Football expert Ryan Elliott has two tips for the Championship play-off final between Brentford and Fulham.
Under 2.5 Goals
The pure intensity and theatre of the Championship play-off final makes it one of the most highly-anticipated fixtures in world football, and while an empty Wembley will doubtless detract from the occasion, the importance of the fixture remains unblemished.
In what looks a fascinating West London clash, we’re looking at two sides at very different stages of their journeys. Fulham, looking to bounce back into the Premier League at the very first attempt, will be battle-hardened after their victory on this stage against Aston Villa two years ago, and this experience that they can draw on, with many of that squad still remaining, will be critical.
Brentford, on the other hand, are looking to ascend into the Premier League for the very first time, and while Thomas Frank’s men have arguably been better than Fulham over the course of the season, their stumble at the end of the regular campaign is evidence of the effect pressure can have on anyone.
The Bees’ recovery in their second-leg against Swansea shows there’s plenty of fight in them yet, and their quality on the pitch is unquestionable, but can they handle such a big occasion against a streetwise Fulham side with bags of experience?
Much rests on Aleksandar Mitrović’s fitness on Tuesday, with Fulham’s talisman up front a key component of their success, while the reliable Tim Ream and Michael Hector will be tasked with keeping the prolific Ollie Watkins and spellbinding Said Benrahma quiet at the other end.
Both sides have defended well in recent weeks and months, and considering what’s at stake here, the two managers will ensure things are kept watertight at the back as a priority.
Continuing along with this thought, just one of the last seven Championship play-off finals have seen over two goals scored, and considering one bookie has under 2.5 goals priced at 5/4, this should absolutely be snapped up.
We’ve seen under 2.5 goals in five of the last six games between Brentford and Fulham, and while there is so much attacking talent on both sides, the nature of what’s at stake will inevitably steer both managers to prioritise caution – something we see almost every single year.
Fulham To Lift Trophy
Brentford are undefeated in nine of their last 10 matches against Fulham in all competitions, with the bookies also pricing them at 4/7 to lift the trophy, but I’m backing the Cottagers at 6/4 to be promoted.
As I mentioned, Brentford are probably slightly stronger than Fulham (though they were only separated in the table on goal difference), but the big game experience Scott Parker’s men have over Brentford is what tips the scales for me.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Tom Cairney, Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen, Tim Ream, Denis Odoi, Aboubakar Kamara, Cyrus Christie and Marcus Bettinelli were all involved in Fulham’s 2018 triumph against Villa, and while not all of the above will start on Tuesday, their presence in the dressing room will be invaluable.
6/4, considering their experiences of the past, looks like a good price for Fulham to hold their nerve and secure promotion back to the Premier League.