Leeds Vs Southampton Championship Play Off Final Match Preview (1 Viewer)

MartinGee

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Leeds United and Southampton are both vying for a swift return to the Premier League, clashing at Wembley in Sunday’s Championship playoff final. Both teams are one win away from reclaiming their spot in the top tier after a season-long battle.

Leeds, after a goalless first leg in the semi-finals, stormed back with a dominant win over Norwich City. Daniel Farke's team found their spark just in time, having stumbled at the end of the regular season to miss out on automatic promotion. Ilia Gruev’s clever free kick ignited a goal spree, with Joel Piroe, Georginio Rutter, and Crysencio Summerville all finding the net in a first-half blitz at Elland Road, ultimately leading to a 4-0 aggregate victory.

This playoff final marks Leeds' fourth attempt to win promotion through this route, though history hasn't been kind to them. They’ve lost their previous finals in 1987, 2006, and 2008, tying with Bristol City, Exeter City, Lincoln City, and Shrewsbury Town for the most playoff final defeats. A loss on Sunday would make them the first team to lose four finals without winning one, a record no fan wants to see.

Southampton mirrored Leeds' path to Wembley, securing a goalless draw at West Brom before a strong home performance. Will Smallbone opened the scoring just after half-time, followed by two goals from Adam Armstrong. Although Cedric Kipre scored a late consolation for West Brom, it wasn't enough to stop Southampton from advancing.

Russell Martin's side, like Leeds, overcame a shaky end to their season, losing three of their last four games before the playoffs. This final is uncharted territory for the Saints, who last experienced playoff action in 2007, losing to Derby County on penalties.

Historically, it’s rare for two recently relegated teams to meet in the playoff final; it’s happened only twice before, with West Ham defeating Blackpool in 2012 and Leicester beating Crystal Palace in 1996.

The winner on Sunday will join Leicester and Ipswich in the Premier League. Southampton might have a psychological edge, having already beaten Leeds twice this season, including a recent 2-1 victory at Elland Road. However, both teams will be giving their all for that coveted Premier League spot.

INJURIES & SUSPENSION​

Leeds United will be without Patrick Bamford (knee), Darko Gyabi (groin), and Pascal Struijk (groin) for the playoff final. Sam Byram, who missed the 4-0 victory over Norwich due to a hip injury, is also doubtful.

Bamford is in the same situation and should not be risked from the start even if he's cleared to play. Struijk and Gyabi, both recovering from season-ending surgeries, will be watching from the sidelines.

Despite these absences, Farke is likely to stick with the lineup that brought success against Norwich, including the highly-rated Archie Gray at right-back, amid interest from Bayern Munich in the young talent.

Southampton manager Russell Martin is also managing injuries, with Juan Larios and Stuart Armstrong out due to hamstring issues, and goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

Ryan Fraser, who was substituted in the 66th minute against West Brom, is expected to be fit despite his early exit. Martin is unlikely to change his starting XI, even though Fraser’s replacement, Ryan Manning, won the penalty that allowed Armstrong to score his second goal.

Both managers seem set to keep faith in their successful lineups as they head into the crucial playoff final.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS​

Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Gray, Ampadu, Rodon, Firpo; Gruev, Kamara; Gnonto, Rutter, Summerville; Piroe

Southampton possible starting lineup:
McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek, Stephens; Aribo, Downes, Smallbone; Brooks, Armstrong, Fraser

EXPERT PREDICTION​

Leeds 2-1 Southampton
Both Leeds and Southampton have rediscovered their attacking form after lackluster finishes to their regular seasons. At Wembley, expect their attackers to be unleashed, making goals almost a certainty.

Southampton have beaten Farke’s side in their previous encounters this season, but this time, even 120 minutes might not be enough to separate these Premier League hopefuls. A penalty shootout could be on the cards. Both teams have similar success rates from the spot this season, but Martin's squad might just have the slight edge.
 

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