Championship play-off predictions: Terriers to take first-leg advantage
Huddersfield, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United and Luton are ready to battle it out in the Championship play-offs as they look to join Fulham and Bournemouth in the Premier League.
The Terriers and Hatters were the surprise packages among the top six and they face each other over two legs, starting with Friday's clash at Kenilworth Road.
The other play-off showdown is a heavyweight affair between Forest and the Blades, which kicks off at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Luton vs Huddersfield — away win
Huddersfield were Championship play-off winners in 2017 and can inch closer to a Wembley return by defeating Luton in Bedfordshire.
The Terriers performed far above pre-season expectations to finish third and they approach the play-offs with confidence after taking 19 points from their last seven matches.
Boss Carlos Corberan had a modest budget to work with last summer but assembled a team that has grown in stature over the course of the campaign.
Centre-forward Danny Ward has led the way with 14 league goals, his highest tally in 13 seasons as a professional, midfielder Lewis O'Brien has caught the eye with a series of all-action displays and wing-back Harry Toffolo has five goals in his past seven games.
But it has been a team effort from a remarkably consistent side, who have lost just twice in their last 26 league matches.
Luton have also flourished within tight financial constraints and are fully focused on completing a remarkable rise from the National League to the Premier League within eight years.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones has done a remarkable job but a long injury list just never seems to shrink.
Top scorer Elijah Adebayo, winger Fred Onyedinma and long-serving midfielders Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Luke Berry were among the key players missing for last Saturday's 1-0 success at home to Reading.
Of those, only Adebayo and Onyedinma have any chance of appearing in either leg of the play-off semi-final.
Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forest — draw
Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest played out two 1-1 draws during the regular Championship season and there may be nothing to choose between them after the first leg of their semi-final.
The most recent meeting between the sides was an early March encounter at Bramall Lane when Ryan Yates' stoppage-time header salvaged a point for Forest.
It was a result and a performance that gave Steve Cooper's side huge confidence and they went on to win nine of their remaining 12 league fixtures.
Forest entered their penultimate league game at Bournemouth with a chance of automatic promotion but failed to seize the moment and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat.
But Cooper's players are likely to have gained great experience from taking part in such a high-pressure match and they showed their appetite for the biggest occasions in the FA Cup earlier this season by registering superb home wins over Arsenal and Leicester.
The Reds will fancy their chances in next Tuesday's second leg at the City Ground, so the onus will be on the Blades to take the initiative at home.
The South Yorkshire club finished the season on a three-game winning sequence, culminating in a 4-0 success at home to champions Fulham, but there are ongoing concerns over the fitness of 14-goal striker Billy Sharp, who has made just one substitute appearance across the last seven weeks.
The hosts may have to rely on a solid defence if their talisman misses out and a more cautious approach could increase the chances of a first-leg stalemate.