The four teams who will battle it out in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs this year have been confirmed.
Bournemouth, Swansea, Brentford and Barnsley will all go head to head to win one of football’s most lucrative prizes, promotion to the Premier League.
It’s all set to be an intriguing set of play-off fixtures in the second tier this term, with all the aforementioned teams possessing strong qualities that suggest they have what it takes to reach the promised land.
So, we asked the writers here at Football League World to offer their predictions on who will prevail in the upcoming play-offs in the Championship….
Ned Holmes – Bournemouth
My heart says Barnsley but my head is screaming Bournemouth.
Jonathan Woodgate’s side may have been beaten by Brentford last weekend but prior to that they were in hot form and you feel they may well carry that into the play-offs.
I worry whether the Bees and Swansea City have what it takes to get over the line after falling short last season, so the Cherries look the likely promotion-winners.
That said, it would be foolish to write off Barnsley because there seems to be such belief and fight in the squad.
Though the Tykes winning would certainly be a shock – few leagues seem to generate surprises like the Championship.
Sam Rourke – Brentford
Something is telling me it’s Brentford’s year.
They’ve had patches of excellent form this season, yet in the last few months have underwhelmed somewhat, but I think with the experience they gained last season in the play-offs, it could just hand them an advantage.
The Bees are blessed with an array of talent and have a fantastic balance throughout the pitch, and I feel Thomas Frank will have learnt a lot from last season’s play-off experience.
When you have the league’s top scorer in Ivan Toney as well, you only need one chance and he’ll pounce.
Granted, there are cases for all the other sides in the play-offs.
Bournemouth have a cracking chance and their recent form under Jonathan Woodgate has been scintillating, with the likes of Solanke, Danjuma and Phillip Billing in particular coming to the fore.
Barnsley’s unrelenting team-spirit and work ethic gives them a serious chance, whilst Swansea have the ability and experience to push until the end.
My bet is Brentford though.
Alfie Burns – Bournemouth
Having watched a lot of Huddersfield Town this season in the Championship, I’ve seen all four visit the John Smith’s Stadium in the last couple of months and come away with different opinions on each of them.
Barnsley were the best, most relentless side, which is interesting given they are probably still outsiders for promotion.
AFC Bournemouth got the job done and their quality speaks for itself. However, Swansea and Brentford were really disappointing and their overall dip doesn’t convince me that they should be favourites.
The latter two, though, have been the more consistent figure in the play-off picture this season, with Barnsley coming late and Bournemouth only finding consistency since Jonathan Woodgate found his feet.
It is the Cherries that I’m going to go with heading into the play-offs.
Woodgate has found a way to get the best out of Philip Billing in the No.10 role, whilst Arnaut Danjuma and Dominic Solanke continue to do their thing. The squad that Bournemouth have has the sort of X-Factor it takes to win a play-off campaign.
I’d love to see Barnsley do it, which would be an unbelievable story, but I just feel like the team with the most individual quality will prevail.
George Dagless – Bournemouth
I’d love Barnsley do to it but I think Bournemouth will.
I’ve not been convinced by Swansea City much in recent weeks and I think they could come up short whilst Brentford obviously have great firepower and experience in the play-offs as well as a recent win over the Cherries but I just think Woodgate’s men have that extra sprinkling of stardust.
This Bournemouth team should have been challenging for the top two, let’s be honest, but at least now they look like the team we were expecting them to be and so, that said, I can’t look past them.
I just really hope Barnsley do it, though, because that would be a fantastic story.
Phil Spencer – Bournemouth
The Championship play-offs promise to be more exciting than ever this season, but I’m backing Bournemouth to be successful.
Before losing to Brentford last weekend, Jonathan Woodgate’s side had won seven matches in a row as they really seemed to find their stride at the Vitality Stadium.
While Brentford, Swansea and Barnsley will all pose a real threat in the four-way battle, I think that the Cherries have the edge.
As well as being arguably the most exciting, all-round attacking team of the four, they also have a group of players who have been there and done it before with many players having played in the Premier League last term.
That experience of playing at such a high level will be a real confidence boost for Woodgate’s side, and with goals and assists coming from all over the team, I think that they’ll come out on top.
George Harbey – Bournemouth
I have a feeling that Bournemouth will win it.
In fairness, it hasn’t been the most impressive season for the Cherries. They will have been wanting to push Watford and Norwich for the top-two, especially after keeping hold of the likes of David Brooks and other key players in the summer.
But they have turned a corner under Jonathan Woodgate, and recently had a seven-game winning come to an end after a defeat to Brentford.
I just think that over two legs, Bournemouth have the right blend of experience and quality to succeed. They have players like Steve Cook and Jack Wilshere who know how to manage the pressure, but have players in the final third like Arnaut Danjuma who are match-winners.
Credit to Barnsley for getting there, but for me, Bournemouth’s experience and knowhow of playing in big games in the Premier League will prevail here.
Ben Wignall – Bournemouth
I think that this could be one of the tightest play-off campaigns yet and you could really make a strong case for all four teams going up to the Premier League.
If I had to choose just one though it would be Bournemouth, which would mean all three relegated teams last season from the top flight would go straight back up at the first attempt.
At one point or another this season it looked like the Cherries might drop out of the top six under Jason Tindall’s management, but Jonathan Woodgate has come in and got the players firing again at just the right time.
Looking at the talent in their squad it’s amazing to think that Bournemouth haven’t been closer to automatic promotion – the likes of Arnaut Danjuma, Jefferson Lerma, Lloyd Kelly and many others are Premier League quality and I think they have what it takes to succeed in the play-offs.
Chris Thorpe – Brentford
My gut is still telling me that Brentford can go one better and do the business in the play-offs this term as I think they have the players who can be the match winners that make the difference.
Ivan Toney is easily the best striker in the league in my eyes and I feel like he will be the man for the big occasion when push comes to shove, as he has been for much of his career with the Bees so far.
You have to look at the quality that they have in defence too, they have only conceded 41 goals at the time of writing and have really benefited from having Pontus Jansson back fit.
I just feel that they have a lot more quality at both ends of the field and realistically Bournemouth are the only other team out of the four that I can genuinely see stopping the Bees from achieving promotion.
So all in all, I think Premier League football will be coming to yet another corner of West London come May and it has been a long time coming as far as the Brentford faithful are concerned.