Building Up To The EFL Playoff Finals
The most important game in club football? Well, it depends who you ask! Because while Liverpool and Spurs will certainly be of the opinion that their meeting in the UEFA Champions League final is the be-all-and-end-all in the coming weeks, supporters of six sides will say there’s bigger fish to fry this weekend. The finals of the EFL Playoffs are upon us – and for these teams, it’s as serious as it gets.
With eye-watering financial implications – as well as those precious spots in the tier above – awaiting the winners, it’s a weekend like no other. So let’s get down to it, and look ahead to the titanic tussles on Sky Sports in the days ahead…
NEWPORT COUNTY v TRANMERE ROVERS
Saturday May 25th @ 2.30pm, Sky Sports Football (Virgin TV 407)
Move over Goldie Lookin’ Chain – there’s a new favourite collective from the south-Wales town! It’s only six years since the side celebrated a return to the football league after 24 years in the wilderness, but they’re already challenging to rise in the ranks. Standing in their way is a Tranmere side determined to prove that a Merseyside club is capable of winning some silverware (sorry, ‘Pool fans). The teams sat side-by-side on the final table at sixth and seventh, so they’re well matched; we reckon the odds might be swayed by the sheer force of personality that is Tranmere mega-fan and “off you pop” merchant Mike Dean…
CHARLTON ATHLETIC v SUNDERLAND
Sunday May 26th @ 2.30pm, Sky Sports Football, Virgin TV 407
In 1998, these teams met on one of the most famous occasions in playoff history; fighting for a spot in the Premier League, the game finished 3-3 after normal time, and 4-4 following extra time, before a marathon penalty shootout saw 13 successful spot-kicks before Sunderland’s Michael Gray missed, sending the Addicks to the top flight. This time, it’s a return to the second tier that the sides are eyeing up; given the two years of utter misery on Wearside, it would certainly be a tonic for Mackem fans were they to clamber up from League One on their first try. Expect passion and nerves all day long – and, perhaps, the makings of another classic…
ASTON VILLA v DERBY COUNTY
Monday May 27th @ 2pm, Sky Sports Main Event (Virgin TV 401)
While the UEFA Champions League has redefined the meaning of “exciting semi finals” this season, the two ties to decide who made the Championship final weren’t short of drama. First, Aston Villa needed penalties to squeeze past their Brummie rivals West Brom, while the following night saw Derby outgun Leeds in a six-goal thriller (which included two red cards, just for craic). The game is regularly titled ‘the richest game in football’ for good reason; it’ll be worth £170m to the winners. But John Terry and Frank Lampard in opposing corners? That’s priceless…
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