Noel Whelan has predicted that Leeds United will win the play-offs and get back to the Premier League.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the Championship expert and ex-United striker claims Leeds will overcome Derby County in their semi-final and Aston Villa will triumph against West Brom in the other clash.
He then expects Marcelo Bielsa’s side to end the club’s run of play-off failures by overcoming Villa in the final at Wembley at the end of the month.
Whelan recognises there will be plenty of twists and turns over the next five matches before it is known who will join Norwich City and Sheffield United in the Premier League next season.
“All the games will be close to call as they are four quality sides with top players and coaches,” Whelan told Football Insider. “Over the two legs, I think Leeds have enough to beat Derby and go through into the final.
“In the Midlands derby, Villa are my favourites. Both teams have formidable strike forces and you are talking about real strikers on both sides – Dwight Gayle, Tammy Abraham, Jay Rodriguez – but I see Villa joining Leeds in the final.
“My heart is telling me Leeds will win. I don’t want any more disappointments in the play-off finals. It’s been heartache so many times before and now is the time for that to end.”
The first legs of the two semis take place tomorrow (Saturday) at Villa Park and Pride Park, with the second legs at the Hawthorns next Tuesday and then Elland Road 24 hours later.
The final will be played at Wembley on Monday, 27 May.