So we are all now ready and set for the play-off's. It's a tough mini tournament and not always does the favourite come out on top.
I'm sure many of us remember when we were strong favourites and lost out to Crystal Palace as a strong showing of this. On paper is not always the best to be, as we have seen quite a lot this season.
This seasons play-off's could be the most exciting yet, with all the teams having very strong performances throughout the season.
We go to Cardiff to open ours on Thursday, personally I'm hoping our away record could really assist us here, it's always nice to come back for a home leg with a goal or even a winning advantage. We cannot underestimate Cardiff though, they have a lot of experience and one player who could easily cause us problems is Whittingham, if he plays on the left, I genuinely think he could be an issue for Demel, he has a brilliant delivery and he is not afraid to run at the defence. I think if he is played centrally, we would cope with him better, Faye, Reid and Tomkins have all looked solid for us and Noble covering will be a great help. In my honest opinion I also think this could be where the ability of Nolan could be vital, he has scored a lot of vital goals for us and I'm sure he won't be afraid to place a few shots in. I think both games will be close and my predictions are a 2-1 victory for us away, but a very cagey and probably uncomfortable 1-1 draw at home.
My team for Cardiff is more based on where Whittingham plays. It would probably be:
Green, M.Taylor, Reid, Tomkins, Demel/Faubert, Noble, Nolan, Lansbury/Collison, O'Neil, Vaz Te, Cole.
I have gone for a 4-4-2 diamond but when we lose the ball I wouldn't be surprised to see it drop into a 4-5-1, if Whittingham is left mid then I may opt for Faubert for his pace to keep him tracked, but otherwise I would opt for Demel.
We will have to wait and see until the day though. Would be interesting to hear what other peoples sides would be?
If we get past Cardiff, then we would be going to Wembley, which could be a fantastic moment, but we must not let our main focus go, which would be to bounce back to the Premiership at the first attempt. We could either face Blackpool or Birmingham. Both worthy opponents. It's tough to say who I would rather have, we have hammered Blackpool twice which could make them the main choice, but then they may be looking for revenge, while Birmingham have proved to be tough opposition both times this season with 2 draws against us.
I personally would say Blackpool is the preferred, I feel we have the resources to cope with their attacking mentality and hit them on the counter, it has proved effective both times and I do not see the manager changing that style as it works perfectly against them. Birmingham I would be more nervous against, they are like us and try to be sensible at the back while pressuring sides with strong players like Zigic and King. It could prove to be a very entertaining game either way as the fixtures between both have been pretty good, we still need revenge against Birmingham for the Carling Cup and it would be delightful to get past them at Wembley, but they are certainly no pushovers.
My fingers are crossed firmly but I hope we can get through it and back into the top flight.