Brighton, unbeaten in nine, go into tonight’s (Friday) play-off semi-final first leg at Selhurst Park 9/4 to be playing Premier League football next season after their thoroughly professional 2-0 defeat of Wolves was enough to send the Molineux club down.
The subsequent sacking of Dean Saunders on Tuesday was no surprise but the 2-2 draw of Bolton at home to Blackpool and Leicester’s thrilling 3-2 success over East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest at the City Ground meant that it was the Foxes that joined Palace, Brighton and Watford in the play-offs.
Gus Poyet was upbeat if well aware of the added significance of tonight’s game with rivals Palace, saying: “We are in great form (but) it won’t be a normal game because of the extra edge.
“I wish it wasn’t Palace but I will do my best to keep everybody just thinking about football.”
It may come as a surprise to see sixth-placed Leicester priced as favourites but momentum is key and who knows how Watford will have reacted last night at the King Power knowing that had they defeated Leeds on Saturday the Hornets – and not Hull City – would be guaranteed a place in the PL next term.
I maintain Brighton go into the play-offs as favourites but BetVictor make Leicester 15/8 favourites with Watford 3s and Palace 4s. We are also asking punters can they name the Wembley finalists and bet:
I felt Watford were good value for their 2-1 win at the King Power two weeks ago and with first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia fit for Thursday night I would be disappointed if it was not Watford at Wembley. Leicester are 11/10 for a first leg lead with Watford 27/10 and the draw at 5/2.
Albion are 15/8 to return to the Amex with a first leg lead from Palace, with the Eagles 6/4 and the draw 23/10. We make Brighton 8/15 to make Wembley later in the month and Palace 11/8. Glenn Murray is 15/4 to score the opening goal and it will be interesting to see who Poyet decides upon as his striking options, with Kazenga LuaLua 13/1 to score first after his brace against Wolves.
Competition for a place in the starting XI is fierce and the Seagulls strikers are taken to be the key; they may have to settle for a 1-1 draw (13/2 at BetVictor) in the first leg but I maintain Albion are a better side than Palace, whose win against relegated Peterborough on Saturday was their first in 10. The last meeting between the sides was a comprehensive 3-0 win for the Albion at a packed Amex back in March. This is play-off football and nothing can be taken for granted but over two legs Brighton’s superior class ought to prevail.
The second legs are on Sunday at Watford and Monday night at the Amex.
Hull are 13/8 to survive in the Premier League next term and 4/9 to be relegated after limping across the line against champions Cardiff at the KC on Saturday. It is interesting that the side who came up via the play-offs last year (West Ham) have done best out of the promoted sides and Swansea were the play-off winners the previous year.
For all your odds check out betvictor.com
Picture: Kazenga LuaLua tricks the Wolves defence before pulling the trigger to scores his second goal of the game. Photo by Angela Brinkhurst.