The most valuable game off football takes place on Saturday, and while in Lisbon the two Madrid sides trade blows in the Champions League, earlier in the day QPR and Derby do battle for a far greater prize.
The financial benefits of Premier League football are astronomical and the prize money on offer in the Championship play-offs is rumoured to be around the £130m mark. Throw in the fame, fortune and the opportunity to get critiqued by the ‘experts’ on Match of The Day every Saturday and there’s no surprise that some people in Power Tower are coining it as one of the biggest games of the season.
In an attempt to find a winner, and make ourselves a bit of cash on the richest game, we’ve crunched 15 years of play-off final stats to try and guide our betting. For QPR fans, the trends are as unpredictable as Joey Barton’s Twitter feed.
The good stats…
It might have taken some nervy extra-time against Wigan for QPR to book their place in Saturday’s Wembley showpiece, but according to the trends that isn’t such a bad thing.
- In the last 15 years just 33 per cent of play-off winners had won both of their semi-final legs
Strangely teams that make the jump into England’s top flight have rarely got through the semi-final stage the easy way. That’s a bad omen for Derby who thumped Brighton 4-1 at home after winning 2-1 away, but good news for QPR who played out two draws with the Latics before beating them in extra-time. Winning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be apparently? Maybe David Moyes was onto something at Manchester United…
It’s unlikely that many QPR fans would have welcomed the 1-0 away defeat to Leicester in April, but in another strange statistic, Derby’s unbeaten run at the end of the season might not be too beneficial.
- Just 33 per cent of play-off final winners in the last 15 years had gone unbeaten in their final five league games
Another bizarre statistic that the trends have thrown up is that going on a nice little unbeaten run at the end of the league campaign isn’t a good thing. You’d think the little confidence boost it would do your side going into the play-offs would be good news, but it would seem not. Derby won four and drew one of their five final league games and that good run of form might come back to haunt them if the 15 year trends are anything to go on.
The not so good stats…
Rangers’ 80 points in the league gave them a comfy nine point cushion over seventh as they sailed through to the play-offs by finishing fourth, strangely however, that apparently isn’t a great omen.
- In the last 15 years, not one side that finished the league in fourth, got promoted via the play-offs
In one of the quirkier results the last 15 years of trends have thrown up, is that fourth is not the place you want to finish if you have dreams of promotion. The team that finishes third (that’s Derby) gets promoted 47 per cent of the time which will fill the Rams with plenty of confidence walking up Wembley way. Even 20 per cent of teams that scrape through to the play-offs in sixth have been promoted in the last 15 years which, although is a bit unusual, isn’t great news for Harry Redknapp.
The stats that aren’t good, but aren’t bad either. They’re stats that are as murky as Harry’s tax dealings…
QPR and Derby have already locked horns twice in the league season but those results give us very little indication as to how Saturday’s match will unfold.
- 47 per cent of play-off final winners had already done the double over their opponents in the league season proper
- 40 per cent of winners had lost both games against their final opposition
A baffling trend that suggests losing both league games against your eventual final opponents is about as beneficial as picking up two wins. Not that QPR need worry as they beat Derby 2-1 at home this season, but lost 1-0 away in a game where they were missing top scorer Charlie Austin through injury.
To close to call…
These two sides have drawn six of their last 13 meetings and there is unlikely to be much to separate them at Wembley. The 15 year stats don’t give much away either and it might come down to a touch of luck or tactical nous on Saturday afternoon. We were initially tempted to back the draw at 9/4 in 90 minutes but on second glance we’ll be having an optimistic flutter on QPR to prevail in extra-time at 9/1.
The reality is though, both teams are very well matched and we haven’t the foggiest which way this one will go.