Tough for Blackpool, Birmingham, West Ham & Cardiff - Ian Holloway

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway believes the Championship play-offs are too close to call.

The Seasiders face Birmingham in the semi-finals, while West Ham will take on Cardiff.

"It's a fantastic achievement to get in the play-offs, but it's going to be tough," Holloway said.

"To have Birmingham and West Ham in there, and Cardiff who certainly consider themselves a big club, who's going to win? I don't know."

Blackpool earned promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs two seasons ago and Holloway, who saw his side end their regular season with a 2-2 draw at Millwall, is hoping for a similar end result this time around.

"There are a lot of big teams who aren't in the play-offs but we will give it our best shot, we will try to win every single half of football we can," he said.

"Now let's go and take on a really good side in Birmingham. It will be interesting to see which way it goes."

Birmingham's victory over champions Reading saw them leapfrog Blackpool in the final Championship table, and manager Chris Hughton insists his focus remains on the Blackpool matches despite some off-field problems.

The manager faces the prospect of being unable to strengthen his squad until the end of July because of Birmingham's inability to publish their 2010-11 accounts on time.

"At the moment the thought of playing in the two play-offs is taking up 100% of my thoughts," he said.

"We know there is an issue but it is not on my mind at the moment.

"There is an emphasis from everyone at the club to try to get through to the final and get back into the Premier League. That will take up all of our efforts."

Cardiff City left it until the final day to seal their play-off spot, for a third season in a row, and Bluebirds manager Malky Mackay hopes the club's Carling Cup exploits, when they reached the final, will stand them in good stead.

"We are 10 games unbeaten going into the play-offs so there is real momentum there," he said.

"I have been in the semi-final situation as a player with West Ham, Norwich and Watford. It is about staying calm and having a game plan.

"This group of players have already been through this sort of thing this season, with the Carling Cup semi-final and final, where there was preparation and planning needed. That will benefit us."

West Ham, who finished third, are favourites to win promotion from the play-offs, and manager Sam Allardyce is confident they can live up to their billing despite being pipped to automatic promotion by Southampton on the final day.

"We have to lick our wounds and get ready for the vital games ahead of us," Allardyce said.

"We still have three games to win, and we will do it."

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