Crystal Palace - Watford Preview: Championship play-off final worth £120m to winners
Promotion to the Premier League will bring a greater windfall than ever to the victors at Wembley after the top flight agreed enormous new television rights deals
By Oliver Platt
Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey
Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Garvan
Zaha, Wilbraham, Williams
Doyley, Ekstrand, Cassetti
Anya, Chalobah, Hogg, Pudil
Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway could name an unchanged team after a 2-0 victory over Brighton in the second leg of their semi-final secured their place at Wembley.
Glenn Murray suffered a serious knee injury in the first leg at Selhurst Park and may not return until 2014, so Aaron Wilbraham is likely to start up front, although Kevin Phillips is also available.
Holloway preferred a 4-3-3 formation against Gus Poyet's team that meant that Yannick Bolasie was limited to a place on the bench, with Welsh prodigy Jonathan Williams starting opposite Wilfried Zaha.
Stephen Dobbie, a play-off final hero under Holloway at Blackpool, has returned to Brighton after the expiry of his loan deal while Jonathan Parr (ankle) and Paddy McCarthy (groin) are also out.
Watford, meanwhile, are likely to continue in a 3-5-2 formation with Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra, who combined for three goals in the second leg of their semi-final against Leicester, leading the line.
Jonathan Hogg and Cristian Battocchio will compete for the last place in central midfield alongside Nathaniel Chalobah and Almen Abdi, who are certain starters.
Gianfranco Zola may have defender Fitz Hall available for selection after nagging hamstring problems, so Lloyd Doyley could drop out or Marco Cassetti could switch to wing-back.
Defenders Tommie Hoban (ankle), Neuton (shoulder) and Nyron Nosworthy (Achilles) are all longer-term absentees.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray, who will miss the Wembley clash due to suspected cruciate ligament damage, has scored more than three times as many league goals (30) as any other Eagles player.
- The most prolific forward whom Ian Holloway will have available for selection is Wilfried Zaha (eight goals, pictured right), the 20-year-old loaned back to Palace by Manchester United after a move worth around £15 million was agreed in January.
- Aaron Wilbraham, who is likely to replace Murray, has not scored in the league all season and only once, in the Capital One Cup in September, in all competitions.
- Palace last played in the Premier League in 2004-05, when they finished 18th with 33 points under the management of Iain Dowie.
- Watford have more recent top-flight history but endured a torrid time in their last Premier League season in 2006-07, finishing bottom of the table with just 28 points under Aidy Boothroyd.
- In contrast to Palace's problems in the goalscoring department, Watford have three players available (Matej Vydra, Almen Abdi and Troy Deeney) who finished the league campaign in double figures.
Matej Vydra is 4/1 with Bet365 to score the first goal in this game.
- The Hornets are owned the Pozzo family and controversially have had as many as 10 players on loan from Udinese and Granada, who are also owned by the Italians, including Vydra and Abdi.
- The Championship play-off final is often referred to as the most valuable game in football as the winners will pocket around £120 million, according to Deloitte, even if they are relegated from the Premier League next season.
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Top 3 Predictions
Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford
- 25.44 %
Crystal Palace 1-2 Watford
- 16.92 %
Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford
- 6.55 %
|England - Championship (ENG2)||27 May 2013||Crystal Palace 1 - Watford 0|
|England - Championship (ENG2)||8 Feb 2013||Watford 2 - Crystal Palace 2|
|England - Championship (ENG2)||18 Aug 2012||Crystal Palace 2 - Watford 3|
|England - Championship (ENG2)||15 Oct 2011||Watford 0 - Crystal Palace 2|
|8 Mar 2014||Crystal Palace 0 - Southampton 1||EPL|
|2 Mar 2014||Swansea City 1 - Crystal Palace 1||EPL|
|22 Feb 2014||Crystal Palace 0 - Manchester United 2||EPL|
|8 Feb 2014||Crystal Palace 3 - West Bromwich Albion 1||EPL|
|2 Feb 2014||Arsenal FC 2 - Crystal Palace 0||EPL|
Williams is another player destined for the top division even if his team do not make it through Monday's clash at Wembley. Ian Holloway compared the 19-year-old Welshman to David Silva earlier this season and he has already been linked with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea. Williams was hugely impressive as a substitute for Gareth Bale when Wales played Scotland in March, earning a full debut against Croatia days later, and is likely to operate from the left-hand side of Palace's three-pronged attack.
Watford's last four Players of the Season - Adrian Mariappa, Danny Graham, Tom Cleverley and Tommy Smith - have gone on to play top-flight football the campaign after collecting the accolade and, whether back in Italy with parent club Udinese or in England, few would bet against Abdi keeping the run going. The Switzerland international has scored 12 goals and assisted in eight others from an attacking midfield position and has played a significant part in the success of Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney up front.
Watford finished the Championship season five points ahead of Crystal Palace and, despite their impressive away victory against Brighton and the threat of Wilfried Zaha, the Hornets should be regarded as favourites here. Ian Holloway's team plundered 52 goals at Selhurst Park in the league but only 21 away from home, where they won just six games out of 23. Watford, victorious in 12 on the road, should be more suited to neutral turf and with Glenn Murray missing for Palace, it is difficult to look past the deadly attacking trio of Matej Vydra, Troy Deeney and Almen Abdi.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed