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Championship Preview: Crystal Palace v Watford

Crystal Palace and Watford battle for the final place in next season’s Premier League in the Championship play-off final on Monday.

Watford just missed out on automatic promotion before edging out Leicester City in the play-off semi-finals.

Gianfranco Zola’s men will be eyeing a spot in the top flight, which would earn the club 120 million pounds – a windfall that means this game is widely known as the biggest on earth in financial terms.

Palace are without star striker Glenn Murray for the final after he injured his knee in the semi-final win over Brighton.

Aaron Wilbraham will replace him at Wembley, and the 33-year-old needs to improve his record of just one goal since joining from Norwich in the off-season.

The final is Palace manager Ian Holloway’s third in four years, with the former Blackpool boss leading his side to one win and a loss in his past two appearances.

While Wilbraham needs to fill the void left by Murray, Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha will play a key role if Palace want to return to the top flight for the first time since 2004-05.

Zaha was named the PFA Championship Player of the Year for his displays throughout the campaign, and his pace and trickery could be decisive.

The 20-year-old said Palace welcomed being underdogs in such a big game.

“It helps really because no-one likes having any pressure on their back,” Zaha told the club’s website.

“We don’t mind being underdogs. We’ve always been underdogs all season really. It just allows us to go into the game thinking we’ve got nothing to lose.

“Everyone thinks we’re going to lose anyway, so we’ll just play our best and hopefully prove them wrong.”

Matej Vydra, on loan from Udinese, has starred for Watford this season with 22 goals and the Czech forward is sure to be a huge danger to Palace.

Vydra, 21, could lead Zola’s men into the Premier League for the first time since 2006-07 if he continues his stunning form.

Watford’s goalscoring has been distributed throughout the team this season – Troy Deeney has scored 20 goals and netted the winner against Leicester – and that makes them favourites to beat Palace.

Sat 25 May, 2013
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