Championship, League One and League Two play-off final predictions

The next three days see the play-off finals of the Championship, League One and League Two taking place, bringing the 2020/2021 EFL season to an official end. There are some surprise teams taking part in the three games, but all six teams have a genuine chance of winning. Any mistakes will cost them, so all will need to be ready when the time comes. In this preview, I will pick out a player to watch from all six teams, and will also give a match prediction for who could make the jump up one level in the footballing pyramid.

Championship

Brentford v Swansea City (Saturday, 3pm KO)

KEY BRENTFORD PLAYER:

There are many players who could make the difference for Brentford, but I have picked out Ivan Toney. Ultimately, Brentford’s hopes of reaching the Premier League rest on whether they can put the ball in the net, and Toney will be the one they look for this when in the final third. His record since joining the Bees last summer from Peterborough speaks for itself, and he scores all sorts of goals, which is important, as Swansea will be difficult to break down and chances could come in tight areas of the pitch.

KEY SWANSEA PLAYER:

Like with Brentford, there are plenty of players who can make the difference, but I have gone for Conor Hourihane. The on-loan Aston Villa midfielder has helped the Swans to improve in the second half of the season, bringing goals, a set-piece threat, and general quality in their forward play. Against Brentford, his passing and ability to link up different areas of the team could be what decides the game.

MATCH PREDICTION:

This game really comes down to two questions. Have Swansea added what was missing in the play-offs last year? Do Brentford have the overall squad quality to make the step up? Both teams are capable of winning this game, but I think, on balance, Swansea will edge it, because they have players in their team, such as Andre Ayew, Hourihane and Wayne Routledge, who have experienced Premier League football and know what it takes to be at that level. However, it will be a tight contest, and the win for either side will not be by a massive margin. I can see it going to penalties.

League One

Blackpool v Lincoln City (Sunday, 3pm KO)

KEY BLACKPOOL PLAYER:

It would be easy to choose star striker Jerry Yates for this, and he will play a big part in Blackpool’s attacking play, but another important player for them is striker partner Ellis Simms, who is on loan from Everton. Simms tends to play just to the left in the Tangerines’ attack, cutting inside during games and adding a further presence in the box. His positioning, just off Yates, ensures that the two don’t run into each other during matches, and his creativity will cause Lincoln plenty of problems.

KEY LINCOLN PLAYER:

Lincoln have plenty of attacking quality, which is what has got them into this position, but their key player against Blackpool is likely to be Liam Bridcutt. The 32-year-old defensive midfielder will provide some much-needed protection for the Imps’ defenders, helping to stop the likes of Yates and Simms from breaking through them too often. He could be the one to make last-ditch tackles when needed, which may force Blackpool into a tactical rethink during the match.

MATCH PREDICTION:

This is a really interesting match-up, with two teams capable of scoring goals facing off for a place in the Championship. However, whilst Lincoln have been near the league’s summit for most of the season, a few dodgy results saw them drop down to fifth in the final standings. Blackpool, meanwhile, have stormed up the league over the course of the season, and, as such, have more momentum than Lincoln. For that reason, I have a feeling that Blackpool will take the win, making the jump back to the Championship for the first time since 2015.

League Two

Morecambe v Newport County (Monday, 3pm KO)

KEY MORECAMBE PLAYER:

With Morecambe having been the surprise package in League Two this year, there are many players that could be picked as ones to watch. However, their most consistent player this season has undoubtedly been Spanish winger Carlos Mendes Gomes. Whenever he plays, he scores, and the Shrimps play well; that has just been a fact of the season. If striker Cole Stockton is having an off-day, then Mendes Gomes can be relied upon to bring the quality needed in the final third, getting on the end of opportunities in the box. I picked him out in January as one of the players that clubs higher up could look to sign, and this is why.

KEY NEWPORT PLAYER:

Newport’s team doesn’t have individual stars, but is built on a team ethic. That means that their key player is captain and midfielder Joss Labadie, who has been at Rodney Parade since 2016. He is the one the Exiles look to for inspiration, and there is no doubting that he will play a big part in Newport’s tactics on Monday. They do tend to change players around fairly regularly across seasons, but Labadie is the one who brings them all together.

MATCH PREDICTION:

This is a difficult one to predict, because both have the quality and desire to be in League One. However, because they have been in such great form over the whole season, and because of the romance of it, I think Morecambe will take the last promotion place and go up. Newport have had a slightly disrupted season, with their star player, Scott Twine, being recalled by Swindon in January, and had to find some new goalscorers in the same window. I think that will give them just a small disadvantage, compared to their opponents, but we will find out if this is right on Monday.

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