This is going to be a slightly different post season as one club that got relegated from the Premier League will definitely be at Wembley. This is only the second time in last ten campaigns that more than one relegated team has featured in the playoffs; there were three when West Ham won in 2012. Relegated teams have a dreadful record in the Championship playoffs over the last two decades: one win, six losing finalists and five losing semi finalists. Those numbers also dovetail nicely with the specific trend that indicates that teams promoted from the Championship have usually played at least two seasons in the Championship.
If that trend continues, my guess is that whoever wins the Derby/Brighton semi final may stand the best chance of joining Leicester and Burnley in the Premier League. So let’s have a look at the runners and riders: unless specified, the stats are based on the last 20 complete seasons (so from 1993/94 onwards) and the prices were taken from the Oddschecker website on Bank Holiday Monday.
Derby County (9/4 favourites)
Winners 2007, losing finalists 1994, losing semi finalists 2005. Sixth season in the Championship, this season’s finish is their highest since they won the playoffs in 2007. Best head to head record against the other other playoff teams including winning both games against Brighton.
Teams that finish third have got the best record in the playoffs since 1993/94: five wins in the last ten tournaments is proof of that. Yet as I mentioned recently, Derby might have a problem. Over the last 20 seasons, when teams that have finished third have lost the playoff final, the third place team at the end of the following season has failed to reach the final.
Haven’t appeared in the Championship playoffs in the last 20 seasons; were relegated from the Premier League last season. Second best head to head record against the other playoff teams but failed to beat any of them – or score against those sides – away from home. Will also have to overcome The Curse Of Fourth; only Charlton (1998) and Leicester (1994) have finished fourth and won the playoff final in the last 20 years. Additionally, the fourth placed side hasn’t produced a playoff finalist since 2010 (Cardiff City)
Wigan Athletic (5/2)
The same as QPR in terms of playoff appearances and recent relegations. Worst head to head record against the other playoff teams, exacerbated – or possibly emphasised – by picking up just one point from nine available against Brighton, Derby and QPR at the DW.
Last season Crystal Palace became only the second club in the last decade to finish fifth and win promotion via the playoffs since Burnley in 2009; over the last ten years, four fifth place sides have reached the final and lost.
Beaten semi finalists last season; third season in the Championship after promotion from League One. Almost as bad as Wigan against the other remaining contenders but with the redeeming feature of a solid defence on the road. Sixth place has produced three playoff winners since 2003/04, but only one sixth placed team (Blackpool) in the last eight campaigns has gone up and the Tangerines are the only sixth placed finishers to reach Wembley since 2005/06.
In the last 20 second tier playoff finals, the higher placed side at the end of the regular season has only beaten the lower placed side in half of the games, but Palace’s victory last season was the first time a lower placed side had beaten the higher placed side since Blackpool’s win over Cardiff in 2010.
If the trends indicate anything, there’s quite a strong chance that either Wigan or Brighton could win promotion as an analysis of whether the higher finishing team beats the lower finisher indicates that we’re at the beginning of a ‘no’ streak.
Another way of looking at the finals is to see who actually contested them. Since 1994, the breakdown is as follows:
7 times: 3rd v 5th (last: 2013, lower placed team has won four times )
5 times: 3rd v 4th (last: 2008, higher placed team has won four times)
4 times: 5th v 6th (last: 2005, higher placed team has won twice)
3 times: 4th v 6th (last: 2010. lower placed team has won twice) and 5th v 6th (last: 2005)
Once (and probably never to be repeated): 2nd v 3rd (1995, due to reduction of teams in the Premier League)
So overall, about as clear as mud until the first leg is over. And with that in mind, I’ll be back tomorrow with the Brighton/Derby preview.