Championship Play-off Final: Huddersfield vs Reading
It’s the richest game in football, with two teams battling it out for the right to ply their trade in the promised land of the Premier League. Infogol provides analysis and betting tips for the big game between Huddersfield and Reading.
Underdogs vs Overachievers
If you had said at the beginning of August that Huddersfield and Reading would be contesting the play-off final, no-one would have taken you very seriously. Yet here we are, and it’s the Terriers facing the Royals at Wembley.
With one of the smallest budgets in the Championship, Huddersfield have surprised many throughout this season, not just with their results, but with the consistency of their performances. They haven’t budged from the top six nearly all season and David Wagner and his players deserve a lot of credit.
Reading finished in 17th place last season and their turnaround has been rather unexpected. Jaap Stam was the man tasked with doing the turning and he has done some job, but they appear to have been fortunate all season long. Indeed, the ‘sparkline’ below shows that Reading have had a negative rolling xGD for most of the season, hence the ‘overachievers’ tag.
The Terriers finished the season in 5th place after Wagner decided to rest some of his players once a play-off place was secure. His fresh squad did just enough to beat Sheffield Wednesday over the two legs, needing penalties, but a two-leg aggregate expected goals (minus penalties) total of 2.91 vs 1.22 in Huddersfield’s favour suggests they deserved to make it through.
According to the Infogol model, Huddersfield were the seventh best team in the Championship. They conceded very few chances and had one of the lower accumulative xG totals, often winning by a single goal having not created many high-quality chances themselves.
There have been a few stand-out players for Huddersfield this season, the obvious ones being top-scorers Nahki Wells (10 goals) and Elias Kachunga (12 goals) – with the pair contributing the 33% of Huddersfield’s total xG (53.8). On-loan central midfielder Aaron Mooy has received plenty of plaudits this season, too, and rightly so. He has been an integral part of this Huddersfield team having played in all but one match and is Huddersfield’s third best attacking player, with an expected goal involvement of 9.79.
Another player that has had a great season is full-back and Captain Tommy Smith. He is Huddersfield’s best creator, contributing 7.13 xG assists over the course of the season, and also ranks as the Terrier’s third best defensive player this season according to Infogol’s defensive metrics.
Reading finished the season strongly, cementing a 3rd place finish, and headed into the play-offs after winning seven of their last nine league matches.
They won 26 matches in the regular season, 18 of them by a single goal margin. In the most part, they have been fortunate to get that many wins, having regularly been second best in terms of xG in matches.
Reading played Fulham in the semi-finals of the play-offs and got through 2-1 on aggregate in what was a real backs against the wall tie which was dominated by their opponents. In the first leg, Reading mustered just three shots, equating to 0.1 xG, but fortunately for them one of those went in to earn them a draw. A touch-and-go penalty in the second leg gave them a slim advantage, which they held on to and booked their place at Wembley. The aggregate xG over the two legs was 3.43 – 2.24 in Fulham’s favour, with heroics from Reading keeper Ali Al-Habsi playing a huge part in denying Fulham.
The 35-year-old Al-Habsi has been Reading’s stand-out performer and has played in every match this season. An average goalkeeper faced with the on-target attempts aimed at Al-Habsi, would be expected to concede 70 non-penalty/non-own goals, but he let in just 56 (includes play-offs), which could arguably have been the difference between Reading finishing in the top six or not.
It is clear by looking at the chart below who Reading’s main threats will be in this game. Yann Kermorgant is their leading scorer with 19 goals, including 10 in his last 11 matches. His non-penalty xG total was just 10.42 and his actual non-penalty total was 16, suggesting he was slightly fortunate to get so many, Infogol calculating that the chances of this happening were only 6.5%. Still, if Reading are to prevail, he will be key and he looks their most likely scorer.
Despite Reading being billed as ‘overachievers’, take nothing away from the job Jaap Stam has done, as he seems to have found a way of doing things that gets results. However, in what is expected to be a close game between two teams playing a similar style of football, Huddersfield have a slight edge, with Infogol giving a 39% probability of them winning in 90 minutes. The Infogol Analyst expects both teams to take the chances that come their way, arriving at Both Teams to Score as the best bet in the match.
Huddersfield win @ 13/10
BTTS @ 21/20
Kermorgant anytime scorer @ 9/4