Promotion and relegation

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Lampard: Derby ‘underdogs again, but we’re there’

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It’s a banner day for Derby County, who hopes there’s another to come for the Pride Park outfit.

Frank Lampard‘s Rams became the first club in Championship playoff history to lose the first leg at home and advance, topping Leeds United 4-2 on Wednesday for a 4-3 aggregate win and a date with Aston Villa in the final.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

And Derby owner Mel Morris has a lot of love for Lampard’s efforts following the Rams’ earning their first playoff final berth since 2014. From the BBC:

“What a night. If we were going to do it, that is the way to do it. I was more nervous when we had a goal lead than I was before the game when I was quite calm. But towards the end I was on the edge. This is Frank’s first season as manager and no one has done this before. What an achievement.”

As for the man himself, Lampard is buzzing and claimed the team was better over both legs of a glorious win. From Sky Sports:

“We were 1-0 down, I said to the lads everyone had written us off. It’s 1/8 for them to go through or something, everyone says they’ve beaten us three times, but we made a little tweak, and it worked brilliantly but you need bravery on the ball and the lads showed it.

“There’s work to do, this isn’t the end, we’re underdogs again and we’ll have a tough game against a brilliant Villa team, but we’re there.”

Derby and Aston Villa is a match-up of historic English clubs, and the subplots are plenty. It’s difficult to bet against either side given their seasons.

Lampard’s Derby County comes back to reach promotion playoff final

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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With two red cards and six goals in one thriller, Derby County and Leeds United gave us a beauty in the second leg of their Football League Championship promotion playoffs semifinal second leg on Wednesday.

Frank Lampard‘s Derby emerged victorious with a 4-2 win in the leg, 4-3 on aggregate, as Leeds went crashing out of the playoffs.

It had to feel delightful times two for Lampard, who discovered Leeds was spying on his Rams before a match in January.

[ MORE: West Brom looking to Hughton? ]

Derby will meet Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on May 27 in a match full of subplots, including Lampard matching wits with Aston Villa assistant and former Chelsea teammate John Terry.

Jack Marriott scored twice, with Chelsea loanee Mason Mount and Liverpool man Harry Wilson also scoring for the Rams.

Stuart Dallas scored a pair of goals for Leeds.

Gaetano Berardi was sent off with 12 minutes to play in the first 90 minutes, his side down 3-2 on the day.

Leeds entered the game with a 1-0 lead, and doubled its advantage through Dallas’ first goal of the match.

But Derby scored in the final minute of the first half and the first minute of the second, with Marriott and Mount getting on the score sheet. The former of the two goals also included very poor goalkeeping from one-time Real Madrid man Kiko Casilla.

Berardi saw his second yellow card in the 78th minute for a wayward, late slide tackle.

Liverpool man Harry Wilson nearly had it 4-2 with a chipped finish off the post before Marriott used a classy finish to deliver the score line. Derby’s Scott Malone then saw his second yellow as the match finished 10v10.

Cardiff, Brighton now locked in race to avoid relegation

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Chris Hughton hasn’t been denying that Brighton and Hove Albion has been in a relegation battle, but Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to 18th place Cardiff City means the table tells the story plainly.

The Seagulls are up against it.

[ RECAP: Brighton 0-2 Cardiff City ]

“We have a fight on our hands,” Hughton said after the loss sunk the Seagulls to within two points of the drop zone, albeit with a match-in-hand on Cardiff.

“This is a proper fight. We have to make sure we turn it round by staying together, digging deep and making ourselves hard to beat.”

Cardiff had won just one match in seven coming into Tuesday, and sat in 18th since a Week 28 loss to Everton.

But six of its 31 points on the season have now come at the expense of Brighton, and Neil Warnock thinks his men have what it takes to pull off a great escape. From the BBC:

“We had a few pundits say it would be our final game in the Premier League but we are alive and kicking. We deserved tonight. … We came out of the traps and enjoyed it today. We are far from finished yet.”

Brighton plays two matches by April 23, while Cardiff just faces Liverpool. The final three matches for both teams will be staged on the same days of the calendar.

Here are the nine matches involving each team the rest of the way. Brighton has a 12-goal advantage on Cardiff in terms of differential:

Saturday: Wolves v. Brighton

Sunday: Cardiff City v. Liverpool

April 23: Tottenham v. Brighton

April 27: Brighton v. Newcastle -and- Fulham v. Cardiff

May 4: Arsenal v. Brighton -and- Cardiff v. Palace

May 12: Brighton v. Man City -and- Man Utd v. Cardiff

There are scenarios where relegation, the Premier League title, and a Top Four place will all be determined by goal differential for Brighton and Cardiff against the two Manchester powers on Decision Day.

In a year which saw so many setbacks and the horror of its record signing killed in a plane accident, how incredible would it be for Cardiff to come back from the brink?

Nightmarish Brighton braces for massive Tuesday clash

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Brighton and Hove Albion finished Week 15 in the Premier League’s 10th place, 12 points clear of 18th place Saints, holders of a 5W-1D-2L run of league form and hoping for even better.

Since then? 17 matches, 12 more points, and the 17th spot on the table.

[ RECAP: Brighton 0-5 Bournemouth ]

Chris Hughton‘s men are now the last hope for Cardiff City, who visits Brighton five points back of the Seagulls and desperate for a shot at safety.

“The pressure’s on now,” said Dale Stephens. “We’ve got to stand up and be counted on Tuesday.”

[ MORE: Relegation picture clear ]

Brighton will host Cardiff City on Tuesday and must get a result from a must-win win for the Bluebirds.

Hughton is flummoxed at what happened to his team in an abject, 10-man display against Bournemouth which saw the Seagulls lose by five and lose Anthony Knockaert for Tuesday.

“It was a reckless challenge,” Hughton said. “It was the right decision. I’ve spoken to the team and I think it was one of the poorest performances since I’ve been here. Especially knowing the qualities of the team we were playing against.”

After Cardiff’s visit, Brighton tangles with Wolves at the Molineux before visiting Tottenham, hosting Newcastle, traveling to Arsenal and hosting Man City on the final day of the season.

Their quality coupled with Cardiff City’s defensive struggles should be enough to survive the battle, but Hughton and some of his men may not get out of the war with their jobs in tact.

Premier League relegation picture very clear after Saturday morning

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
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We already knew Fulham and Huddersfield Town were doomed for the drop, but could all three teams be settled come Tuesday.

Weekend wins from Newcastle, Southampton, Burnley, and Bournemouth put the quartet in safe standing, while another Cardiff City loss has the Bluebirds looking at Tuesday as their last realistic hope of survival.

[ MORE: FIFA statement on racism ]

That’s because Cardiff City will visit struggling 17th place Brighton and Hove Albion, whose 10 men were battered 5-0 at home by Bournemouth.

That leaves Cardiff with 28 points and four matches to play, five points behind Brighton who holds 33 and a match-in-hand. Southampton is next closest with 36 points following its defeat of Wolves.

Cardiff City has to take all three points at the Amex Stadium come Tuesday, with its remaining fixtures home to Liverpool, away to Fulham, home to Crystal Palace, and away to Manchester United.

After Cardiff’s visit, Brighton and Hove Albion tangles with Wolves at the Molineux before visiting Tottenham, hosting Newcastle, traveling to Arsenal and hosting Man City on the final day of the season.

There are enough chances for the worm to turn in Cardiff’s favor, but the Seagulls can all but end the Bottom Three drama in 72 hours time.