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Championship play-off guide: Brighton, Hull, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday

Who will stay cool under pressure? Who is going up?

We examine the Sky Bet Championship play-offs as Brighton, Hull, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday battle it out for a place in the Premier League.

Who? What? When? How?

With the help of Ian Holloway, we analyse each team's chances of promotion to the Premier League as they battle to hit the £170m jackpot.

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The Football League sponsor are top price on all four teams in the play-off outright here.

Semi-final 1: Sheffield Wednesday/Brighton (First leg 2-0)

Leg 2: Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday - Monday, May 16 (Sky Sports 1 HD from 7.30pm) 

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Sheffield Wednesday 

Manager: Carlos Carvalhal

Final position: 6th (74 points)

Recent form: LDDDWL

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Highlights of the Championship play-off semi-final first leg between Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton, which ended 2-0 to the hosts

Season summary: The Hillsborough faithful can finally start to dream again. They are just three games away from ending their 16-year hiatus from the top tier of English football.

Owner Dejphon Chansiri has cleared the £15million debts at the club and loosened the purse strings to fund a savvy recruitment drive which has attracted quality attacking players.

Since hammering Wolves 4-1 in late December, they haven't looked back, losing just three of the following 17 games. Automatic promotion was a possibility with six games left, but the relentless winning run of the top three plus a blip in form put pay to that chance.

Play-off history: Winners (2005)

Ollie's key man: Barry Bannan: "The little genius! He makes Sheffield Wednesday tick from midfield. If given the space he can run a game for you. He's been sensational this season."

Barry Bannan
Image: Barry Bannan can run a game from midfield for Sheffield Wednesday, according to Ollie

Brighton

The manager: Chris Hughton 

Final position: 3rd (89 points)

Recent form: WWWWDD

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Carlos Carvalhal was very happy after Sheffield Wednesday's 2-0 first-leg victory over Brighton

Season summary: Although they fell at the final hurdle against Middlesbrough, that should not detract from a remarkable season for the Seagulls. It is easy to forget that they flirted with relegation last campaign, finishing 20th.

A record-breaking run of 21 games unbeaten laid their marker down for and they finished with a flourish too, racking up a 14-game unbeaten sequence.

To reach 89 points and not make the top two (lost out on goal difference) is a unique and potentially deflating occurrence. Will that affect them heading into the end-of-season shootout? 

Play-off history: Winners (1991, 2004). Beaten semi-finalists (2013, 2014) 

Ollie's key man: Beram Kayal: "There is a big responsibility on his shoulders with his partner in crime Dale Stephens suspended, but I think he'll thrive on it. He's been one of the signings of the season."

Charlton Athletic's Callum Harriott (right) and Brighton and Hove Albion's Beram Kayal battle during the Sky Bet Championship match at The Valley, Charlton
Image: Beram Kayal (left) has been one of the signings of the season for Brighton, says Ollie

Semi-final 2: Derby/Hull (First leg 0-3)

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Highlights of Hull's 3-0 win at Derby in the first leg

Leg 2: Hull v Derby - Tuesday, May 17 (Sky Sports 2 HD from 7.30pm) 

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Derby County

Manager: Darren Wassall

Final position: 5th (78 points)

Recent form: WWWDDL

Season summary: A mixed bag of a campaign. New head coach Paul Clement looked to building an easy-on-the-eye team capable of winning the title but a wobble in form and a breakdown in communication with the owner lead to Clement's dismissal in February.

Following their incomprehensible implosion last season, it looked as though a similar fate was awaiting them as they dropped to sixth in March. But new boss Darren Wassall galvanised his troops to comfortably nail a play-off place.

Play-off history: Winners (2007). Beaten finalists (1994, 2014). Beaten semi-finalists (2005).

Ollie's key man: Tom Ince: "He has the skills to come alive in the play-offs, like he did for me at Blackpool, scoring at Wembley in the final. He's a match-winner." 

Tom Ince celebrates with Johnny Russell
Image: Tom Ince (right) has performed in a play-off final before

Hull City

Manager: Steve Bruce

Final position: 4th (83 points)

Recent form: WWDWLW

Season summary: It seems from the outside that last year's Premier League relegation hasn't had too much long-standing damage on Hull City.

Barring their woeful run of 10 games without a win in March/April, they have been knocking on the promotion door all season, trading at odds-on to go up for most of the campaign.

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Steve Bruce says Derby's limited attacking play was testament to Hull in their 3-0 first-leg win at the iPro Stadium

It is a squad packed with Premier League quality, who conceded only 12 goals at home all season. 

Play-off history: Winners (2008). Beaten semi-finalists (2001).

Ollie's key man: Robert Snodgrass: "He looks to be peaking at the right time following his injury nightmares. When fully fit, he is a Premier League-class player who has the ability to shine on the big stage."

Hull City's Robert Snodgrass celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute, Hull v Wolves, Sky Bet Championship
Image: Hull City's Robert Snodgrass is a big-game player, in Ollie's opinion

Ollie's first-leg prediction: "I was worried about Derby's mentality earlier this season, but they've turned a corner in that regard. On their day, they can wipe the floor with anyone.

"This is a tough test for Hull, who I'm shocked didn't finish in the top two. They have relied on Abel Hernandez to score their goals this season - no one else has chipped in regularly - and they have slipped up in too many winnable games.

"Both these teams have unbelievable talent on show. This game could be any scoreline if there is an early goal, especially now George Thorne is missing for Derby. He gives his back four plenty of protection.

"In their last seven league games, both teams have scored a total of 28 goals. I fancy a thriller here with Derby just edging it."

OLLIE PREDICTS: 3-2 (Sky Bet odds 33/1)

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