The wait is over. After 16 years outside the top flight, Leeds’ promotion back to the Premier League was finally rubber-stamped on Friday night as Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield did them the favour to end all favours, beating second-placed West Brom 2-1 to confirm that the Whites were finally marching on together to the top flight.
Joy turned to delirium on Saturday lunchtime as Stoke shocked third-placed Brentford 1-0 to ensure that Leeds could not be caught at the top of the table, crowning them as champions of the Championship. Cue scenes of wild celebration inside Elland Road as Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford and the rest of the squad toasted their success under the guise of preparing for today’s game.
While the first of Sunday’s Championship games might be one of the most joyous and carefree of all time, it’s a different story altogether at Oakwell where playoff-chasing Nottingham Forest take on relegation-haunted Barnsley at 16:00.
14:00 Derby v Leeds
With all the focus around Leeds’ promotion in the last few days, let’s assume they’re actually aware that they’ve got a game to play today away at Derby. The big question; what state will the champions be in when (if) they rock up to Pride Park? If Liverpool’s first outing after their Premier League coronation is anything to go by, it will be a pretty sorry one.
A game that had looked absolutely vital for Leeds is now no more than a nuisance as they eye proper celebrations without actual matches getting in the way. The benefit Leeds have compared to Liverpool is that they, presumably, will not have been out in a socially-distanced bender over the last few days. The real celebrations will have to wait. I’m sure Marcelo Bielsa and that deadly scowl of disapproval will be making sure of that.
Bielsa’s side have been famed for their free-flowing football and I think that Leeds, on the highest of highs, will really want to go to town today and remind everyone exactly why they’re the champions. They’re going to want to say, thanks for the favours everyone, but we would have got the job done ourselves anyway.
Derby, on the other hand, have absolutely nothing to play for as their so-tiny-you-need-a-microscope-to-see-them hopes of a playoff berth were finally ended by yesterday’s results.
Leeds are pretty long odds for the win here all things considered. Perhaps the Liverpool-performance-post-party factor is affecting things. I’m expecting an open, free-flowing game as both sides decide to have a little fun in the sun after a really, really long season with attacking flair preferred over defensive dourness, late runs into the box over tracking back. The fun bits of football without the worry of the consequences.
To me, all this points towards a Leeds win and Over 2.5 goals in the game.
16:00 Barnsley v Nottingham Forest
Thoughts of being soaked in warm champagne, throwing caution to the wind, smiling and generally having a nice time could not be further from the minds of rock-bottom Barnsley, who can be relegated here today, and Forest who still have work to do to ensure their playoff spot.
I was expecting a tight, nervy affair, but in the build-up, to this one the Barnsley camp have been insisting they have no other option but to attack. And, really, they’re right. They have to win both of their remaining games and it still may not be enough. A win for the Tykes would put them two points from safety with a game to go against automatic-promotion chasing Brentford. No easy task however you shape it.
Forest need a point so could be happy to sit back and let Barnsley come on to them like waves against the cliffs while looking to pick the Yorkshire outfit off on the counter. And when the worst team in the division go all out against the team with the fourth-best defence in the league, you have to think it’s going to end badly for Barnsley who have shipped 68 goals in 44 games. If Forest go ahead early this could be carnage.
Given Barnsley’s openly-stated desperation I am expecting goals in this one, however, I just can’t see them picking up three points. The tricky element is that a draw will be enough for Forest which throws a complete spanner in the works when looking at outcomes here.
I have a feeling Forest will keep the division’s joint-lowest scorers out and take them to the cleaners later on as the doom grows and caution is well and truly thrown to the Yorkshire wind. With all this in mind, I like the look, and the odds, of Draw half time Forest Full time.
These two selections in a double will give you odds of 14/1 with Paddy!
Tips for Sunday’s Championship action – Double pays 14/1
Derby v Leeds: Leeds win and Over 2.5
Barnsley v Nottingham Forest: Half Time Draw Full Time – Forest
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