‘Unlikely duo face off in club football’s richest game ever’
The play-off semi finals witnessed two tight encounters between Reading and Fulham (Reading 2-1 aggregate winners) and Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday (1-1 on aggregate; Huddersfield winning 4-3 on penalties). This was unexpected as favourites Fulham were the team with all the momentum. Likewise, Huddersfield’s form was poor before their semi-final with Sheffield Wednesday. They now face Reading in this Wembley play-off final with promotion to the Premier League worth a cool £200M to the victors.
Huddersfield Town v Reading
This is Huddersfield’s biggest game in almost half a century. In the nineteen twenties they were the first team to win the First Division for three consecutive seasons, also lifting the FA Cup. More recently they’ve moved between England’s second and third tier, not featuring in the top flight since 1972. They’ve struggled at the foot of the Championship for four seasons, so they are the surprise package.
The Terriers’ success this season has been down to the recruitment of Manager David Wagner. He’s brought in thirteen players from across Europe and blended a side with strong team spirit. They threatened to win automatic promotion, but six defeats in their final ten games put paid to that.
Reading also moved between English football’s second and third tier until their inaugural promotion to The Premier League in 2006. Although they managed to stay up, they were relegated the following season. They won promotion back to the Premier League in 2012, but were promptly relegated back to the Championship.
The Royals’ success is down to Jaap Stam, who’s had an excellent first season managing in England, transforming them from Championship strugglers into a well drilled outfit. They won seven of their final nine fixtures to finish in third place.
The large pitch at Wembley may suit Reading’s controlled possession football, in contrast to Huddersfield’s counter-attacking, high pressing and doubtless energy-sapping game. One worry for The Terrier’s is they’ve only scored seven goals in their last eight. Overall this they scored fifty-six goals (only Derby scored less in the top half of the table). Reading meanwhile, have struggled away at top sides, but given the neutrality of venue this shouldn’t be a concern.
With so much at stake I’m expecting a low scoring encounter. Both games this season produced a one nil victory for the home side and they’ve only drawn six away matches between them. This suggests a narrow victory could be on the cards (five of the last ten finals have finished 1-0). Given both sides score at least twenty-five percent of their goals in the last fifteen minutes, it could be decided by a solitary late goal.
My best picks for this match:
Under 2.0, 2.5 Goal Line @ 1.825 with bet365
No Goal Before 33mins @ 1.83 with most Green Listed Bookmakers
Reading to Win 1-0 @ 10.00 with Paddy Power