League One play-off tips: Who to back for promotion
We provide our best outright bets in the end-of-season race for a place in the Championship, including two teams to qualify and a straight forecast.
The teams that make up the League One play-offs this season are the highest-profile in history, with three of the four having extensive top-tier experience.
The opening semi-final is between heavyweights Portsmouth and Sunderland – a fixture that would still not look out of place in the Premier League.
Both sides finished just three points apart in the table and have identical prices to qualify for the final, but it is Pompey who have the edge.
The south coast side were the only top-six team to beat Sunderland in the league this season, taking four points from their two matches.
They also beat the Black Cats on penalties at Wembley in the EFL Trophy final at the end of March, which should give them a psychological boost at the very least.
That was the second EFL Trophy of Kenny Jackett’s managerial career, in which he has also achieved three promotions and managed in two play-off finals.
His CV dwarfs that of Sunderland manager Jack Ross who, understandably, is under mounting pressure.
Following the Black Cats’ failure to secure an automatic promotion spot, despite still being in receipt of parachute payments, it’s conceivable that Ross needs to go up to save his job.
But his side have not performed well with raised stakes this season.
As well as surrendering a lead to lose the EFL Trophy final, Sunderland blew the chance to claim second place by winning just one of their final eight league games – finishing six points behind Barnsley.
They also rank as the worst top-six side in terms of xG (experimental361), so it is impossible to back them to progress with any confidence.
Instead, Portsmouth are a much better bet at
It is difficult to see Doncaster progressing in the second semi-final.
Rovers are the clear outlier among the four play-off teams and that is reflected in their price of for promotion – the longest of the lot.
Grant McCann’s side only secured sixth place with a 2-0 victory over Coventry on the final day, accruing 12 fewer points than fifth-placed Sunderland and 15 fewer than Portsmouth and Charlton.
They took just one point from their two meetings with the Addicks this season and are the only team in the play-offs that failed to beat any other side that finished between third and sixth.
Their only hope rests on them winning the first leg at home, given they ended the season with just one victory in their last 10 away games.
But, against a rampant Charlton, that looks a tough ask.
The Addicks look in better shape than any play-off side, having stolen third place from Portsmouth on the final day with a 4-0 win over Rochdale.
They are the ones coming in hot, having ended the season with nine victories from their last 11 matches.
Included in that sequence was a 3-1 victory over champions Luton, which ended their club-record 28-game unbeaten run.
Lee Bowyer’s side also won 45 points from their 21 games in 2019, including 27 from a possible 33 at The Valley.
They have coped impressively with the loss of striker Karlan Grant to Huddersfield in January, with Lyle Taylor filling the void.
The Montserratian finished the season on 24 goals in all competitions, including nine in his last 10 appearances.
Back Charlton to qualify for the play-off final at .
At Wembley, they are likely meet a Portsmouth side over whom they completed a league double.
On that basis, the Addicks should be backed to win promotion at .
The straight forecast is available at .
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