Fulham, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough or Derby? Championship play-offs prediction – EXCLUSIVE
Slavisa Jokanovic, Gary Rowett, Steve Bruce and Tony Pulis will battle it out in the play-offs
That’s the verdict of former Crystal Palace and Republic of Ireland striker Clinton Morrison, who admits the battle to secure promotion will be intense.
Fulham go into the play-offs as favourites having just been pipped to automatic promotion by Neil Warnock’s Cardiff on the final day of the season.
And they’ll take on Derby over two legs, who secured sixth place by battering and condemning to relegation Barnsley last Sunday.
Wiley veterans Steve Bruce and Tony Pulis will go head-to-head in the other semi-final as Aston Villa face Middlesbrough.
Morrison, who’s spent nine seasons in the Championship during his own career, has now offered his take on which side will secure promotion to the Premier League.
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“It’s a hard one, it’s a hard one,” Morrison told Express Sport. “To be fair, I’ve always said it, and I’ve said it all along, but I just thought Fulham might win it.
“I just think they, well it’s a hard one to call, because Fulham have played some very attractive football.
“But they missed out on it [automatic promotion] on the last day when my old club Birmingham beat them, which was great to keep them up.
“But I think still, with the footballing ability they’ve got in their team and the players, I’d probably just fancy Fulham.
“But then my old manager, Steve Bruce, at Aston Villa. He knows how to get teams out of the division.
Crystal Palace legend Clinton Morrison has delivered his Championship play-offs prediction
“You’ve got Tony Pulis, who’s a very clever guy at Middlesbrough and Derby, as well, who are in good form at the minute.
“I think, this year, with the four teams that are up there, it’s the hardest to call and I think it’s gonna be really difficult but very exciting at the same time.”
Morrison has also revealed who he believes the men are that can make the difference for Slavisa Jovanovic’s Fulham.
Although he admits every team in the play-offs has players capable of firing their team to promotion.
“[Ryan] Sessegnon is key but I think [Aleksandar] Mitrovic is key as well,” he added.
“I think he’s been outstanding since he’s come in. He leads the line excellently, he’s a brilliant target man and he scores goals.
“Since he’s gone there he’s been excellent and that’s the only thing Fulham were missing, because they’ve got great build-up players in midfield and obviously in Sessegnon and Tom Cairney.
“And [Ryan] Fredericks, the right-back, I think he’s a brilliant player. I think he’s a class act who can go on to play in the Premier League. But Mitrovic is the key man.
“I think that if you look at Middlesbrough, the boy [Adama] Traore, he should be playing in the Premier League because he’ll be an asset because he’s unbelievable.
“He is the quickest thing I’ve seen with two legs, in any league, he’s that good a player. And he should be playing in the Premier League. He’s been brilliant for Middlesbrough.
David Wagner led Huddersfield to promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs in 2017
“There’s loads, you can talk about Villa, Lewis Grabban. He’s gone in there and scored goals, he’s hit the ground running. Derby have got [Matej] Vydra, the Championship’s top goalscorer.
“There’s a case for all of the teams in there, but it is what it is and we’re just gonna have to wait and see.”
Fulham travel to Derby for the first leg of their play-offs semi-final on Friday night, with the second at Craven Cottage next Monday.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, visit Middlesbrough on Saturday before welcoming Pulis’ side to Villa Park next Tuesday.
The Championship play-off final will take place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday May 26.
Clinton Morrison was speaking on behalf of Play With A Legend. Line up alongside Crystal Palace heroes Morrison, John Salako, Darren Ambrose and Matt Jansen in their unique ‘play on the pitch event’ at Selhurst Park on Sunday May 20.