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Are the Championship play-offs just a lottery?

Are the clubs heading into the play-offs in the best form the most likely to gain promotion, rather than the highest placed teams?

On Thursday, Derby County beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 in the first match in this season's Championship play-offs. Ironically, it was a fixture that involved the two in-form teams of the division, with the Rams having collected 16 points from their last six matches, and the Seagulls 14.

That is in sharp contrast to the other semi-final tie, which involves two relegated clubs from last season's Premier League. Neither Queens Park Rangers nor Wigan Athletic have great form, with QPR having picked up 10 points and the Latics just six in their respective last six fixtures. Naturally, the money is on the form teams to gain promotion and reach the Premier League.

Looking at the previous 21 seasons, nine of the clubs in the best form leading up to the play-offs have managed to succeed in gaining promotion. In comparison, of the teams that finished third after 46 matches, seven won the the play-offs.Granted, the difference between these statistics are little, but recent history shows that those in form do have a better chance than those who performed better over the regular season. 

However, those finishing sixth have just as good of a chance as those with the worst form. Only four teams who have claimed the last play-off spot have been promoted in of the last 21 year, the same number as those with the worst form. 

Looking at all that, it appears that the better form and the higher you finished in the table mean the more likely you are to be promoted. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Yet, only last season Crystal Palace proved all those statistics wrong by entering the play-offs with the worst form and in fifth position, but they were promoted with a 1-0 win over Watford in the final at Wembley.

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