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The Championship playoffs start on Friday and Saturday depending on your allegiances. First there'll be the two-legged semi-finals, followed by the final at Wembley. That final holds the most lucrative financial prize in world football, as the winner gets over 60 million pounds thanks to the astronomical Premier League tv-deal. Titanic encounters can therefore be expected, as the four teams battle it out for the final promotion place and Premier League football in 2016-2017.


19:45 Sheffield Wednesday - Brighton

Brighton fell short at the last hurdle in terms of direct promotion. The dramatic last game draw against Middlesborough meant that 'Boro secured their Premier League status over Brighton thanks to their superior goal difference. The Seagulls had to settle for third place and a playoff-spot.

Sheffield Wednesday finished sixth in the Championship. As they'd confirmed their place in the playoffs a while back, they had nothing to play for in the last game of the season. This meant that they could rest key players for the playoffs, while Brighton were doing their all against Middlesborough. The big question going into the match is how quickly have the Seagulls managed to recover from that huge upset? Is the squad ready for another fight for promotion after getting so close just a couple of days earlier.

Both meetings between the sides this season finished as goalless draws. In fact, in the six previous matches between them only three goals have been scored, so nobody's expecting a flurry of goals on Friday. This is even more likely due to the huge stakes of the match.

Sheffield were extremely strong at home all season - actually one of the best in the Championship. Out of their 23 home games the Owls only lost twice, amassing an impressive 47 points. On the other hand, Brighton were the second strongest away-team in the division, second only to eventual champions Burnley.

On paper the visitors have a slight edge, but Wednesday come into the match from far easier circumstances. Home advantage is a huge factor in the playoffs, further lifting the likelihood of a home victory. In our opinion Sheffield are favourites on Friday, and the odds for that outcome are also favourable. If you like going for an exact scoreline, 1-0 or 2-0 wouldn't be bad ideas for a bet.

Betting Tips:

To progress: Sheffield Wednesday 5/4 ComeOn!

* Correct score: 1-0 23/4 Unibet

** 1x2: Sheffield Wednesday 7/5 Bet365



14:45 Derby - Hull

The other semi-final pairing is also a tight and interesting one. Both sides looked to be going up directly for long periods of the season, but their late-season form and the last ten matches in particular went disastrously wrong for both sides.

Derby probably have a slight edge in terms of confidence going into the match, as they've already beaten Hull twice this season, those scorelines being 4-0 and 2-0. County play the first leg at home and should be looking for a comprehensive result, as the Tigers have been convincing at home all season.

Hull grabbed an impressive 5-1 win on the last day against Rotherham, which will have also given their confidence a boost going into the playoffs. However, it should be remembered that Derby are a different package altogether compared to lowly Rotherham, and the stakes now are completely different than last week. Derby on the other hand played against two of the strongest sides in the division, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday. Two draws from those games isn't bad going. Meanwhile, Hull didn't manage to defeat any top sides in the division in the second half of the season.

Unlike the other semi-final pairing, goals can be expected despite the huge implications of the result. Derby's home advantage is sturdy and the difference in quality is tiny. In terms of progression to the final the tie is fairly even, but in the first match Derby are definitely favourites.

The bookies favour Hull slightly, so we're betting on the Rams this Saturday.

Betting Tips:

* 1x2: Derby 3/2 Unibet

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