Championship play-off preview: Who cashes in on promotion? 
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The play-offs serve as a three match ultimatum that make or break a teams 46 game season, but can Brentford or Swansea City strike lucky after last years disappointment, will AFC Bournemouth return to the Premier League at the first time of asking or can Barnsley conclude their superb campaign with promotion to the top-flight? 

With the first of five promotion fuelling duels kicking off this evening, who evidently has the upper hand heading into this years Sky Bet Championship play-offs? 


Thomas Frank's Brentford side have once again been a force this campaign, however, they fell short and finished third for a second successive term, and frustratingly for the Bees, they'll have to overcome the play-offs. 

Joe Bryan's brace last year at Wembley for Fulham ensured Brentford travelled home a Championship club, however, they boast the most goals in the division and are currently the leagues form side. The Bees will be hopeful they can diminish last campaign's play-off final defeat and confirm promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 74 years. 

A team flourishing through confidence is a dangerous prospect, and that's the exact story for the Bees right now, as they prepare for the play-offs - fresh off the back of four successive victories and just one defeat in 15 league matches. 

Despite a catalogue of talent in the Brentford ranks, that showcases their fantastic recruitment across the pitch in recent years, the man that Bournemouth will be looking to nullify is Ivan Toney

The dangerous frontman has been a force to be reckoned with this campaign, accumulating a staggering 41 goal contributions in the regular league season. 

It was Toney's debut Championship campaign, and the former Peterborough United striker managed to break the all-time goal scoring record for a Championship season - beating Glenn Murray's tally by one, netting an astounding 31 times.

Frank's side have won 13 out of a possible 18 points against fellow top six sides this term, and will hope to dispatch Bournemouth in the same way they did on two occasions this season, in 1-0 and 2-1 victories over the Cherries

Henrik Dalsgaard, Josh DaSilva and Rico Henry are all big misses for the Bees, however, with a multitude of firepower alongside a strong core, is this the year that Brentford cash in their golden ticket for top-flight football? 

Swansea City 

It was far from the six goal swing and 4-1 victory on the final day, that saw Swansea City climb into the play-offs last campaign - but instead a comfortable fourth place finish for the Swans, following yet another impressive year for the South Wales outfit in the second tier. 

For a large portion of the season, Steve Cooper had the Swans flying high and occupying a position within the automatic promotion places, however, they couldn't sustain the relentless numbers that promotion rivals Norwich City and Watford kept up. 

Although they don't possess the attacking firepower that Brentford and Bournemouth do, the Swans have built success from the back and have been extremely tough to break down defensively. A tight and compact side has enabled Cooper's side to frustrate others and yield the third best defensive record in the division this season. 

Despite the tight-knit base they've set up, the Swans also have a plethora of players that can cause damage at the opposing end of the pitch - with Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe combining to score a total of 30 goals. 

Swansea's opponents will be hopeful they can deprive them of any joy down the flanks, which they have enjoyed all so much this campaign. Both Jake Bidwell and Connor Roberts have been menacing down the left and right side for Swansea, by helping to provide extra width in the attack, consolidating a strong defensive base whilst starring among the Championship front runners for assists - with an impressive 15 combined. 

When assessing their record against their fellow play-off candidates in league play, the Swans boast a mediocre record, however their semi-final counterparts have failed to beat them since 2006 - which will give Cooper's side a boost, especially given the double 2-0 victories achieved over the Tykes this campaign. 

AFC Bournemouth 

Despite a sixth place finish, Bournemouth will likely be disappointed that they were unable to challenge fellow relegated side Norwich and Watford to a three-way promotion duel.

Midway through the campaign, an alteration in the managerial hot seat saw Jonathan Woodgate take over until the end of the season, from Jason Tindall. With a place in the top-six confirmed it now remains to be seen whether Woodgate will fulfil the ambition required - of getting the Cherries back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. 

It's no secret that Bournemouth possess a huge amount of quality in their ranks, with Arnaut Danjuma, David Brooks, Asmir Begovic, Jack Wilshere and Dominic Solanke just some of the Premier League standard names that the Cherries have at their disposal. 

After a tremendous run of seven successive victories, Bournemouth ended the campaign in horrible fashion - losing their final three matches to Stoke City, Wycombe Wanderers and play-off rivals Brentford. 

The Cherries semi-final against Brentford will serve as an interesting watch, given the clubs willingness to attack this campaign. Woodgate's men have netted 73 goals, which is the third highest, behind just Norwich and Brentford. However, they will need to iron out their current dip in form, after three matches without a goal - at a crucial time of the season. 


After months of being told that they would fall short and wouldn't have enough, Valerien Ismael's Barnsley concluded the season in a deserved fifth place spot. 

For a side that remained in the division due to a points deduction just 12 months ago, it's been quite the ride for Barnsley, whose relentless style of football has earned them a play-off spot. 

Cauley Woodrow, Alex Mowatt, Callum Styles and Michal Helik are all impressive footballers, however, a well-drilled and energetic style of play under Austrian coach Ismael has enabled them to flourish and become some of the highest performing outlets in the division, to most people's surprise. 

The Tykes have conceded the most goals out of the four play-off sides, and scored the second least, however, their unique style of play is still yet to be figured out by opposing sides this season, and it serves as a real advantage heading into the duels. 

The addition of American frontman Daryl Dike on loan from Orlando City has given Barnsley the extra firepower needed to assist Woodrow, whilst they've developed a high press and solid partnership from a defensive standpoint. 

The South Yorkshire based side come into the play-offs in mixed form, having won two, lost two and drew one in their last five outings, however, only the automatic promotion sides have accumulated more points than the Tykes since February began. 

Barnsley can take the expectation heaped on their shoulders - in comparison to their challengers, as a real positive. With few expecting the position the Tykes find themselves in, due to personnel, previous finishes and money spent - Barnsley have free rein to express themselves and seize an unbelievable opportunity, with less pressure than fellow sides. 

Despite the ferocious style implemented, Barnsley's underlying weakness comes from defending corners. With towering presences among Swansea, Bournemouth and Brentford's ranks - the Tykes will need to iron out the lapses in concentration from set-pieces, after conceding 17 in the general league season. 

The verdict 

Brentford - Winners

A superb reaction to losing Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma, their attacking intensity will serve as too much for the challengers, and things will finally fall completely into place for the Bees to celebrate a first Premier League promotion. 

Bournemouth - Semi-final defeat

If Bournemouth re-discover their form from one month ago and their key assets play to their optimum, they have every chance of going all the way, however, will the inconsistent flaws be able to stop favourites Brentford? 

Swansea - Semi-final defeat 

By far the most written off side ahead of the play-offs, Cooper has done a great job again this season and improved on last year's finish. Unfortunately, the second-half of the season for Swansea has differed to the first, which may mean they just fall short in a cagey set of  semi-final fixtures.

Barnsley - Final defeat

Play-off experience will see them fall just short, as Brentford's quality within the squad shines through, none-the-less it would be an incredible achievement for Barnsley, who can't be overlooked for anything next season.