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Who will win the Championship play-off final?

Crystal Palace and Watford face each other later today in the Championship play-off final

Crystal Palace and Watford face each other later today in the Championship play-off final

Crystal Palace and Watford face each other in the Championship final later today at Wembley.

The game is one of the most lucrative in football with a place in the Premier League and big money at stake.

Route

The two teams took very different routes to the final. Crystal Palace won 2-0 at bitter-rivals Brighton, after a stalemate in the first leg.

Highly-rated attacker Wilfried Zaha scored twice in what was his penultimate game for Palace.

The youngster is moving to Premier League champions Manchester United for £15million this summer.

Eagles boss Ian Holloway has stated that he hopes that Zaha can produce a fairytale end to his Palace career by helping the Eagles to the top flight.

Watford secured a dramatic 3-2 aggregate victory against Leicester in their semi-final play-off. Leicester won a penalty in injury-time of the second leg. Midfielder Anthony Knockaert saw his penalty kick saved by Manuel Almunia and Watford striker Troy Deeney scored the winning goal on the break.

Talented

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most highly-rated youngsters in the English game. The England international was attracting the interest of most of the top clubs in the Premier League and eventually Manchester United secured his signature.

Zaha’s form towards the end of the season has dipped slightly, prior to the second leg of the play-off’s that is. The youngster does have the ability to be a match winner though.

The youngster never seems to lack confidence in his own ability, but at such a tender age, Zaha could find it tough to get into the Manchester United first team next season. Should Palace be promoted then surely a loan move back to Palace for a season would be an ideal solution.

Watford’s star this season has been Czech youngster Matej Vydra. The on-loan youngster has scored 22 goals in the Championship this season, including a brace in the play-off semi-final, and won the Player of the Year. His form this season has been sensational.

This could also be Vydra’s last game for the Hornets, with a number of clubs believed to be interested in securing the youngsters services for next season.

Loan Ar-ranger

Watford boss Gianfranco Zola may not have tonto or a mask, but he is certainly a top loan arranger (I just could not resist). The Italian has used his clubs owners links to Italian club Udinese to bring in a number of players in on-loan.

In all the Hornets currently have 13 loan players on their books, including eight from Serie A club Udinese, also owned by Watford’s owners the Pozzo family. The ploy has proven successful, but controversial.

The Hornets will have to make some of those transfers permanent if they are promoted, as the Premier League are bringing in new rules stating that clubs will only be allowed to have one player on-loan from each club.

That means that boss Gianfranco Zola will have a major rebuilding job on his hands this summer. Zola has impressed at Vicarage Road this season and is starting to establish himself as a good tactician after a poor stint at West Ham earlier in his coaching career.

History

Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway has a recent history with the Championship play-offs. Holloway was manager of Blackpool in 2010 when the Tangerines defeated Cardiff to win the play-off final. Last season though Holloway experienced defeat against West Ham in the final.

Tight

This play-off game could be a very tight one. Watford are marginal favourites, but not by much. A Crystal Palace victory cannot be ruled out though. Play-off finals are notoriously unpredictable and this one is no different.

Championship play-offs are usually superb spectacles and with both teams posing a big attacking threat, we should be in for a treat of a game.  For the winner a lucrative place in the Premier League awaits. The losers face another season in one of the most competitive leagues in Europe.

Who will win the Championship play-off final?

Mon 27 May, 2013
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