Championship Play-off Final Preview
Ian Holloway will be looking to lead another side into the Premier League with his Crystal Palace side taking on Watford in Monday’s Championship play-off final.
Holloway famously took Blackpool into the Premier League back in 2010 when he was in charge at Bloomfield Road. The Tangerines beat Cardiff City 3-2 that day and the charismatic manager will once again have to fire his side up as they enter the Wembley final as underdogs.
The match is build as the richest club match with whoever reaches the Premier League set to benefit from £120 million from a combination of TV money and additional cash benefits from being a member of England’s 20-club elite division.
Palace will be bidding to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2005 after they won the 2004 Championship play-off final. They defeated their cross-city rivals West Ham 1-0 that day but their spell in the top division was short-lived as they were relegated at the end of the season.
At the mid-point of this season, it seemed highly likely that Palace would secure automatic promotion back to the Premier League after a scintillating run of 14 games unbeaten sent them to the summit of the table.
The run was partly inspired by youngster Wilfred Zaha who set the Championship alight with a string of excellent performances but his talent did not go unnoticed and a host of Premier League clubs came sniffing in the January transfer window.
Eventually, a deal was struck with Manchester United which allowed the winger to remain at Selhurst Park until the end of the season but ever since he had his head turned, he hasn’t quite been the same player.
His decline in form coincided with Palace’s slip out of the play-offs but a regular input of goals from talisman striker Glenn Murray kept Palace in the hunt for the play-offs which they secured on the final day of the season.
Unfortunately for them, Murray will be missing from the final after he picked up a cruciate ligament injury in the play-off first leg against Brighton.
Fortunately for Palace, Zaha was back to his best in the second leg and popped up with a brace to send them through at 2-0 winners at the Amex Stadium.
Final opponents Watford have caused a stir themselves this season after bringing in no more than 13 foreign players on season-long loans this campaign.
Ten of those players have been borrowed from their parent club Udinese and many other managers have criticised Gianfranco Zola for exploiting the loophole in the league’s rules.
But despite the criticism, many of the loan players have given a good account of themselves, especially striker Matěj Vydra who has netted 20 times in all competitions this season. And the Czech is the bookies favourite to open the scoring on Monday afternoon, with Bet Victor offering the best odds of 5/1.
Watford last played in the Premier League in 2006 after beating Leeds United in the 2005 play-off final but like Palace, their stay in the league was only a season before being relegated.
But a dramatic 98th minute goal from Troy Deeney after Manuel Almunia had pulled off an excellent penalty save in their play-off semi-final second leg against Leicester City, means they are just one game away from returning to the big time.
The yellows are favourites for the final with Bet Victor offering odds 9/4 for them to return to the Premier League. Bet Victor are also offering the best odds on a Palace win, with 9/4 a tempting offer for punters.
And you can claim free bets with Bet Victor by clicking HERE.