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The £170m game: What's at stake in the Championship play-offs?

Across the next eight days, four clubs will compete for the most lucrative prize in English football: promotion to the Premier League.

Burnley and Middlesbrough have already sealed their place in the top flight next season as Championship winners and runners-up respectively, with the Clarets bouncing back from relegation at the first attempt and Boro ending a seven-year wait to return to the promised land.

Brighton & Hove Albion, Hull City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday have earned the chance to join them by winning the end-of-season playoffs. Brighton, in third, take on sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday over two legs, with Hull and Derby meeting in the battle between fourth and fifth.

The victors in those two ties will then face each other in a one-off fixture at Wembley for promotion. Here's everything you need to know about what promises to be five captivating matches...


THE REWARDS

Deloitte claim promotion to the Premier League this season will be worth at least £170 million - and that's assuming the promoted side comes straight back down. They estimate clubs can count on an additional £95m in revenue per season in the top flight plus £75m-worth of parachute payments across the following two seasons if they are relegated.

If a promoted team survives the Premier League, things get even more lucrative. Stay afloat for a second campaign and that £170m figure rises to £290m, with clubs promoted this year guaranteed a minimum of £40m more than was the case in 2015 due to the new television rights deal due to kick in for the 2016-17 season.

The only team in line to receive less than this is Hull, as they are already pocketing parachute payments following their relegation in 2015-16 - but promotion would still be worth a handy £110m extra over the next three seasons.


THE CONTENDERS

Brighton & Hove Albion: Still in with a shout of automatic promotion going into a final-day decider against second-placed Middlesbrough, but needed to win and could only draw 1-1 away from home. Seagulls boss Chris Hughton has overseen a rise from 20th place last season to third this term having previously won this division with Newcastle United and steered a financially troubled Birmingham City side into the play-offs. The loss of midfielder Dale Stephens to suspension, however, is a significant blow.

Hull City: The favourites of a few bookmakers despite finishing six points behind Brighton. Hull retained plenty of players with top-level experience after relegation, including 20-goal striker Abel Hernandez, but a patchy spell in February and March derailed their bid for automatic promotion. The low point was a 4-0 defeat to semi-final opponents Derby, who took six points off them without conceding during the regular season.

Derby County: Bizarrely sacked manager Paul Clement in February while sitting in fifth place and appointed academy coach Darren Wassall until the end of the season. Wassall, to his credit, has steadied the ship to keep the Rams in the play-off spots and with Craig Bryson and Will Hughes back they have arguably the best midfield in the league. Whether there is quite the same focus about Derby as the other three sides as they await the appointment of a new permanent manager remains to be seen.

Sheffield Wednesday: The outsiders, but could be a tricky proposition over two legs. Brighton did not have a shot on goal when Wednesday visited the south coast in March and they will heap pressure on Hughton’s side if they can win the first leg at home, where they have lost only once in the league since the first month of the season. Wednesday have mostly accumulated points against the division’s weaker sides but their 3-0 win to seal their play-off spot over nearest rivals Cardiff City was a statement.


THE STARS

Anthony Knockaert: A fan favourite at Leicester City as they won the Championship in 2013-14, but puzzlingly sidelined in the Premier League last season and left for Standard Liege. Brighton brought the skilful, creative winger back to England in January and he has been an immediate hit.

Abel Hernandez: Hull have not lost since August when Hernandez has scored, but he tends to score in streaks. The good news for Tigers fans is that he has bagged four in his last five appearances and looks in prime form heading into the play-offs.

Will Hughes: A Premier League player in waiting. Even more importance will fall on Hughes to be the glue in the Derby midfield in the absence of George Thorne, who suffered a double leg break in the final game of the season against Ipswich Town. Thorne’s absence could mean a deeper role with more defensive responsibility for the 21-year-old.

Fernando Forestieri: The signing of Forestieri (pictured) for a reported fee of around £3m from Watford was a statement of intent from new Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri. Born in Rosario like Lionel Messi and subsequently dubbed ‘Fessi’ by Watford fans, the 26-year-old is not an out-and-out striker but has bagged 15 goals and six assists.


THE DATES

Friday, May 13
Sheffield Wednesday v Brighton (19:45 BST)

Saturday, May 14
Derby County v Hull City (12:30 BST)

Monday, May 16
Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday (19:45 BST)

Tuesday, May 17
Hull City v Derby County (19:45 BST)

The final will take place at Wembley on Saturday, May 28 at 17:00 BST.