The Countries most expensive football game is just around the corner. Middlesbrough, Luton Town, Coventry City and Sunderland AFC all have a chance to write history, but how did they get here?
3rd: Luton Town (80 Points)
Remarkably, Luton Town secured a third placed finish in this years Sky Bet Championship Campaign. Over the next eight days, they will play Sunderland, in an aim to secure a place, playing at Wembley, for a chance to become a Premier League football club.
However, after a promising start to the season, then Hatters boss Nathan Jones decided to give up on the club, accepting an offer from relegation threatened Southampton, before being sacked several months later. Up stepped Rob Edwards, fresh from the axe at Watford, unsurprisingly. After shrewd business in the summer, bringing in high calibre players such as Marvelous Nakamba, it was the original squad members who really showed their worth. Carlton Morris scored twenty goals and registered seven assists in Luton's best second division season in years.
Desperate not to feel play-off heartache again, Edwards' men are raring to go.
4th: Middlesbrough (75 Points)
After an abysmal start to the season, Middlesbrough turned up the heat, sealing a fourth placed finish. The Boro meet Coventry, over two legs, for a chance to book their place at this year's play-off final. But how did they get here?
EFL Championship Player of the Year, Chuba Akpom, was instrumental in Middlesbrough's late play-off push. The forward finished as the leagues top scorer on twenty-eight goals and amassing a handful of assists. Loan signings such as Aston Villa's Cameron Archer, has proved to be tidy business from The Boro. However, the season has not been plain sailing. Before Michael Carrick took his first managerial leap, experienced Chris Wilder was at the helm, but his tenure was short lived, with Middlesbrough slipping in into the bottom three early into the season, before fortunes changed.
The Bookmakers favourites will certainly fancy themselves against a resilient Coventry side.
5th Coventry City (70 Points)
Experienced Mark Robins guided his team into the play-offs, drastically overachieving and competing with a shoestring budget, compared to that of the newly relegated teams like Norwich and Watford.
Robins, who has tasted play-off glory before, had to deal with off-field incidents, which dented the Sky Blues start to the season. The forty-six game Championship season started slower than usual as Coventry had issues with their pitch at the CBS Arena, which they ground share with Rugby League team, The Wasps. This meant that no home games could be played there, giving the Sky Blues several games in hand.
It took goal scoring machine Viktor Gyokeres, along with resilient performances, to cement their position in the top six with two games to go. This particular game will be a fascinating watch for the neutrals as it is Experienced vs Newcomer when they face favourites Middlesbrough on Sunday.
6th: Sunderland (69 Points)
A dramatic final day saw Sunderland sneak into the play-off's on goal-difference, after West Brom lost away at Swansea and Millwall failed to beat Blackburn Rovers. Tony Mowbray's men were many peoples outside tip to make the top six this season, after impressing in their League One promotion, last time around. Lets take a look on how they achieved this feat.
The league welcomed Sunderland back after a short period in English football's third tier. Their season started brightly, after fending off interest from clubs around the globe to sign Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo, and he did not disappoint.
Mowbray's men gatecrashed the play-off's at the perfect time and ended the season unbeaten in nine games and picking up four victories in their last six games. Impressive away wins at the likes of promotion rivals West Brom spurred Sunderland on. Questions will be asked over the experience of the dressing room, but can Sunderland keep this rich run of form on for three more games?