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EFL Championship playoffs: Who's Africa's best bet?

The EFL Championship playoffs offer the sides that finished between 3rd and 6th in English football's second tier the chance to reach the Premier League after missing out on automatic promotion.

The four teams still standing will contest two-legged semi finals - home and away - before the winners meet in Wembley in the playoff final on May 29.

There's African interest throughout the Championship, and already, a handful of the continent's star names have secured promotion to the top flight with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City.

With many of the continent's players set to contest the playoffs, KweséESPN assess their prospects of ending a long and gruelling campaign with a spot in the promised land.

Fulham are arguably the best placed to secure a Premier League return after just missing out on the automatic spots after suffering a rare defeat against struggling Birmingham City in their final match of the regular season.

Wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon, who has West African origins, is one to watch, having become the first player outside the Premier League to be nominated for the Young Player of the Year award.

On-loan wideman Sheyi Ojo may not have done enough this season to suggest he's ready to challenge for a starting spot at parent club Liverpool, but it's been an encouraging campaign nonetheless and he'll return to the squad after a recent injury.

Floyd Ayite has also recovered from his hamstring injury and could start in the semi, while Neeskens Kebano is another offensive option.

Franco-Mauritanian hitman Aboubakar Kamara has seven goals so far this term, but has netted just once since mid-January.

Fulham's cabal of African players must, however, be wary, as there's a danger for teams who finish third that the hangover of missing out on automatic promotion can affect them in the playoffs.

Nonetheless, the Cottagers have won 18 of their last 26 games, and must be considered favourites for promotion.

Aston Villa: Defensively, Villa are solid, and they'll be confident they have enough to down Middlesbrough in their semi final.

Christopher Samba of Congo-Brazzaville is a familiar face for Premier League viewers, and is part of a formidable defensive unit that includes John Terry and Sam Johnstone.

World Cup-bound Ahmed Elmohamady can be a key attacking presence from a wing-back role, but Ghana's Albert Adomah has played as big a part as any as the Villains have turned their season around.

The wideman has netted 14 goals and contributed five assists this term, weighing in with braces against Barnsley, Queens Park Rangers and Ipswich Town.

He only featured twice in the Prem for Middlesbrough before being sold following their promotion, and surely deserves another shot at the big time.

Jonathan Kodjia, by contrast, has endured a disappointing campaign, netting just once after striking 38 over the previous two seasons, but has made his return from an ankle injury.

Middlesbrough weren't even expected to be in the playoffs after an underwhelming start to the season, but have turned their fortunes round after the appointment of ex-West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Pulis.

The Welshman may be renowned for his organisational skills and conservative football, but he's getting the best out of fitful Hispano-Malian wideman Adama Traore.

The former Barcelona wonderkid has contributed 10 assists and five goals so far this term, and has the potential to take Villa down almost single-handedly.

Rudy Gestede (Benin) is a towering option for Pulis off the bench, but Congolese forward Britt Assombalonga, who has 15 goals this season, is best placed to lead the line.

Derby County: After a nervy and barren run in April, Derby secured their spot in the playoffs after winning their last game of the season and going unbeaten in three.

They've struggled away, but the form of Matej Vydra - the Championship's top scorer on 21 goals - gives them hope of usurping the sides that finished ahead of them.

There's minimal African interest at Pride Park, although experienced centre-back Curtis Davies is eligible for Sierra Leone, and announced in 2014 that he'd rather represent the Leone Stars than the Republic of Ireland.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.


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