EFL play-offs: What are the teams' chances of winning promotion?

Coventry City celebrate promotion
Coventry City won last season's League Two play-offs - the club's first promotion in 51 years

The 2019 English Football League play-offs are under way, with debutants Newport County drawing with Mansfield Town on Thursday in the first League Two semi-final.

It was the first of 12 games across nine days to decide the finalists in the Championship, League One and League Two.

You can follow live text commentary of every EFL play-off match on the BBC Sport website and app.

As the action commences, here are a few interesting statistical facts and match-ups to look for.

Record eighth second tier play-offs for Derby

Stephen Pearson celebrates for Derby
Stephen Pearson scored the only goal as Derby beat West Brom in the 2007 Championship final - the only time the Rams have been promoted through the play-offs

Derby County will have their eighth attempt at winning promotion to the Premier League from the play-offs, equalling the record set by Ipswich Town in 2015.

All but one of Ipswich's attempts ended at the first hurdle, with the Portman Road side's only final appearance in 2000 resulting in promotion after a 4-2 win against Barnsley.

Derby have made it through to the final in three of their previous seven appearances.

In 2007, they earned promotion with a 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion at Wembley, a final which could be repeated this year.

But the Rams followed that up with the worst top-flight campaign in history, managing just 11 points during the 2007-08 season.

Most second tier play-off appearances
AppsClubYearsFinalsPromotion
8Ipswich Town1987, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 201511
8Derby County1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, 2014, 2016, 2018, 20193*1*
7Crystal Palace1989, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2008, 201354
6Leicester City1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2010, 201342
5Wolves1995, 1997, 2002, 2003, 200711
5Birmingham City1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 201211
5Watford1989, 1999, 2006, 2008, 201332
5Reading1995, 2003, 2009, 2011, 201730

*2019 play-off semi-finals still to be played

Source: Gracenote

History favours Villa - if they get past West Brom

Both Aston Villa - losing finalists last season - and Derby, beaten in the semi-finals a year ago, are back in the Championship play-offs - the first time since 2011 that two teams have appeared in successive Championship play-off competitions.

That year, 2010 losing finalists Cardiff City joined Nottingham Forest, who had been eliminated in the semi-finals a year earlier, in the play-offs but both lost at the first hurdle.

Villa are the 11th losing finalists to return to the second tier play-offs a year later. Six of the previous teams to do so have been knocked out at the semi-final stage on their return, but four have reached the final for a second successive season.

Three of those four - Leicester in 1994, Crystal Palace in 1997 and West Ham in 2005 - won the play-offs a year after losing in the final.

Aston Villa fans
Aston Villa fans will be hoping for a more enjoyable experience of the play-offs after losing to Fulham in last season's Championship final

If Villa reach the Championship play-off final this year, they will have a great chance of promotion based on historical precedent.

Eleven teams have reached a second successive Football League play-off final after losing the first one, with nine of those teams winning promotion at the second attempt.

Leicester City (First Division, 1993) and Exeter City (League Two, 2018) are the exceptions. Teams returning to a play-off final 12 months after losing one therefore have an 89% success rate in the second final.

Swindon (1990), Ipswich (2000), Bolton (2001), Birmingham (2002), Wolves (2003) and Fulham (2018) all won their finals, although Swindon were unable to take up their place in the top flight because of financial irregularities.

Play-off semi-final record attendance under threat

On 27 April, when Sunderland played Portsmouth in League One, 41,129 people turned up to watch. If Sunday's first leg at the Stadium of Light attracts a comparable audience, it will be the highest ever attendance for a Football League play-off semi-final despite being between two third-tier teams.

However, with Aston Villa and Leeds United also present in this year's play-offs, look out for large attendances for Villa against West Brom on Saturday, and Leeds against Derby on 15 May.

Villa, Sunderland and Leeds have been the hosts of the four biggest play-off semi-final crowds so far, and their home matches this season are all likely to feature amongst the top 10 play-off semi-final attendances of all-time.

Villa's record of 40,505 against Middlesbrough, set last season, is likely to be beaten by at least one of this trio of matches.

The host of nine of the 10 biggest play-off semi-final attendances progressed to the play-off finals. The exception is Sunderland in 2004, who lost the second leg at the Stadium of Light on penalties to Crystal Palace after a 4-4 aggregate score. Palace's goal at Sunderland was scored in the 90th minute of the second leg.

Top five EFL play-off semi-final attendances
YearFixtureDivisionAtt
2018Aston Villa v MiddlesbroughChampionship40,505
1998Sunderland v Sheffield UnitedDivision One (now Championship)40,092
2008Leeds United v CarlisleLeague One36,297
2006Leeds United v PrestonChampionship35,239
2012West Ham v CardiffChampionship34,682

Source: The Agony & the Ecstasy: A Comprehensive History of the Football League play-offs, by Richard Foster

Both EFL Trophy finalists make play-offs - again

Portsmouth celebrate winning the Checkatrade Trophy
Portsmouth beat Sunderland on penalties in the Checkatrade Trophy final in March - now they meet again in the play-offs

Given the likely attendance on Saturday and the clubs' histories, the League One play-off match between Sunderland and Portsmouth is arguably as big as either of the Championship semi-finals.

The match is a repeat of this year's EFL Trophy final, making this season the fourth in which both of that competition's finalists have also reached the play-offs.

Both EFL Trophy finalists in 1992, 1993 and 2018 all qualified for the play-offs - but none of those six teams won promotion.

However, the losing finalists in the EFL Trophy have a better play-off record than the winners, with four of the six losing finalists to also make the play-offs gaining promotion this way.

Of the 11 EFL Trophy winners prior to Portsmouth to also qualify for the play-offs, only two - Grimsby Town in 1998 and Barnsley in 2016 - have also won their play-off final.

Fifth place in League One has least play-off success

Leeds head coach Marcel Bielsa
Will third place in the Championship be lucky in the play-offs for Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa?

A worrying omen for Sunderland supporters is that their team finished fifth in League One.

This position has been the least successful historically since the current play-off format was introduced in 1989.

Only three teams - Stoke City in 2002, Sheffield Wednesday in 2005 and Barnsley in 2006 - have finished fifth in League One and gone on to win the play-offs.

Fifth position (or equivalent) in League Two has produced only four play-off winners and sixth place in the Championship has ended up winning the play-offs just five times. Forest Green Rovers and Derby County occupied those two "unlucky" spots at the end of this season.

Fourth place in League Two has produced the most play-off winners since 1989, with 14 teams finishing in that position going on to win the play-offs. Mansfield Town will look to improve that record this time.

Next best is third place in the Championship, the position in which Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds ended the season, with 11 winners.

Who will make it?

Using the Euro Club Index - a ranking of all European teams - to estimate the chances of progress in this year's play-offs, West Brom, Charlton and Newport are the most likely winners. However, all three play-off competitions are tightly matched.

The Baggies are the favourites to be promoted from the Championship, with the Euro Club Index giving them nearly a 30% chance of doing so. Derby are currently the favourites to join the Baggies in this year's Championship play-off final.

Championship play-off prospects
ClubTo reach finalTo win promotion
West Brom53.4%29.8%
Derby County58.5%28.0%
Aston Villa46.6%25.1%
Leeds41.5%17.2%

Source: Euro Club Index

In League One, Charlton are currently the favourites to go up via the play-offs. Their strong favouritism at this stage is due to the weakness of their semi-final opponents Doncaster. If Charlton and Sunderland both reach the final, Sunderland will be the favourites to win.

League One play-off prospects
ClubTo reach finalTo win promotion
Charlton62.1%31.5%
Sunderland54.0%29.1%
Portsmouth46.0%23.1%
Doncaster37.9%16.4%

Source: Euro Club Index

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