Middlesbrough are the 7/4 favourites to join Burnley and Sheffield United in next season’s Premier League, according to bwin’s Championship promotion odds ahead of the play-offs.
Boro ended the regular season in fourth place, which was impressive considering they failed to win any of their first five matches and were just a point outside the relegation zone when Michael Carrick was appointed as head coach in October.
The former Manchester United and Tottenham midfielder has transformed the team’s fortunes and Boro are rated as the team to beat when the play-offs begin at the weekend.
Asked where securing a play-off spot ranked, Carrick said: “It is not an achievement, it’s about what is next – all eyes are on what happens after that.”
In the play-off semi-finals, Middlesbrough again face Coventry after the two teams shared a 1-1 draw in the last match of the regular season on Monday.
The Sky Blues, who needed to avoid defeat to stay in the play-off zone, secured the lead in the 22nd minute through Gustavo Hamer’s clinical strike but it was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time when Cameron Archer hit his 11th of the season.
Coventry are the 10/3 outsiders in the Championship promotion odds and boss Mark Robins said: “It took us a while to get going, but the achievement just to get into the play-offs is phenomenal. The only way to enjoy them is to win them.
“We have them now Sunday and Wednesday, it’s a really interesting situation. We have a few days to think about plans, the way we want to go about it.
“They are not daft here, Michael Carrick is very talented and they have a lot more to come, they are smart. We have to enjoy it, and enjoy the build-up.”
Hatters meet Black Cats
Luton will hope their experience of the end-of-season shoot-out helps them reach the Premier League and they are second favourites to win the play-offs at 12/5.
They lost out to Huddersfield in last season’s play-off semi-finals but bounced back impressively from that disappointment to finish third under Rob Edwards, who took over from Nathan Jones after the Welshman departed for Southampton.
Luton now meet Sunderland, who scraped into the play-offs on the final day thanks to a 3-0 win at Preston while Millwall lost at home to Blackburn.
Sunderland are 3/1 for back-to-back play-off success after last year’s promotion from League One but manager Tony Mowbray admitted there are some injury concerns ahead of their semi-final.
“It’s an incredible scenario to see the people of Sunderland enjoying their football so much,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome being in the semi-finals, we’ve got to be ready for Luton.
“As I sit here now, the conundrum in front of us is really difficult because we’ve got injuries to central defenders, but we have to find another performance.”
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