Brentford and Swansea go head-to-head for a place in the Premier League at Wembley on Saturday, a match often described as the richest in world football. Mark O'Haire analyses the odds.
"Brentford must overcome the club's cup final hoodoo - the West Londoners have lost all eight of their previous finals, while no team has lost more play-off finals (4) in EFL history."
Brentford v Swansea
Saturday May 29, 15:00
Brentford edge pulsating second leg
Brentford head coach Thomas Frank allowed his players 24 hours to celebrate their play-off semi-final win against Bournemouth before focusing on a return to Wembley. The Bees, beaten by neighbours Fulham in last season's play-off final, came from 2-0 down on aggregate to secure a 3-2 success in a pulsating and emotionally charged second leg.
Already trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Brentford made a terrible start, allowing Arnaut Danjuma to score from an early counter-attack. Championship golden boot winner Ivan Toney levelled the leg with a penalty but the tie arguably turned on a red card for Cherries centre-back Chris Mepham on the half-hour mark.
The Bees drew level on aggregate early in the second half through Vitaly Janelt's looped effort from outside the box before substitute Marcus Forss scored the decisive goal 10 minutes from time, sparking wild scenes of jubilation in the capital.
Speaking post-match, Frank said: "I told the players I needed a top performance and if we delivered that, I had no doubt we would get to the final. It's important to celebrate your small wins. But it's a maximum of 24 hours and we need to move on. So we will be well prepared, come flying out and give everything and we pray and hope it's enough this time."
Solid Swansea keep Tykes at bay
Swansea boss Steve Cooper immediately turned his attention to Brentford and the Championship play-off final after seeing his Swans side seal their place at Wembley with a tense 1-1 draw against Barnsley. The stalemate secured a 2-1 aggregate success over the Tykes last Saturday with the City supremo getting straight back to work in preparation.
Cooper said: "As soon as I get home the laptop will be on and I'll be looking at the opposition. It'll be a night to remember but my biggest emotion is getting ready for Saturday. It's going to be a very different game technically and tactically. We have had two tough games against them."
Like the first leg, the Liberty Stadium showdown was not a pretty contest as Barnsley's high-tempo, direct style caused problems for Swansea. However, after a 1-0 first leg triumph, Matt Grimes' sparkling goal put City 2-0 up in the tie, only for the guests to reply 20 minutes from time before piling on the pressure to set-up a nervy finale in South Wales.
Young centre-half partners Ben Cabango and Marc Guehi received glowing praise for their performances, while Andre Ayew's experience in attack proved crucial for City. However, veteran Wayne Routledge won't be available after leaving the field on a stretcher in the second leg. Liam Cullen and Connor Roberts are hoping for recalls.
Both Championship meetings between Brentford and Swansea this season ended in 1-1 draws, with the Bees taking the lead in both games before being pegged back. The capital club are now unbeaten in four meetings with the Welsh outfit (W2-D2-L0) having endured a rotten W0-D1-L8 streak with the Swans in head-to-head encounters previous to 2019/20.
Brentford 1.9620/21 are rated fair favourites to secure top honours at Wembley inside regulation time and end a 74-year exile from the top-flight. To do so, the Bees must overcome the club's cup final hoodoo - the West Londoners have lost all eight of their previous finals, while no team has lost more play-off finals (4) in EFL history.
Swansea 4.607/2 displayed impressive composure to progress past the semi-final stage having stuttered over the finishing line in the Championship. Steve Cooper's side have proven a tough nut to crack over the course of the campaign, even if the bulk of Swans' standout displays against the division's elite came at their Liberty Stadium base.
It's dubbed the most valuable match in world football - promotion to the Premier League will boost the winners' coffers by at least £170m - and the magnitude of the match can often cripple clubs on their big day at Wembley. Perhaps unsurprisingly with so much at stake, Championship play-off finals are rarely high-scoring affairs.
Since the famous Sunderland 4-4 Charlton play-off final 23 years ago, 14 (64%) Championship curtain-closers have reached the 90 minute mark with fewer than three goals - 50% of those 22 encounters produced no more than a solitary strike, including six of the most recent eight.
Only four of the past 20 finals have paid out for Both Teams To Score 2.166/5 backers, potentially highlighting the value in going against the grain and opposing goals. With that in mind, we can combine the two major goals markets by supporting Under 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score 'No' for a 1.855/6 shout via the Bet Builder on Betfair Sportsbook.
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