Over the course of the next two days, two Championship teams will book their places in what is widely referred to as “the most lucrative game in world soccer”: the Championship promotion playoff final.
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With more than $200 million up for grabs via the Premier League’s various revenue streams, most notably its television rights deals, the Championship’s promotion playoffs offer a form of drama and tension that’s hard to come by anywhere else in the world.
Here’s how things stand ahead of Friday and Saturday’s semifinal second legs:
Middlesbrough 2-1 Brentford — Friday, 2:45 pm ET
Jelle Vossen and Fernando Amorebieta netted for Boro in the first leg, giving their side a slim lead ahead of the second leg at home. Andre Gray equalized the first leg, but the level scoreline was short-lived.
With no away-goals rule in the promotion playoffs, Boro and Brentford would find themselves heading to extra time, and perhaps penalties, with any one-goal Brentford victory.
Regular season meetings: Boro 4-0 Brentford; Brentford 0-1 Boro; Brentford 1-4 Boro (League Cup)
Norwich City 1-1 Ipswich Town — Saturday, 7:15 am ET
Jonny Howson opened scoring in the first leg, before Paul Anderson equalized on the stroke of halftime. Saturday’s second leg will serve as the 99th East Anglian derby, and have more on the line than any of the 98 to come before it.
The scenarios are simple: win the game on Saturday, whether in regular time, extra time or penalties, and you’re into the playoff final, to be played at Wembley Stadium on May 25.
Regular season meetings: Ipswich 0-1 Norwich; Norwich 2-0 Ipswich