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Preview: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi Final first legs

Talk about drama!

24 July 2020

Following one of the most dramatic final days in recent memory, we finally know the four teams that will be playing in this year’s Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs.

After a hard-fought race between West Bromwich Albion, Brentford and Fulham in the regular season, the latter two have had to settle with a place in the Play-Offs and, with all said and done, both sides did fantastically well to give themselves a shot at automatic promotion in the end. 

Come 4 August, we could see the Bees and the Whites face off in a West London derby under the Wembley arch. 

On the flip side, we could see an all-Welsh affair in the Final. A roller-coaster of a final day saw rivals Cardiff City and Swansea City book their places in the Play-Offs. Many would not have expected the Swans to sneak in before a ball was kicked in midweek, but a 4-1 win at Reading sealed their fate.

Swansea City v Brentford - Sunday 26 July (18:30) 

Swansea City knew that if they stood any chance of nicking a Play-Off spot they would firstly have to look after their own result against Reading and hope that either Cardiff City or Nottingham Forest lost.

Cardiff City were understandably not looking to give their Welsh counterparts a helping hand as they dismantled Hull City in a 3-0 win to condemn the Tigers to relegation. 

Forest, on the other hand, were all too giving, losing 4-1 at home to Stoke City - the final nail in the coffin coming as their own player, Nuno da Costa, put through his own net when trying clear the danger.

That goal would be crucial for the Swans, as it would see them climb above Sabri Lamouchi’s side and into the Play-Offs.

Steve Cooper’s men, meanwhile, ran riot at the Madjeski Stadium. With Reading down to 10 men after Yakou Meite’s sending off, Swansea kicked into over-drive.

The introduction of the experienced Wayne Routledge after the break proved pivotal, with the 35-year-old netting twice, his second of the evening proving to be the big one for that swing in goal difference in the 92nd minute. 

Brentford also had a chaotic evening to say the least, just missing out on automatic promotion.

At one point on Wednesday night it looked like the Bees would be Premier League-bound as a goal for Queens Park Rangers at The Hawthorns saw West Brom momentarily drop into third spot.

But things would go from good to bad quite quickly for Thomas Frank’s side. Barnsley, who were fighting for their own lives, surprisingly took the lead at Griffin Park and managed to hold out until Josh Dasilva struck in the 73rd minute.

With news coming through that QPR had scored to level the scores up at West Brom, the Bees pushed for a winner.

As hard as they pushed, it never came, and to make things worse Barnsley scored a last-minute winner, which meant jubilation for the Tykes as it moved them out of the relegation zone.

But it was a ‘what could have been’ moment for Brentford - they’ll undoubtedly pick themselves up from that disappointment and go again, and will fancy their chances in this race to the Premier League.

Cardiff City v Fulham - Monday 27 July (19:45)

Things were a lot simpler for Neil Harris’ Cardiff City side on Wednesday night, knowing that a win over relegation-threatened Hull would be enough to secure a Play-Off spot.

That’s exactly what happened on home soil, a solid 3-0 win with goals from Junior Hoilett, Sean Morrison and Danny Ward sealing the victory and relegating Grant McCann’s Tigers in the process.

Fulham knew that they needed a big hand from those above them if they were to reach the Premier League via the automatic promotion places.

It wouldn’t be a champagne ending for the Whites on the night, as Scott Parker’s side could only manage a 1-1 draw against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.

With Aleksandar Mitrovic picking up the golden boot in the regular season with his 26 goals, the Serbian will be keen to help his side back into the Premier League.

The sides have faced each other twice this season, with Fulham walking away with four points from a possible six, winning their last game on 10 July, a 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage. 

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