Monday evening will see Reading and Huddersfield battle it out at Wembley for the chance to reach the dizzying heights of Premier League football, and it would be fair to say that neither were favourites to be in this position at the start of the season.
Indeed, most would’ve been more likely at the start of the season to put money on the two teams to go down, but such has been the impact of Jurgen Klopp’s former apprentice David Wagner and former Premier League champion Jaap Stam that they are now one match away from top flight.
The Terriers will be looking to play in the Premier League for the first time, whereas The Royal’s will be looking to bounce back again for the first time since 2013.
Plenty to play for
There’s plenty to play for besides pride, with an estimated 170 million pound up for grabs for the winning club, rising to a possible 290 million if they should survive their first season in the top flight.
Huddersfield edged out fellow Yorkshire club Sheffield Wednesday 4-3 on penalties having drawn 1-1 over the two games while Reading scored a second half penalty to triumph over Fulham 2-1 on aggregate.
Head to head form can’t separate the teams as each has a win against the other this season. Huddersfield stumbled at the end of the season, losing six games in their last ten, whereas Reading cruised into third winning seven.
Huddersfield play with their own brand of ‘gegenpressing’, enjoying a lot of possession and pressing high and hard when they lose the ball.
The success of this approach will be dependent on their loanee midfield pairing of Izzy Brown and Aaron Mooy, of Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
Staam’s men aren’t exactly slouches in the footballing stakes either, playing from the back with a combination of young stars like Liam Kelly and more season veterans like striker Yann Kermorgant and keeper Ali al-Habsi.
Reading will be without captain Paul McShane after he got sent off in the last match.
While Staam has recently committed his future to Madejski Park for the time being Wagner has resisted efforts to tie him down to Kirklees Stadium, with plenty of clubs set to prise the German away should he fail to bring Huddersfield to the top flight for the first time since 1972.
Wagner came under fire recently for his decision to field a weakened side against Birmingham City but the Football League decided not to punish the Terriers, which angered many of Birmingham’s relegation rivals.
A lot on the line
That is all in the distant past as the last game of the Championship season approaches, the winner set to join Newcastle United and Brighton City in the self-proclaimed greatest league in the world.
The loser faces another 46 game gruelling campaign, with recently relegated Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull joining the likes of Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham in the fight to reach the promised land once more.
It’s the most expensive game in the world; you wouldn’t want to be the team that finishes second.
Written by Matthew Robson
Follow Matthew on Twitter @TheRobsonator93
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