Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Preview: Championship play off semi finals

The Championship season maybe over for some clubs, but there are still games left for four of the teams. Three games are all it takes for one team to make the step up to the Premier League. Three of the clubs in this years play off's all came down from the Premier League last season. Blackpool, Birmingham and West Ham are joined by Welsh outfit Cardiff City in the bid to make it to the big time. The first legs of the ties take place this week where we see West Ham take in Cardiff and Blackpool face Birmingham City.

1# West Ham v Cardiff City
West Ham will not have expected to be in this position three months ago. The Hammers looked set to be returning to the big time through an automatic push. But with some poor performances and an incredible run by Reading, United were pushed out the top two and now are having to settle for the play off's. Having being expected to gain automatic promotion, West Ham's season will be a massive failure if they fail to go up. With top players on their side, it is essential they return to the big time. The Hammers are in good form going into their game at Cardiff having only lost one game in the last eighteen. Manager Sam Alladyce isn't new to the play off's having taken former club Bolton Wanderers via this route in 2001. Opposition for West Ham comes in the form of Cardiff City who again will be wanting promotion having witnessed fellow Welsh side Swansea gain promotion through this route last season. Malky Mackay is also no stranger to the play off's having experienced promotion whilst working at Watford in 2006. The Bluebirds have experienced play off heart ache in the last two seasons having been knocked out by Reading at the same stage last season. They were also beaten by Blackpool in the play off final in 2010. 

2# Blackpool v Birmingham City
Two relegated sides from last year, Blackpool and Birmingham both went down after results went against them on the final day of the season. Ian Holloway's Blackpool finished the season in fifth place behind opponents Birmingham who finished fourth. The Midlands club will fancy their chances with the second leg taking place at St Andrews. The two sides drew 2-2 at Blackpool last November which then saw the two play each other again in December where Birmingham took the points winning 3-0 at St Andrews. Blackpool are familiar with the play off's having gained promotion in 2010 where they beat Cardiff City at Wembley. Experienced striker Kevin Phillips will be facing his former side as he aims to get back into the big time. It's another Phillips though that will catch the eye, Matt, who ended the season with a place in the Championship team of the year. Opponents for the Seasiders Birmingham City go into this fixture as slight favourites and will want an instant return to the Premier League. Chris Hughton's side have had a decent season having worked their way up the table after having to catch up on games due to Europa League commitments. Striker Marlon King and winger Chris Burke have been key for the Blues this year and their contributions will need to continue if they are to make a return. 

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