Championship Playoff Final – The richest game in English football

John Eustace celebrates scoring the winner against QPR earlier this year, will he celebrate again today?

John Eustace celebrates scoring the winner against QPR earlier this year, will he celebrate again today?

The Championship Playoff Final is billed as the richest game in football with the winners of this 90 minute clash at the home of English football – Wembley Stadium – receiving a place in the Premier League and it’s vastness of riches. In recent years it was said that victory in this match was worth at least £60m, but with a new television rights deal having come into play last year the figure is even higher now, with the side finishing bottom of the Premier League in the 2013/14 season in Cardiff City claiming £74m.

Today’s match sees the third clash of Derby County and Queens Park Rangers this season and the sides that finished third and fourth in the league will be desperate to get their hands on the bag of gold awaiting them. Derby have been working from a small budget this season with less than £1m spent this season on transfers while QPR need to justify the massive amount of money spent since being taken over. Who’ll emerge victorious at full time?

Championship Playoff Final Betting Odds:

Derby – 2.18

Draw (and extra time) – 3.05

QPR – 3.10

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Derby come into this final in outstanding form having won seven and drawn one of their final eight matches of the season, including winning 2-1 away at Brighton and then recording a 4-1 victory on home soil against the same side in the playoff semi finals. They have scored 90 goals in their 46 regular season games and two playoff matches this season as they finished as the league’s top scorers. Former England manager Steve McClaren has set them up as an attacking side since taking over from Nigel Clough at the end of September and despite their lack of experience in big games, like this Championship Playoff Final today, they will fear nobody and will be sure to use their vast arsenal of attacking players to go and take the game by the throat as their gameplan to ensure that it is they who are playing in the Premier League next season.

QPR are the more experienced of the two sides in these type of matches having splashed out so much money on top level players that have played at World Cups, won cup finals and have been promoted to the Premier League both automatically and via the playoffs. However, they struggled to overcome Wigan in the semi finals drawing 0-0 at the DW Stadium before drawing 1-1 in normal time at Loftus Road as they needed an extra time goal to secure their passage to Wembley this afternoon. They ended the season with just two wins in their final six games and have lost three of their last eight matches before today. They have a better defensive record than Derby, but do not score as many goals so will they be able to use the skills of their backline to ensure they are in with a chance of snatching victory against the free scoring Derby side?

The sides have shared a victory apiece when they have met this season with both teams recording one goal victories on home soil, and both of these wins came when they were one of the more dominant sides in the league. I feel that despite their lack of big game experience Derby are the better and more complete footballing side of these two finalists and that they are deserving of being the favourites. I see this match being another close game, but I am backing them to secure a return to the Premier League since their ill-fated 11 point season in 2007/08.

Back Derby to win this Championship Playoff Final against QPR and return to the Premier League @ 2.18 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

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It’s FA Cup Semi Final Weekend!

We're down to four teams, but who'll make the FA Cup Final this weekend?

We’re down to four teams, but who’ll make the FA Cup Final this weekend?

The home of English football, Wembley Stadium, hosts the two FA Cup Semi Finals playing this weekend and all four teams will be desperate to return and fight to lift the trophy. Whoever progresses this weekend and reaches the final on May 16th will be impressive in their own right. Arsenal have failed to win a trophy in nine years, Wigan were relegated from the Premier League after lifting the trophy last season, Hull City have never reached the FA Cup Final and this Semi Final is their first in 84 years while the final side, Sheffield United, are mid-table in League One.

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Wigan v Arsenal Odds:

Wigan – 6.20

Draw – 4.00

Arsenal – 1.46

Arsenal may come into this match as the favourites to progress to the final, but there will be masses of pressure, both internal and external, on the side to win this match. Their last trophy came in this competition in 2005 and with them having collapsed in the league from top spot at the start of the year to fighting for fourth place winning this match, and then the final, will be the only way that Arsenal can lift a trophy this season. There is pressure from the fans too as they are unhappy at the state of affairs at The Emirates, but will victory soothe the baying horde?

Wigan will be confident coming into the game following their progression to Wembley at the expense of Manchester City, whom they defeated for a second year running, and their recent revival under Uwe Rösler that has move into the Championship playoffs as they look for an immediate return to the Premier League. City put six past Arsenal on home soil, yet Wigan managed a 2-1 win there and have a 2-0 record at Wembley over the last 12 months so will they be able to upset the odds today?

I certainly feel that with the panic that Arsenal are feeling about their lack of trophies that they will be highly motivated for this match, yet, despite the division difference in the sides, Wigan are in the better form of the two teams and have shown they can mix it with the best sides in the Premier League. I see a close game between these two teams with plenty of goals to be scored by both sides.

Back both sides to score in this Wigan v Arsenal FA Cup Semi Finals match @ 1.80 with GR88.com.

Hull v Sheffield United Odds:

Hull – 1.67

Draw – 3.25

Sheffield United – 5.00

Although two divisions separate these two teams, the betting odds for this match leave the teams closer than the first FA Cup Semi Final between Wigan and Arsenal. Both sides are sat mid-table in their respective leagues with Hull having a solid season on their return to the Premier League, while Sheffield United’s season has improved vastly of late following an awful start that left them mired in relegation trouble for the first half of the season.

The outsiders to make the final have already beaten Aston Villa and Fulham from the Premier League on their march to Wembley and their excellent form has belied their position in the third tier of English football. They have lost just two of their last 17 games before this game and they will know that whatever happens this weekend they have nothing to lose, so they have the freedom to play naturally and this may payoff for them.

Hull have been at their best in this competition this season with them having kept three clean sheets in their five matches, as only Brighton found the net against them. They know that victory today will all but assure them of a place in Europe next season, and with their Premier League safety all but assured too they will give their all to this match on the hallowed turf of Wembley.

I see this being an open and exciting game of football, but I can see the Premier League side edging victory over their League One opposition this weekend.

Back Hull to win this match by at least two goals (Hull -0.75) @ 1.88 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Can Sunderland upset the odds to win the Capital One Cup Final?

Former Man City player Adam Johnson will be Sunderland's key player at Wembley

Former Man City player Adam Johnson will be Sunderland’s key player at Wembley

It’s that time of the year again as the first cup final of the English domestic season rolls around again and this year we have the impressive Manchester City and the plucky underdogs Sunderland lining up face to face at Wembley as they battle to lift the Capital One Cup into the air in triumph.

GR88.com, like pretty much everyone outside of Wearside, sees this match being a runaway victory for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, but one only has to look at the FA Cup final last season, where City were beaten by Wigan, and the recent head to head record between these sides, with Sunderland winning four and drawing one of the last eight matches, to see that there is more than meets the eye in this David versus Goliath clash.

Capital One Cup Final Odds:

Manchester City – 1.30

Draw (and extra time) – 5.10

Sunderland – 7.80

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

We would have had an indication of how this match between these two teams would go as they were due to meet at The Etihad two and a half weeks ago, but due to the weather conditions making it unsafe for fans to enter and leave the stadium safely the game was called off. This means that we’re going into this game in the unknown as they have not faced each other since the start of November when Sunderland secured a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light thanks to a Phil Bardsley goal.

Sunderland have now won all of the last four competitive matches away from The Etihad against City and are unbeaten in five since losing 3-0 at home at the start of the 2008/09 Premier League season. With this record and the memories of Ben Watson’s goal late in the FA Cup Final last season still haunting their memories, City will have lingering doubts in the back of their minds about this first match back at Wembley since that late heartbreak last season.

However, they will be confident about their own abilities that have seen them score 19 goals, including beating West Ham 9-0 on aggregate over two legs in the Semi Final. However, they have had a relatively easy route to the final with Wigan, Newcastle, Leicester and West Ham their opponents on the way. Despite this they have struggled of late with two losses, against Chelsea and Barcelona in the Premier and Champions Leagues as well a 0-0 draw at Norwich all coming in their last five matches.

Sunderland will look to this and see a weakness and they will look to take advantage and with Chelsea and Manchester United their last two high profile casualties on their march to the final, they will not fear anyone at Wembley. Certainly a side they do so well against will not have them quaking in their boots and with Craig Gardner and Sebastian Larsson being integral parts of their side and having won this trophy with Birmingham City in 2011 they have plenty of experience to back up their confidence.

Each side will have a key player and for the favourites it is Sergio Aguero who is likely to return from injury for this match. If he can return and hit the ground running then he will cure the ails of City who have been struggling for goals during his month long absence. For Sunderland it is former City player Adam Johnson as the winger has found form since the middle of January as he has bagged  six goals.

For me, I love to see a good upset in the cup and Sunderland have already taken the scalps of Chelsea and Man United and with their record against City in recent times I can see them at least pushing City all the way and, at best, lifting this Capital One Cup trophy at Wembley this weekend.

Back Sunderland +1.5 goals in the Capital One Cup Final versus Man City @ 1.86 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.