Crystal Palace in the Premier League

Crystal Palace won promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs and they will be an interesting addition to the league.
Crystal Palace
Under Ian Holloway they will be a good attacking side but may struggle in defence and unfortunately for him this tactic did not work for him at Blackpool. Hopefully he will have learned from his last experience and Crystal Palace will have a good chance of staying up. I do like a lot of their players and I do like Holloway but this time he seems to be rehashing what he said during his time at Blackpool about them going to struggle and maybe this will work against him because now teams may not underestimate them as much as they did Blackpool. Holloway’s record at the club does not seem to be one that should have got promotion to the Premier League so a lot of credit has to go to Dougie Freedman who helped them get off to a good start. Out of his 37 games in charge he has only won 13 but one of them was against Watford at Wembley and against Peterborough United on the last game of the season to secure the place in the playoffs so he has proved he can win the big games. Plus defeating Brighton in the playoffs showed he has grown tactically as a manager.

Defensively I am very worried about the team because they have players that I do think are good in the Championship but maybe not good enough for the Premier League. Danny Gabbidon and Peter Ramage are two players that certainly fit into this category. However, I do think they have a very good goalkeeper in Julian Speroni who has improved massively and has got better and better every year he has been at the club.
Julian Speroni
The midfield will be losing one of their best players in Wilfried Zaha but there is no point in focusing on what they won’t have. Although there is a slight chance that he could come back on loan, but this does not seem likely at the moment. Jonathan Williams is someone that I am looking forward to seeing in the Premier League because he is a fantastic footballer and deserves to be in the top league now after injuries stalled his career slightly. He is only young so it will be a steep learning curve for him. Mile Jedinak is another that I think will be able to make the step up.
Jonathan Williams
They do look a little weak upfront too but Glenn Murray got 31 goals last season in all competitions and will be the man they rely on to get them the goals to keep them up like Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert have in recent seasons. Aaron Wilbraham started the playoff final and I would be very surprised if he started any games next season and a new striker was brought in to replace him. I think they should sign Kevin Phillips permanently because he can still score goals even if he is only limited to substitute appearances.
Glenn Murray

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Who will win the Championship playoffs?

The Championship had one of the best ever endings to a season with nobody knowing who will be in the playoffs until the last whistle.

Watford, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester City will be hoping to win the playoffs and gain a place in the Premier League alongside Cardiff City and Hull City. Bolton Wanderers missed out on the playoffs by goal difference and Nottingham Forest only missed out on the last day after losing to Leicester. For me this is one of the most difficult to predict simply because of how close it all was at the end of the season.

Watford finished third and have been one of the most entertaining teams this season but they had such a disappointing end to the final game. They lost 2-1 to Leeds United but in their defence they conceded a late goal from a counter attack. If only they had managed to score a goal they would have actually finished second and gained automatic promotion. Troy Deeney got a red card in that game and so that means there will be more pressure on top goal scorer Matej Vydra. But, he isn’t in the greatest of form himself. Watford have been criticised this season because of all their loan signings but Gianfranco Zola deserves more credit for getting them to perform.

Brighton finished fourth and are going into the playoffs in the best form and with their experience they may be the team to go up. Wayne Bridge and Matthew Upson at the back shows they have a lot of quality and experience and they have been a large part of their rise to towards the top of the league. In midfield they have a lot of young and talented players like Liam Bridcutt , Will Buckley and Kazenga Lua Lua that probably deserve a chance to show their talents in the Premier League. Even though their top scorer only has 11 goals they still have good strikers with the efforts and determination of Craig Mackail-Smith and Jose Ulloa who has had an impressive start to his Brighton career, scoring 9 in 17 league games.

Crystal Palace under Ian Holloway have been very hit and miss and they need to find some form and quickly. Their win over Peterborough on the last day of the season could be crucial as it showed that they can come from behind to win games and still have a lot of quality in their team. Glenn Murray, the top scorer in the Championship scored one of the goals and Kevin Phillips got another so they have players that can score at anytime in a game. Their defence is a little bit of a worry but in midfield they have a lot of talented players like Wilifried Zaha and Jonathan Williams.

Leicester were the last team to qualify for the playoffs and I was really surprised that they got in there because they had to beat Nottingham Forest away and hope Bolton didn’t win. So this could push the team on because they will be very confident and maybe seen as outsiders. They have a lot of talent in their team and this could be Nigel Pearson’s last chance to get promotion with Leicester so there could be extra motivation for the players.

However, I do think Watford will beat Leicester and Brighton will beat Crystal Palace in the semi finals and then it will be a very exciting final. Then I am going to go for Brighton to win the playoffs and compete in the Premier League next season.

Who will win the Championship playoffs?

It is that time of the year again and the unpredictability is bound to cause a lot of excitement for the neutrals but for West Ham, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Cardiff City fans it is one of the most nerve wracking times of the season.

So who is going to come out on top? West Ham will playing Cardiff at home in the second leg so does that give them an advantage over their Welsh rivals or does it not matter like in the Champions League this season where both away teams in the second leg went through. Will Blackpool’s attacking and sometimes gung ho tactics work against a hard working Birmingham side or will Chris Hughton secure a second promotion to the Premier League?

First of all, let’s start with West Ham as they finished third and were in contention of an automatic spot right up until the final day but ultimately lost out to Southampton. This can sometimes knock your confidence and the players may feel quite disappointed with their season as they were favourites to return to the top flight. But in there squad they have enough experience to steer them to Wembley and into the promised land once again. Their key player will be Kevin Nolan who is a fantastic player and in my opinion has been unlucky not to receive an England cap in his career. He can grab a goal from midfield and always seems to score important goals when he is needed, he may not have done as well as the last time he was in the Championship but he still needs to be watched and 12 goals this season has been quite a good return.

Birmingham City have had such a long season and there is a worry that they might burn out as they have played in the Europa League and took Chelsea to a replay in the FA Cup. But  don’t see this as a problem as they just keep getting better and better. With manager Chris Hughton in charge you know the camp will be in high spirits and everyone will be enjoying themselves. But maybe the speculation that West Brom are interested in Hughton might just put the players off slightly and they might lose focus but I honestly don’t think this will happen. The key player in my opinion will be Curtis Davies who has had a fantastic season and will want to play Premier League football next season. He has been a rock at the back for the club and has been crucial in their good form all season, he knows he will have to be at his best to keep out the opposition in the next few games.

Blackpool are also looking for an instant return to the Premier League under the always entertaining Ian Holloway. The way the team play their football is fantastic to watch and his players are very brave to keep playing the way they do which may give them the advantage in the playoffs and the fact they have won the playoffs with a very similar team only two years ago will also help their cause. Key player to watch for me is Kevin Phillips, he has scored 17 goals this season and is looking as threatening as ever, he may not be able to start both legs because of his age but when he is on the pitch his movement will worry defenders and like Nolan always has an important goal in him. With him on the pitch I think defenders know they need to mark him which gives more space for wingers Matt Phillips and Thomas Ince who on their day can take apart any defence in the Championship.

Cardiff City have possibly been one of the most unlucky teams in the playoffs with them losing in them time and time again. What has made it worse is that Swansea City are in the Premier League and are doing well. But manager Malky Mackay has brought together a new squad this year who look hungry and determined to get to the Premier League. The goals haven’t quite flowed as much this season as they have done previously but all that matters is that they are in the playoffs once again. Key player will be Peter Whittingham as he has really quality from midfield whether he plays out wide or in the middle and has contributed 13 goals this season as well as many assists. If he is on form it will be difficult for their opponents to stop him and he can change a game in the blink of an eye.

So now it is prediction time, I believe that the final will be between Cardiff and Birmingham with Birmingham winning the final. I just think that West Ham may crumble under the pressure and the expectations and Blackpool will be unable to break down the Birmingham defence often enough. In the final I think it will be a case of déjà vu for Cardiff and they will sadly underperform on the big stage.

Do you agree with my key players and my predictions?