With a place in the Premier League and a cheque at mouth-watering £200 million in sponsorship deals and TV rights at stake, the Monday night’s Championship Playoff final clash between Huddersfield Town and Reading has been dubbed the richest match in world football.
A fairy-tale in the making
Huddersfield Town are hoping to seal a dream return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1972 when they meet more illustrious opponents Reading the in the Championship Playoff final. The Terries have come a long way from their last season’s 19th-place finish and a relegation-threatening season as they have been one of the biggest surprise packages of the Championship this term. Former member of Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund coaching staff David Wagner has been widely praised for his influence on the team he transformed from underdogs and minnows into a team sitting on the brink of the Premier League. Huddersfield’s dream-like story has been compared to Leicester City’s fairy-tale season and Terries now have a chance to make it or break it as they prepare for the biggest game of their lives on Monday. Huddersfield earned their place in the Championship Playoff final having defeated Sheffield Wednesday in a thrilling match which was solved after a penalty shootout. Liverpool loanee Danny Ward played a hero’s role in the semi-final penalty series and the entire team will definitely ride a strong wave of optimism heading into the Monday’s match.
Nominal hosts have no selection issues for the showpiece and Wagner is expected to continue with his same four-man choice in defence – Tommy Smith, Chris Lowe, Michael Hefele and Christopher Schindler. Izzy Brown and Nakhi Wells will be partnered upfront for the big match.
Overcoming underdog’s tag
Reading knocked out Fulham on route to the Championship final and have been installed as underdogs against Huddersfield Town. Manager Jaap Stam knows much better than to overestimate his rivals, but he will surely not change his style of play in the big Wembley final. The Royals like to work their way towards the goal and penetrate through the pitch in order to provide forwards with ball they can work with. Reading finished the Championship season one place behind Huddersfield Town and the forthcoming duel is a chance as good as any to show Terries that one-point difference from the regular season bears no significance. Former Manchester United defender will rest his hopes into the hands – and legs – of former Bournemouth and Leicester City striker Yann Kermogant, who bagged 19 goals for the Royals in all competitions this season. Garath McCleary and John Swift are another two men to watch, having both scored nine goals this season, sharing 14 assists between the pair of them. Stam is likely to continue with a five-man defence which came as a surprise to Fulham in the play-off semis.
Captain Paul McShane is suspended after seeing red against Fulham and Tiago Ilori is set to replace him in the starting line-up. Jordan Obita is racing against time to be fit to feature, but should not be risked from the start.
With so much at stake, both Huddersfield and Reading are expected to adopt a cautious approach heading into the game. There honestly is little separating the two sides, who traded 1-0 home victories during the regular season. Close-cut result is expected once again.
Top pick: Under 2.5 goals 2.40 (7/5) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – No 1.85 (8/11) @BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Huddersfield Town 3.40 (12/5) @Bet365