Stadium before taking the lead against the run of play after half an hour through Abel Hernandez. The Tigers settled into their rhythm while Derby’s confidence looked shattered following an own goal just before half-time. Andy Roberton put the game to bed in the closing stages to grant Hull a 3-0 victory and what seemed like a guaranteed spot in the final.
The home comfort of KC Stadium did little to settle Hull’s nerves, who fell behind due to an early Johnny Russell strike. Andy Robertson then cancelled out his first-leg goal by putting one into his own net before half-time, ensuring a nervy last 45 minutes as Derby searched for an equaliser. The Tigers held onto their narrow advantage to make it through to Wembley Stadium, although will perhaps come into this match slightly rattled given the nature of their last encounter. Hull have only managed to draw with their Yorkshire rivals in both meetings during the regular season and up until fairly recently, had a rather poor record against Sheffield Wednesday. Steve Bruce’s charges can afford no mistakes this time around.
One of the oldest football clubs in the world, Sheffield Wednesday spent the majority of their history in England’s top flight before being relegated in 2000. A rather up-and-down season saw the club finish sixth in the Championship, sealing a spot in the play-offs by five points ahead of Ipswich Town. Facing a Brighton & Hove Albion side who finished third, a massive 15 points ahead of Wednesday, the semi-final was always going to be a tough test for Carlos Carvalhal and his men. However, the Owls grabbed the initiative in the first leg at Hillsborough with goals either side of halftime from Ross Wallace and Kieran Lee.
The second leg on the south coast saw Brighton open the scoring but the home crowd’s celebrations would be short-lived, as Wallace once again struck from distance. However, this time there was more than a hint of fortune about the goal, as Wallace launched a cross towards the Brighton goal, only to watch it loop over everybody and into the net. Despite finishing rather off the pace in the Championship in comparison to Hull City, there seems to be real belief in the Wednesday camp ahead of this important clash. As mentioned, they’ve managed two low scoring draws with the Tigers this term and will feel there’s a real chance to end their long wait for Premier League football.
Verdict: Sheffield Wednesday (To Qualify) 5/4
This looks like a tight encounter that will likely begin with intentions not to concede. The sides are rather evenly matched despite their respective Championship positions this season and with so much on the line, the form book may as well not exist. Anything can happen in these types of clashes and whether or not the match goes into extra-time or penalties, backing Sheffield Wednesday to qualify at 5/4 is great value.