It’s surely one of the highlights of the domestic football season: the post-season playoffs.
In the SkyBet Championship, the four-way battle to reach the millionaires playground of the Premier League awaits.
As a two-legged semi-final double begins this weekend, the quest to reach Wembley’s showpiece finale of now the most valuable single match in world football is within touching distance.
With a pot worth an estimated £170 million at stake under the famous arch later this month, first though, where might punters be looking this weekend?
Back Sunderland to topple Hatters
In the first semi-final on Saturday, Sunderland meet Luton Town, with both sides looking to end lengthy exoduses from the top division.
For the Black Cats, a six-year exodus absence remains on the slate, whilst for Luton, the Bedfordshire outfit were last at the top table during the last season of Division One in 1992.
Both sides have tasted financial travails, with The Hatters having previously dropped out of the Football League altogether.
Sunderland are seeking back-to-back promotions via the playoffs for the second season running.
Luton themselves are no strangers to the playoffs themselves, having lost in the post-season twice since 2017 – last term falling to Huddersfield Town at this very stage.
There is also the rather large elephant in the room as the dreaded top seeds in finishing third in the standings; a role that has seen many sides wither in previous years.
Studying the form book, there is little to separate the two, however, Luton have drawn three of the last four games to finish the term, with Sunderland on a run of four in six wins.
It feels like the Wearsiders have timed their late dash to the finish without the services of Ross Stewart impeccably, and are a fairly decent 5/4 price with William Hill to reach the final.
Coventry set for top-flight return?
Sunday sees the turn of Coventry City’s attempt to climb to the top of the English football pyramid for the first time in some 31 years, as they face Middlesbrough.
In a re-run of last Sunday’s drab season-ending 1-1 clash at The Riverside, the stakes here are rather more significant.
Not since 2001 have The Sky Blues been in the top tier, as a former inaugural Premier League side in the early Nineties.
The game features the top two scorers in the Championship this season, Viktor Gyokeres and Chuba Akpom.
Though both blanked a week ago, an improved showing will be expected here and for Both Players to Score, a double – again with Hills’ – will fetch around 9/1.
A home tie first up should suit Gyokeres though, and for the Swede to score alone, a 15/8 price boost with BoyleSports will surely appeal.
Looking further ahead, Middlesbrough are perhaps rightly favourites for promotion given their more recent Premier League history.
Luton then follow, with The Black Cats currently 10/3 with Betfred to be playoff winners.
That could yet look value if they make the final.
Coventry are the outsiders to make the top-flight from this point, at 15/4 with 10Bet.