It might seem a bit rich to say this now given the three days of football we’ve just witnessed in midweek, but the Championship Play-Offs really are the best games in world football.
There’s nothing quite like clubs who have too much pride trying to restore a tarnished reputation by being handed £100m that they’ll eventually p**s away and relive the cycle they’ve just finished.
This year’s play-off selection has plenty of that, too.
Aston Villa are a shell of their former selves and have been for 20 years, but this might be a new low.
Last year’s play-off final losers have to navigate a tricky course past a local rival, and then potentially facing off against Marcelo Bielsa. West Brom were huge in the middle of the 20th century, but that’s fine as it’s likely the last time they attracted new fans, while Derby’s Premier League contribution is worth a few giggles.
We don’t need to tell you about Leeds, do we? David Hockaday, anyone?
Anyway, here’s a tasty double to sink your teeth into.
Aston Villa v West Brom: Aston Villa to win – 10/11
Momentum is the most divisive philosophy in football. Does it exist? Does it not? If it does, West Brom have a lot to contend with as Villa have been unstoppable in recent times.
This squad is a bit light for the Premier League, but the England hopeful Jack Grealish looks every bit a mid-table Premier League player and that’s enough to elevate them beyond a West Brom side who just haven’t been firing lately.
The fact this is a derby means the pundits will dub it as ‘unpredictable’, but James Shan has absolutely no experience preparing a side for big games, and you need a calm head going into this one.
Villa will take this and with relative ease, especially as West Brom will probably try and lay down a marker away from home early on and try to strangle Grealish and Co.
Sometimes the dressing up of games of this magnitude forget the simple answer: Villa are the better side.
Derby v Leeds: Derby County to win – 21/10
If West Brom are going to struggle to contend with momentum, then Derby County can afford to buy a few lilos, sunloungers and stock up on tanning oils.
Leeds are a car crash and anyone who thinks you can just shed that before a Championship semi-final is bonkers. Bielsa has already stated that this group of players won’t be together again and instead of having them focus on the task at hand, it probably diverted their attention.
But even away from things that are debatable, they just lost to bloody Ipswich, Wigan and Brentford.
Yes, the likes of Roofe, Hernandez and Klich can cause serious damage on their day, but it hasn’t been their day in a long time and the already-annoyed large away following they’ll bring with them will top up the anxiety levels.
There’s nowhere to hide for Leeds and unfortunately for them, they could be out of this tie by the time it even gets to Elland Road.
*All odds correct at time of posting.