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Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City: Comfortable Canaries back in Premier League

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A pair of players which suffered through Norwich City’s relegation a year ago helped the Canaries back into the Premier League with two early goals.

Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond netted twice in three minutes to build a 2-0 lead that would last through the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on Monday morning.

It’s called the richest game in the world, with an estimated $180 million on the line. It didn’t provide a wealth of scoring chances, though.

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After the clubs exchanged cross bar strikes from City’s Bradley Johnson and Boro’s Jelle Vosson, Norwich got on the board.

Jerome victimized Daniel Ayala and then dribbled toward ‘Boro keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at a tight angle before firing between the legs to make it 1-0 Canaries in the 12th minute.

source: Getty Images
Norwich City keeper John Ruddy

And it was 2-0 within minutes, as the 15th saw Nathan Redmond bury a low, right-footed shot into the side netting.

Middlesbrough, of course, opened the second half with a desperate attacking idea that lasted the duration. That provided the opportunity for dangerous Norwich counters, but the Canaries took a while to find those chances as ‘Boro worked to narrow the deficit.

In the end, though, there was a class difference between the Canaries and ‘Boro. Norwich rarely seemed troubled by their promotion foes, and Alex Neil’s side are going up.

 

LINEUPS

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Whitehead, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah, Vossen (Kike, 68′), Tomlin, Bamford.

Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond (O’Neil, 87′), Howson, Tettey, Johnson, Hoolahan (Dorrans, 75′), Jerome (Grabban, 75′).

Goals: Jerome (12′), Redmond (15′)

Halfway to Wembley: Championship’s promotion playoffs after one leg

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Watford and Bournemouth have already clinched their places in next season’s Premier League, while Burnley will head back to the Championship and QPR could join them in just a few hours.

On May 25, the final place in the Premier League will be decided at Wembley, when two of the teams ranked third through sixth in the Championship will contest the playoff final.

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Who’s on track to get to Wembley? One semifinal pairing is even and the other has a leader after one leg.

Brentford 1-2 Middlesbrough

As much drama as you’d like between the sides from London and the Northeast. Jelle Vossen headed a corner kick home in the 26th minute to give Middlesbrough a 1-0 lead, but Andre Gray’s takeaway goal made it 1-1 early in the second half. The clubs looked set to walk into the second legs even when Fernando Amorebieta’s first touch through traffic bounded into the Brentford goal. Friday brings the second leg

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Ipswich Town 1-1 Norwich City

In what was the 98th East Anglian Derby, the two goals in Saturday’s first leg came within five minutes of each other. Jonny Howson’s 41st minute goal only provided a brief lead for the Canaries, as Paul Anderson netted in the 45th to send the match to halftime, and then back to Carrow Road for next Saturday’s second leg, even at 1.