The second division of English soccer, the Championship, begin their playoffs on Saturday and it all leads up to the most expensive championship in sports. There are two legs in each of the semifinals and then it is a winner takes all final.
The first semifinal is Aston Villa, the #5 seed, hosts #4 West Brom at Villa Park. The teams have played twice this season with West Brom winning 2-0 at Aston Villa and a 2-2 draw at West Brom. The second leg, at West Brom, will be on Tuesday.
The second semifinal is the #6 seed, Derby, hosting the #3 seed, Leeds United, at Pride Park Stadium. Leeds won both meetings this season with relative ease as they won 2-0 at home and 4-1 at Derby. The second leg, at Leeds, will be on Wednesday.
Here are my best bets for the first legs of the semifinals.
Aston Villa (-111) vs West Brom (+300): Draw – (+240)
Aston Villa went on a 10 game winning streak, starting at the beginning of March, to climb into the four seed in the playoffs. Villa haven’t won in two games now, but in their last 10 games they are 8-1-1 and have not been giving up very many goals. In their last 10 they have given up more than one goal just one time. At home Villa is 6-2-2 and just had their five game unbeaten streak end against last weekend against league winners Norwich.
West Brom enter the playoffs on a run of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games overall. West Brom were consistent all season as they hung around the top five spots all season long. West Brom will have to regroup after losing on the final match day with a chance to be the #3 seed.
Aston Villa is the hottest team in the Championship and I like them to get the win at home.
Derby (+200) vs Leeds (+137): Draw – (+220)
Derby used a terrific end of season run to get into the English Championship playoffs. They have lost just one time in their last 12 games and have compiled a 6-5-1 during that span. At home Derby have gone 7-2-1 and are currently on a four game winning streak. That four game winning streak helped them clinch the six seed by just one point over Middlesbrough.
For a while it looks like Leeds was destined to get one of the automatic promotion spots, but a rough last ten games sees Leeds in the playoffs. In their last 10 games overall Leeds has gone 4-1-5 and have not won in four games. On the road, Leeds has also gone 4-1-5 and are winless in their last two road games.
I like Leeds United to get the win.
YTD Soccer Results: 49-48