Move over Champions League final. Now it's time for the richest game in world football: the English Championship playoff final.
Watford and Crystal Palace face off, with the winner receiving the last spot in the Premier League for next season. Cardiff City and Hull City have already booked their places via finishing first and second in the league table.
It would be interesting to see Watford in the Premier League. Since being purchased by the Pozzo family, the club has been able to rely on loan players other clubs wouldn't have the opportunity to use. It's essentially become a feeder club for Udinese.
Still, Watford has done very well and came within minutes of qualifying for the Premier League outright, losing in heartbreaking fashion to Leeds United on the final day of the season.
Here's all the information you need for this massive Championship fixture.
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
When: Monday, May 27, at 10 a.m. ET
Watch: beIN Sport
What's at Stake
The amount of money on the line in this match is unfathomable. According to Goal.com's Oliver Platt:
The Championship play-off final is often referred to as the most valuable game in football as the winners will pocket around £120 million, according to Deloitte, even if they are relegated from the Premier League next season.
The extremes in this match are through the roof. One team is going to jump into the money pit that is the Premier League, with the other stuck in the slog that is the Championship for the 2013/14 season.
Even if the club is relegated from the Premier League after a season, there are the parachute payments to fall back on as it travels back to the Championship.
Watford spent a season in the Premier League in 2006/07 but finished bottom of the table that year. It's the only year since 2000 the club has been in the top flight of English football. Crystal Palace made it to the Premier League in 2004 only to drop out after a season as well.
For both clubs' supporters, a return to the top flight will be long overdue.
What They're Saying
Palace manager Ian Holloway has been in the Premier League before, with Blackpool. The Tangerines were eventually relegated and Holloway was sacked. Now, Sky Sports reports that he's relishing the chance of a Premier League return with a new club:
"It is just great," Holloway said. "It really hurt me being relegated because you wonder if you will ever get it again.
"But I had no real doubt I would get another chance. I would have been letting my club down if I hadn't."
Gianfranco Zola made it known that both he and Watford ownership have grand plans for the club should it earn promotion, according to Jack Pitt-Brooke of The Independent:
They want Watford to become an established team in the Premier League and with time we are going to be. Our ambition is to be a European team. There is a long way to go. Don't forget that we are in the Championship. That is the type of people they are.
Crystal Palace Player to Watch: Wilfried Zaha
Win or lose, Wilfried Zaha will be playing in the Premier League next season, with his move to Manchester United sealed during the January transfer window. As a part of the deal, Zaha remained with Crystal Palace until the end of the season—it was a huge boost for the club.
If you're looking for the best player in the Championship, look no further than Zaha. He has been a constant threat on the wing and Palace's best attacker.
He scored six goals and added during the Championship season. Zaha's two goals against Brighton were the difference in Palace's 2-0 aggregate win in the first round of the playoff.
Palace will need Zaha at his best in order to finish the trek back to the Premier League.
Watford Player to Watch: Troy Deeney
What a story Troy Deeney is. Last summer, he was beginning a 10-month prison sentence. Zola gave the striker a second chance, and the move has paid off in spades.
Deeney has recorded 20 goals and 10 assists across the Championship season and playoffs. It would be an even more storybook ending should Deeney fire home the winner that gets Watford into the Premier League.
He's going to be Watford's best threat in the attack, so expect to see him blanketed for much of the match. Still, with Deeney's run of form this season, he should be able to have a good chance on goal or at the very least set his teammate up to score a vital goal.
It's so hard to try and actually determine the winner of this match. The entire Championship season has been so unpredictable. Teams have gone from the outhouse to the penthouse in a matter of seconds.
Palace did well to knock off Brighton, but Watford just look too good right now. If Jack Parham makes the save against Ross McCormack, it would be in the Premier League already.
The Hornets really rode their luck in the second leg against Leicester City, but it was about time they were on the right side of a thrilling finish.
Watford's attack is just too irresistible to ignore. The club scored 85 goals during the season, the most in the Championship. Between Deeney and Matej Vydra, Watford should be able to find the goals necessary to get past Crystal Palace, despite the best efforts of Zaha.
Prediction: Watford 2, Crystal Palace 1
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