Watford and Palace chase Premier jackpot

Two days after Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund fight it out for Europe's most prestigious club prize at Wembley, Watford and Crystal Palace will take to the same pitch chasing an even more financially lucrative reward.

Monday's Championship play-off final will determine which team will be promoted to the Premier League, a feat analysts estimate to be worth 120 million pounds.

Both clubs are pretty familiar with the top flight with Watford last playing there in 2007 and Palace in 2005 and they are seeking to join Cardiff City and Hull City, who were automatically promoted as champions and runners-up.

While Cardiff and Hull got there the easier way, the challenge for Watford, who finished third in the table, and Palace, who came fifth, was a two-legged play-off semi-final before Monday's Wembley showpiece in front of a sell-out crowd.

For the neutrals, the play-off final is one of the highlights of the English season, often producing superb games with plenty of drama and goals, but for the fans of the clubs involved it is a day of heartbreak or elation and every other emotion along the way.

For the winner, the match represents a bumper pay day with business advisory firm Deloitte saying a club can expect a revenue boost of at least 120 million pounds, around half of which is from an improved television deal for the world's richest domestic league.

The other half is based on the fact that even if the club is relegated after one season, they will receive parachute payments over the following four seasons of around 60 million.

While whoever wins the Champions League final on Saturday will earn far more in terms of glory, the victors will receive just 10.5 million euros according to UEFA.

Even their season's income from Europe's elite club competition, expected to be around 60-70 million euros, falls well short of what is ultimately on offer to the play-off winners.

A financial boost would be huge for Palace three years after a group of local businessmen rescued the club from administration, while for Watford it would be an immediate reward for Italy's Pozzo family who bought the club last year.

"The continued increase in the value of promotion to the Premier League provides newly promoted clubs the opportunity to make strategic investment on and off the pitch," Deloitte senior consultant Adam Bull said in a statement.

POPULAR FACE

Whoever wins on Monday, the Premier League can be assured a popular face will be making a return as both clubs boast managers who have earned plenty of admirers from previous spells in the top flight.

Palace boss Ian Holloway was always one of the most quotable managers when he was in charge of Blackpool's rollercoaster ride in the 2010/11 season, producing gems such as "Oh deary me, our castle was made of sand" when the team from the seaside resort were relegated.

His opposite number Gianfranco Zola captivated Premier League crowds with his mesmerising skills as a striker during a seven-year spell with Chelsea.

Two years at the helm of West Ham United in the top flight ended unhappily but the Italian has made a big impact at Watford, albeit thanks to controversial loan signings from parent club Udinese.

Experienced Holloway is appearing in his third play-off final in four years, having won with Blackpool in 2010 and lost with them last season.

"I can bring calmness to a situation. I didn't used to have patience," he told BBC radio this month.

Even though Palace's top scorer Glenn Murray is sidelined after knee surgery, their cause should be helped by Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha, who should be fit to play his final game for the club before moving to the Premier League champions.

The 20-year-old forward, who scored both goals in Palace's 2-0 aggregate win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the semi-finals and has been branded a "genius" by Holloway, has been struggling with an ankle problem which is getting better.

Having only missed out on an automatic promotion berth to Hull on the final day of the season, south-east outfit Watford are favourites and have taken four points from London side Palace this season.

Watford's attack is led by Czech Republic international Matej Vydra, one of the loanees from Serie A's Udinese, and several goals are likely after the two clubs drew 2-2 in February and Watford won 3-2 at Palace in August.


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