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Huddersfield can book place in Premier League

Terriers fancied to edge tight playoff final against Reading

Huddersfield beat Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in their playoff semi-final
1 of 1

Sky Bet Championship playoff final
Sky Sports 1, 3pm Monday

The game that has become known as the richest match in football is not about the money. It's about the glory of reaching the Premier League and for either Huddersfield or Reading a remarkable season will climax with a place among England's elite.

Forget the cash windfall. For the players the prize at stake is the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Eden Hazard and Harry Kane, for the respective managers it's the chance to pit their wits against Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, while for the supporters it's seeing your team on Match of the Day and visiting world-class stadiums.

Getting hammered most weeks may well soon get boring enough but it beats heading to Burton or Barnsley, and Huddersfield are worth backing to make their dreams come true by overcoming Reading in what seems certain to be a tight Sky Bet Championship playoff final at Wembley.

There was little to separate the sides in the regular season, when each club won their home game 1-0 against today's rivals. And, as with most playoff finals, small details will determine who scoops the big prize of promotion to the top tier.

Looking at the league table, it may seem strange to see Reading as outsiders after they finished the regular season with four more points, but Huddersfield eased up once the chance of automatic promotion had passed and to most observers the Terriers are the superior side.

The market certainly thinks so. Huddersfield were 17-20 to beat Reading when they duly obliged in February, while Reading could be backed at 6-4 for their September success over ten-man Town.

Not many gave Jaap Stam's men hope of overcoming Fulham in the semi-finals but they scored with their only attempt on target in a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage and needed a superb performance from goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi to sneak a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

Al-Habsi was named as Reading's player of the season and rightly so. He was overworked throughout the campaign to such an extent that only Rotherham and Barnsley conceded more shots on target than the Royals' regular-season figure of 235. 

That defence will be missing suspended skipper Paul McShane, while Stam's side also had the third-worst shot ratio (share of match shots) in the division and many who believe analytical data is gospel have struggled to comprehend their unlikely promotion push.

Huddersfield, like Reading, were 12-1 ante-post for promotion but their challenge has appeared more sustainable even though a negative goal difference is unusual for a team finishing fifth.

David Wagner's side saw off Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the semi-final and they have used the loan market extremely well.

Keeper Danny Ward and midfielders Aaron Mooy and Isaiah Brown have been borrowed from Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea respectively and the fact that Town are now proven in a high-pressure shootout situation is another tick in their box for a final that could quite easily go beyond normal time.

Recommendation
Huddersfield to be promoted
1pt 8-11 general

Bet on this game at Soccerbase.com


Team news
Huddersfield
David Wagner will select from the same squad he had available for the semi-final second leg.

Reading
Skipper Paul McShane is out through suspension. Jordan Obita is struggling but Jaap Stam is hopeful he will be available.

Key stat
Eight of the last 16 Championship playoff finals finished 1-0 and both teams to score has landed in just four of the last 16. 

 

David Wagner's side saw off Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the semi-final and they have used the loan market extremely well
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