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Kylian Mbappé decides to stay at PSG instead of joining Real Madrid

French striker Kylian Mbappé is set to extend his stay at PSG after speculation he would join Real Madrid (Author: Gardener)

Kylian MbappéKylian Mbappé has sensationally turned down the opportunity to join Real Madrid and will instead sign a new three-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain after months of speculation about his future. The French striker called Florentino Pérez on Saturday to share his decision after deciding against a move to La Liga despite holding positive talks with the Spanish champions just last week. It is believed that Mbappé wanted to explain to the Real president why he had decided to stay at his hometown club before it surfaced in the media. Mbappé's mother Fayza said on Friday that her son had received almost identical offers from both clubs. Mbappé said last week his decision would be announced "well before" he joins France for Nations League games in June. “I will communicate my decision very quickly; it's almost over," he said. Mbappé joined PSG from Monaco in 2017 for a deal worth up to €180m and has established himself as one of the world's best players. PSG rejected several offers from Madrid for him last summer, the latest worth €200m on deadline day, and have tried to persuade him to continue with the club. Mbappé scored for PSG in both games of this season's Champions League defeat by Madrid. PSG sporting director Leonardo admitted last August that Mbappé wanted to leave but said Madrid's initial offers didn't live up to their assessment and that they weren't ready to do business in the last week of the window. But this latest setback is a major blow for Carlo Ancelotti's side as they prepare to face Liverpool in next week's Champions League final in Mbappé's hometown. Madrid have secured a remarkable free transfer and a deal to bring in defender Antonio Rudiger when his contract at Chelsea ends and are on the verge of extending Luca Modric's contract. PSG have Paul Pogba on their list of potential signings and have held talks over a potential move for the midfielder who is leaving Manchester United. The Italian club have offered a three-year deal with a net salary of around €8m plus bonuses.

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Why Mbappe chose PSG over Real Madrid

Real Madrid were confident Kylian Mbappe would join them this summer but a late change of heart means the world champions will remain in Paris. (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridSo the decision has finally been made – Kylian Mbappe will stay at Paris St-Germain for another three years. Both clubs were willing to pay €150m (£127m) as a registration fee and both accepted he would receive the majority of his image rights and a €40m (£34m) salary. And then, on Friday, after the final game of the season against Real Betis, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez told his club's players in the Bernabeu dressing rooms that Mbappe would not be joining. Real Madrid had long hoped they would sign the French world champions this summer and they were genuinely confident it would be the culmination of a flirtation that began when Mbappe appeared in Monaco's side that secured the Champions League semifinals reached 2017. Even when Mbappe chose PSG back then, his people insisted to Real Madrid that he would one day end up there. The information that I and my Spanish colleagues heard from the Real Madrid side was that they were completely confident - they were convinced that everything was done, they felt that they had his word. He has long admired the club, ever since he had posters of Cristiano Ronaldo in a Real Madrid shirt on his wall as a child. Mbappe's decision isn't solely motivated by money but that played a big part. About a month ago, PSG went very strong and said they would offer him this massive signup fee to stay for two more years. That was her suggestion, and that's when Mbappe said publicly that new elements had come into the equation. His family went back to Madrid and said: "How about a similar registration fee?". The Spanish champions said they would compete. There have also been negotiations over image rights - Real Madrid always want 50% of them, but they had to go below that number to convince Mbappe. French media suggest that PSG might have gone further with the registration fee and offered other benefits that Real Madrid couldn't match (more control over sporting decisions, future deals with Qatar, etc.). PSG's proposal is less dramatic than it sounds because that's what happens with big stars anyway. The connection between this year's World Cup in Qatar and PSG's Qatari owners is clear. Pressure from Qatar has gone to the political authorities in France, and even French President Emmanuel Macron has gotten involved in pressuring Mbappe to stay. Not long ago, I received very strong indications from the PSG entourage that nothing could change his mind about leaving. Even when there was talk of one of his idols, Zinedine Zidane, as coach, it was said it wouldn't be enough to convince him to stay in Paris. But all those impressions changed in the last few weeks and PSG players started to believe he was staying. From a purely footballing point of view, Mbappe might have thought about winning the Ballon d'Or at PSG. To do that, he would need to have a near-perfect Champions League campaign with PSG, score 10 goals or more and win the tournament, struggling with players like Real's Karim Benzema, Erling Haaland, now at Manchester City, and Dusan Vlahovic, at Juve. His age isn't an issue because at 23 he knows he can stay at PSG for a few years and help them win that elusive Champions League trophy, then go to Madrid and spend five or six years there on his to spend the absolute peak. The club's president Florentino Perez has been exposed after months of confidently informing the Madrid side a deal would go through, and waiting for Mbappe's arrival has slowed their squad planning elsewhere. We will likely hear again that this is a confirmation that Madrid and other La Liga teams cannot compete with the so-called 'state clubs' (La Liga president Javier Tebas already mentioned this last week). Real Madrid will try to make it clear that the club did everything they could to land him. Now that Mbappe's decision has been made, you'd think it would be hailed as universally great news by PSG supporters, but remember they've been whistling at their Paris-born striker this season. Of course the fans will celebrate but there is such disharmony outside the club that PSG need to do a lot more to keep everyone happy. Big decisions are still needed, perhaps finding a new manager and director of football, although Mbappe has a very good relationship with current boss Mauricio Pochettino. For now, they've done enough to please Mbappe and they'll hope this is the catalyst for them to finally win the Champions League they're craving so much.

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League One Playoff Finals - live!

Will Sunderland return to the Championship for the first time since 2018 or will Wycombe triumph? Find out with Barry Glendenning (Author: Gardener)

OneTeam news: Alex Neil makes a change to the side that started the second leg of Sunderland's play-off semi-final win over Sheffield Wednesday. Wycombe is unchanged from the side who faced MK Dons in the second leg of their semi-final. As expected, Adebayo Akinfenwa is on the bench. Gareth Ainsworth speaks: "We know very well that everyone is into Sunderland," the Wycombe boss told the BBC. "Everyone is into Sunderland that isn't linked to Wycombe Wanderers, which is brilliant because there's only one team that has something to lose." We've had a brilliant, brilliant season, really. It's so refreshing to know that the fans know what we've done. The players had a fantastic season. You will understand. They will give everything they have. We're embracing things here and we're not just saying "it's just another game" - it's not. It's Wembley and there's a final to play. We know what will happen when the crowd is so large and outnumbered on that front. The lads are in a good place and I can't wait to get off that spot.” Gareth Ainsworth celebrates his side's win over MK Dons in the play-off semi-finals. Photo: Nigel French/PA Alex Neil speaks: "They are really difficult to play against," the Sunderland boss told Sky Sports when asked to rate today's opponents. The only thing they have, which is a great trait on any team, is that they don't have to play really well to be dangerous, they can lull you into the wrong feeling that you're okay, and then they can hurt you . So we know we have to do our best. We have to focus and find that good balance of being solid defensively and carrying a threat the other way. Alex Neil has lost just one of his 17 games in charge of Sunderland since replacing Lee Johnson. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Although Sunderland winger Aiden McGeady has not played since November, he is said to be available and likely to start on the bench. Wycombe manager Garteth Ainsworth is similarly flexible tactically and while his side are expected to start four at the back he could cause an upset. Cult hero Adebayo Akinfenwa is playing his last game as a professional after more than two decades in football and could hardly wish for a more fitting swan song. The now 40-year-old heavyweight forward will be one of Wycombe's substitutes but will almost certainly feature as an impact sub in the truest sense of the word at some point. "He's not going to start and he probably knows it," Ainsworth said during the week. But he'll say that even if he doesn't, what a way to go.” Adebayo Akinfenwa will play in the last game of his career for Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian There is a Championship place up for grabs at Wembley Stadium, where Sunderland fans are expected to outnumber their Wycombe counterparts by two to one this afternoon. Under Gareth Ainsworth, Wycombe is attempting to return to the Championship for the first time after being relegated last season, while Sunderland, who are unbeaten in 15 games under Alex Neill, are looking to end a four-year purgatory third tier after more than a decade of poor ownership and mismanagement. A big game at Wembley kicks off at 15:00 (BST) but in the meantime stay tuned in for all the latest news and team build-up.

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League One Playoff Finals - live!

Will Sunderland return to the Championship for the first time since 2018 or will Wycombe triumph? Find out with Barry Glendenning (Author: Gardener)

OneThis website uses cookies for analytics, personalized content and ads. By continuing to browse this site, you agree to this use. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience. Will Sunderland return to the Championship for the first time since 2018 or will Wycombe triumph? Wycombe Wanderers are also well represented in the stands. Photo: John Walton/PA Over 45,000 Sunderland fans are expected at Wembley today. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Team News: Alex Neil makes a change to the side that started the second leg of Sunderland's play-off semi-final win over Sheffield Wednesday. Wycombe is unchanged from the side who faced MK Dons in the second leg of their semi-final. As expected, Adebayo Akinfenwa is on the bench. So for the last time this season, these are your #chairboys starting XI. — Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcoofficial) May 21, 2022 Full disclosure: As many readers know, your commenter today is a Sunderland fan, but my reporting will be nothing if not scrupulously impartial. Even if it doesn't, it doesn't matter as my influence on the field is zero and would remain so even if I was literally on the field at Wembley. Gareth Ainsworth speaks: "We know very well that everyone is into Sunderland," the Wycombe boss told the BBC. “Everyone is into Sunderland, which is unrelated to Wycombe Wanderers, which is brilliant because there is only one team that has something to lose. “We really had a brilliant, brilliant season. It's so refreshing to know that the fans know what we've done. The players had a fantastic season. You will understand. They will give everything they have. We're embracing things here and we're not just saying "it's just another game" - it's not. It's Wembley and there's a final to play. We know what will happen when the crowd is so large and outnumbered on that front. Gareth Ainsworth celebrates his side's win over MK Dons in the play-off semifinals. Photo: Nigel French/PA Alex Neil speaks: "They are really difficult to play against," the Sunderland boss told Sky Sports when asked to rate today's opponents. The one thing they have, which is a great trait on any team, is that they don't have to play really well to be dangerous. "Even if you play well against them, they're the kind of team that can lull you into the wrong feeling that you're doing well and then they can damage you. So we know we have to do our best. We have to focus and find that good balance of being solid defensively and carrying a threat the other way. Alex Neil has lost just one of his 17 games in charge of Sunderland since replacing Lee Johnson. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA Sunderland will almost certainly enjoy the lion's share of possession, with Wycombe likely to sit back, invite them in and try to catch them at the break. The chairboys are also good at set pieces, hoping for a goal or two from a corner or free kicks around the box. A reminder that VAR will be used for this playoff final despite not being used at any other point in the campaign. Simon Hooper is responsible for maintaining order during tonight's playoff finals. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images/Reuters Associates: Adebayo Akinfenwa: 'I've been told I'm too big for football and I've been playing for 22 years' Both managers have full squads to choose from, their players all fit and free of struggles Suspension. Although Sunderland winger Aiden McGeady has not played since November, he is said to be available and likely to start on the bench. The main question in selecting Alex Neil is whether he will pick three or four at the back. Wycombe manager Garteth Ainsworth is similarly flexible tactically and while his side are expected to start four at the back he could cause an upset. Cult hero Adebayo Akinfenwa is playing his last game as a professional after more than two decades in football and could hardly wish for a more fitting swan song. The heavyweight forward, now 40, will be one of Wycombe's substitutes but will almost certainly emerge as quite literally an impact sub at some point. "He's not going to start and he probably knows that," Ainsworth said later in the week. “But I don't want to be the gaffer who didn't use him for his last game in the home of football. But he'll say that even if he doesn't, what a way to go. Adebayo Akinfenwa will play the final game of his career for Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian There is a Championship place up for grabs at Wembley Stadium, where Sunderland fans are expected to outnumber their Wycombe counterparts by two to one this afternoon. Under Gareth Ainsworth, Wycombe is attempting to return to the Championship for the first time after being relegated last season, while Sunderland, who are unbeaten in 15 games under Alex Neill, are looking to end a four-year purgatory third tier after more than a decade of poor ownership and mismanagement. A big game at Wembley kicks off at 15:00 (BST) but in the meantime stay tuned in for all the latest news and team build-up.

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According to Quinn, Neil was the right choice for Sunderland over Keane

We'll never know if Keane, who brought Sunderland back to the Premier League in 2007, would have picked them up again, but Neil won them within 90 minutes of a Championship return. (Author: Gardener)

NeilNiall Quinn sits back and ponders a sliding door moment in another season of the classic Sunderland drama. In February, it looked like one Roy Keane would make a sensational return to the Stadium of Light dugout. It was a story that sent shockwaves through the club and town. Sunderland's situation was hardly dire when Lee Johnson was sacked after a humiliating 6-0 defeat at Bolton - they were third in League One after all - but the Black Cats were always expected to purr towards promotion. Niall Quinn (left) was the chairman who appointed Roy Keane (right) as Sunderland manager in 2006 - Keane almost returned to the Stadium of Light in February but instead Alex Neil got the job and got the Black Cats into the play-offs led final "Roy is a box-office hit and always has been," says Quinn, who has every right to say he didn't always see eye-to-eye with his former Republic of Ireland team-mate, despite being the chairman who introduced him as first to Sunderland brought Mal in 2006. “But he's doing great in the panditry. Great for the club, for the city, for the players. "Throughout this era there has been a beautiful moment, a beautiful time, where Sunderland was proud. He not only turned the club inside out, he turned the city inside out. Fans were again looking for a magic potion to get this thing back on track and perhaps didn't expect it to be so good under Alex Neil. Keane did not agree to a second spell at Sunderland in February and the club switched to Scottish manager Neil instead. Sunderland celebrate the goal of Patrick Roberts who beat Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off semi-final and brought them back to the Wembley club. Quinn poses with the League One play-off trophy ahead of Sunderland's game against Wycombe at Wembley Stadium on Saturday We'll not know if Keane, who brought Sunderland back to the Premier League in 2007, would have picked it up again, but Neil did has propelled the club to a return to the Championship within 90 minutes after four years in third division purgatory. Sunderland meet Wycombe Wanderers in Saturday's play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Club legend Quinn was impressed not only by the results on the pitch - Sunderland were unbeaten in their 15th final - but also by the way he managed to manage the colossal expectations at a club that averages over 30,000 spectators and will bring 45,000 to Wembley. "I feel like the demons of the past aren't even in the air for this team because the manager has been so calm about that kind of expectation when things get good," says Quinn. His interviews straight after the semi-final [a 2-1 aggregate win against another big club, Sheffield Wednesday], I really like what Alex Neil had to say immediately after arriving at Wembley. Keane celebrates after guiding Sunderland to the Premier League in 2007. Patrick Roberts scored the decisive goal to decide the semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday. "I think he's done great on the training pitch and on the touchline, he's picked the right team, he has a sense of faith and he's managed the expectations really, really well. For many football fans around the world, their main point of reference in Sunderland is the excellent Netflix series that everyone has been watching during the Covid lockdown. The second series of Sunderland 'Til I Die showcases two Wembley heartaches from the 2018/19 season - losing on penalties to Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy final and losing 94 minutes in the League One play-off final against Charlton. The program perfectly summed up the agony of a Sunderland fan, but Quinn says he wouldn't have allowed the cameras as chairman. "As good as it is for the marketing side and the world knows about your club, it can be very tough for individuals at the top," he says. Sunderland fans celebrate moving into Wembley Stadium with 45,000 en route to London A lot of the good work that people do behind the scenes at a football club just doesn't get their turn. “It's very hard running a football club anyway, you know things aren't right but seeing everyone, it's tough. “The best thing about the documentary is that the world knows what this football club means to its fans. I'm thrilled that the world knows the fans are what they are." But how will they feel on Saturday night? Niall Quinn spoke on behalf of the EFL ahead of the Sky Bet League One play-off final on May 21 at Wembley Stadium

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How can I watch the League One play-off final live on TV in the UK today?

Live stream Sunderland vs Wycombe: How can I watch the League One play-off final live on TV today in the UK? - (Author: Gardener)

UKSunderland will be desperate to finally secure their return to the Championship when they take on Wycombe in the League One play-off final this afternoon. After being relegated in 2018, it's been four long years in England's third tier for Sunderland and they get their final attempt at promotion at Wembley against a Wycombe side very familiar with that stage. Gareth Ainsworth's side rose to the Championship via the play-off final two seasons ago before finishing 22nd and being relegated to the Second Division in the club's first season. Sunderland have received an additional 2,500 tickets as Wycombe have not sold out their quota, meaning there will be over 46,000 Black Cats fans at Wembley. TV Channels: The game will be broadcast on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Ultra HD. Kick-off is at 15:00CET at Wembley. Live Stream: Sky Sports subscribers can follow the game via the Sky Go app. Sign up now for one of the Evening Standard newsletters.

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Why Sunderland shouldn't underestimate Wycombe in the League One play-off final

Sunderland bring an army of fans to London and head into the League One play-off final in great form. Your opponent, however, is Wycombe (Author: Gardener)

LondonSunderland bring an army of fans to London and head into the League One play-off final in great form. However, one should not underestimate their opponent Wycombe Wanderers. The Black Cats don't have a great record when it comes to Wembley having lost seven of their last games there. This time around, however, the Wearside team appear to be the hottest favorites against Wycombe Wanderers as they battle for promotion this weekend. The former Premier League club opened the season by beating their opponents 3-1 this weekend and clinching another point in a 3-3 draw in the second leg. Sunderland's top scorer Ross Stewart, affectionately nicknamed 'Loch Ness Drogba' by fans, has a habit of scoring against Wanderers and has scored four of his 25 goals this season against the Chairboys. Even Chairboys boss Gareth Ainsworth thinks Sunderland is the favourite. "This is without a doubt a David and Goliath and I'm very proud to say this could be the greatest away game Wycombe have had in this century." returns, but it's easy to forget that the two teams are just a point apart, Sunderland fifth on 84 points and Wycombe sixth on 83 points. Before we look at the Black Cats, it should be noted that the Chair Boys already have a significant advantage over their opponents - Sunderland's Wembley curse. It's no secret that the Wearsiders have a terrible record at the English national stadium, most recently in the 2019 League One final against Charlton Athletic. Wycombe, on the other hand, has had better luck when it comes to Wembley. Although the Buckinghamshire side have spent much of their history below Sunderland in the football pyramid, they have had more success in the home of football in recent history. Even former Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill guided them to victory there in 1991. Wanderers lost 6-7 on penalties to Southend United in the 2015 League Two play-offs. However, it's only been two years since the Chairboys accomplished the feat they hope to accomplish again this weekend. Ainsworth's side defeated Oxford United 2-1 to seal promotion to the Championship, proving they have what it takes to get the job done on one of football's most iconic stages. Wanderers beat third-placed MK Dons in the play-off semifinals to win 2-1 over two legs. Wycombe had just two shots throughout the second leg compared to MK's 29, with the latter enjoying 69 percent possession. The Chairboys have been credited with the ability to adapt to each opponent's style of play and obliterate their threat, which their left-back Joe Jacobson says will be a real advantage on Saturday. "We can easily change the way we play," the defender told Bucks New Press. “We have players who can run the games alone, and we have a group of players who can all play, trackback, and do other work together. Of course, Wycombe boss Ainsworth can praise his team's unconventional path to success. Although the former Wycombe player is happy to accept the underdog title, he has instilled a real sense of confidence in his squad. And the ex-midfielder is so confident in himself and his team that he was full of compliments for the opposition ahead of this weekend. "He did a brilliant job," Ainsworth said of Black Cats boss Alex Neil. "He's got some good players and it's a tough job, Sunderland. They're probably the biggest club outside of the Premier League.” And Ainsworth's work hasn't gone unnoticed either. "I think mentally he's going to have that experience at Sunderland," invincible Arsenal and talkSPORT presenter Keown said of the Wycombe boss on Friday's White and Jordan show. He continued: "There's a lot of fear in the play-offs but I don't see that fear in Wycombe, they're going to go there thinking they can win it." We're sure he's hoping his side will see Sunderland can do the same on Saturday...

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Wycombe will enjoy underdog status as they attempt to stun Sunderland

Gareth Ainsworth's side are looking to return to the Second Division on the first try when they take on the Black Cats in Saturday's League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium. (Author: Gardener)

SunderlandAccording to their former midfielder Sam Saunders, Wycombe will be more than happy to embrace his well-known 'underdog' label as they look to upset Sunderland and return to the Championship. Gareth Ainsworth's side are looking to return to the Second Division on the first try when they take on the Black Cats in Saturday's League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium. And despite a huge resource gap between the two clubs, Saunders believes nobody should be too quick to write off the chairboys. Sam Vokes (right) and David Wheeler celebrate Wycombe's entry into the play-off final Gareth Ainsworth has pulled off another miracle as the Chairboys return to Wembley. "He's playing under Gaz and he's known him for a long time, he loves that underdog tag and he'll use that again on Saturday, don't worry about that," Saunders tells Sportsmail. Saunders played 67 times for Adams Park Club, first on loan from Brentford in the 2014/15 season and then between 2017 and 2019. He helped them get promoted from the second division to the first division in the 2017/18 season. Ainsworth's side achieved promotion to the Championship against all odds in 2019-20 and struggled until the final day of last season before their relegation was confirmed. Sam Saunders helped Wycombe gain promotion to League One in the 2017/18 season. Wycombe was relegated from the Championship last year but is now set to return. They went unbeaten in their last 12 regular-season games before beating Milton Keynes Dons 2–1 on aggregate in the play-off semifinals to set up their meeting with Sunderland. “This year they were underdogs. Even though they were in the championship last year, they're not like others that have a big following and a big budget," Saunders said. "This was the strongest League One ever, with 10-12 teams awaiting playoffs and seven or eight awaiting promotion. "You look at that and you put all these elements together and you might be surprised that they're there. But I'm not because I know the characters in that dressing room. "They have a way of playing, they have power in it, they believe in it and have faith in it and the performances have shown that throughout the season." Saunders points to a core of veteran EFL players like Sam Vokes, Garath McCleary, David Stockdale and Josh Scowen in Wycombe's squad. It's really important as a manager because the players will see through it," Saunders said. Around 20,000 Wycombe fans are expected to attend the playoff final at Wembley on Saturday. Of course he is an ambitious manager and an ambitious guy. “Let's say there were managers in the past who were a step ahead of Gaz and didn't do as much in the game as he did. "But he's happy with what he's doing and you never know what's around the corner in football. Saturday's final will be Adebayo Akinfenwa's last game before retirement and Saunders would not be surprised if the legendary striker is still making an impact at the age of 40. Club legend Adebayo Akinfenwa preparing for his last game before hanging up his boots has his last game at Wembley, that sums him up as a guy," he said. It wouldn't surprise me. "He's had a fantastic career and he's done so much for the game. He will be sorely missed by everyone at Wycombe as not only is he a great player but also a fantastic character in this dressing room. Anything Bayo achieves doesn't surprise me.” Sam Saunders spoke on behalf of the EFL ahead of the Sky Bet League One play-off final on 21 May at Wembley Stadium

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Sunderland vs Wycombe: prediction, start time, TV, live stream, team news, H2H results

Sunderland vs Wycombe: prediction, kick-off time, tv, live stream, team news, h2h results - play-off final preview today - (Author: Gardener)

H2HSunderland head to Wembley on Saturday and are on the verge of a return to the Championship. Alex Neil is just a win away from rounding out a brilliant first few months of his tenure and could be the man to kick start the bounce back from one of the bleakest periods in the club's history. Standing in their way, however, is a Wycombe side who have previously enjoyed success in the play-offs. Gareth Ainworth's side, promoted to the Championship in 2020 after beating Oxford United in the final, have consistently batted above their weight. While Sunderland have fallen at the final hurdle before, their EFL Trophy win came behind closed doors. Thousands will travel down from Wearside for the occasion, with Sunderland certainly the favorites to return to the Second Division. Here's everything you need to know about the game. The League One Playoff Final is scheduled for Saturday 21st May 2022 at 15:00 BST. TV Channels: The game will be broadcast on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Ultra HD. Live Stream: Sky Sports subscribers can follow the game via the Sky Go app. Carl Winchester is a huge doubt for Sunderland, although Neil is believed to have almost a full squad to choose from. For Wycombe, Anis Mehmeti faces a race against time to recover from the injury that ruled him out of the final games of the season. While Ainsworth's side have certainly salvaged those opportunities before, Sunderland have been riding the crest of the wave under Neil.

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Date, kick-off time, TV channel and live stream details for the League One play-off final

Gareth Ainsworth believes his team were underrated ahead of meeting Alex Neil's Sunderland at Wembley (Author: Gardener)

Gareth AinsworthAs the second longest-serving manager in the English Football League and having been in charge for almost a decade, Gareth Ainsworth is well used to Wycombe Wanderers' status as perennial underdogs. It's a day the chairboys will have for Saturday's League One play-off final against Sunderland, although the clubs were separated by just a point in the table. And Ainsworth, who has overseen two promotion campaigns in the last four seasons, plans to use it as a motivational tool for his players. "It seems to be their best chance to return to the championship," he said. "That says a lot about Wycombe Wanderers and where people see us. But for some reason people seem to have written us off a bit.” Sunderland's Premier League spending is long gone, but their third-tier transfer deals are a testament to their ambitions. Free signings Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard have asked their former clubs for £12m while loanee Jack Clarke signed £10m for Spurs a few years ago. By contrast, Wycombe's squad is a blue and navy patchwork quilt of misfits, discarded and veterans - players who were retired and offered a chance for regeneration at Adams Park. "I've been written off a few times in my career," he said. Sam Vokes was written off two years ago. Garath McLeary has arrived from Reading where he trained with the youth team. People didn't want Jordan Obita. It's amazing that once you get a free transfer, it means nobody wants you. “I was in their position, I was a free transfer. Wycombe's transfer policy naturally lends itself to players closer to the end of their career than the start. The average age of the starting XI against MK Dons in the semi-final second leg was 30.5 years, not counting 40-year-old substitute Adebayo Akinfenwa. But captain Joe Jacobson, 35, who scored a late winner in the 2020 League One play-off final win over Oxford, believes experience at Wembley will be a help rather than a hindrance. "This is my fifth playoff season, we had players in the championship playoff finals," he explains. “Two years ago we had eight or nine players playing in this game. Saturday will be a historic event for the club, but also a poignant one, marking the end of Akinfenwa's 22-year career. 'The Beast' initially signed a one-year deal but has stayed on for six years, a time that has coincided with two promotions, one relegation and a club-record 52 EFL goals. Akinfenwa was generally limited to one key role in his last season, but both Ainsworth and Jacobson concede that one of football's most iconic names outside of the Premier League will be impossible to replace. "He will be missed like you wouldn't believe," Ainsworth said. "There will remain a hole that will be filled with magical moments, stories and achievements that Wycombe would never have had if we hadn't signed that gimmick one-trick pony from Wimbledon when he was past it. Jacobson added: "He was probably Wycombe's best signing ever. To still be playing at 40 and having the desire and attitude to play on the weekends and come and train every day is a great honor for him. As for Wycombe's game plan, Ainsworth insists his side will stick to their principles and not adjust their game to appease their critics. "If you want me to go out and play the perfect game that suits Sunderland so they beat us convincingly and look like a fantastic football team then you're talking to the wrong man. “My job is not to be beaten by Sunderland on Saturday, it's to beat them and I have to find ways to do that, despite the fact that they've spent a lot of money on a lot of fantastically talented players who can be faster or stronger physically or better. "If we do that then the compliments should be for Wycombe Wanderers and not trying to figure out why it went wrong for Sunderland." Four years, two play-off losses and a football club's slow recession: Sunderland's League One history has not been an uplifting one. At Wembley v Wycombe there is a chance to finally progress. Alex Neil can sense it, which is why he is urging his Sunderland players to seize the moment and help the club move into the 'next phase' of their recovery. Not a fan of exaggeration, Neil is hesitant to describe the return to the championship as "transformative". But with the club's financial figures a cause for concern and ownership issues still not fully resolved, promotion feels crucial for a club that were in the Premier League just five years ago. “I think it will start the next phase for this club. Whether it's transformative or not, I'm not entirely convinced," Neil said. “The simple fact is, whether we're in the Championship or not, next year will come. It's not like it's going to be the end of anything (unless we ascend). “But to get back to where we want to be as a club, going into the next phase and getting out of the first division is fundamental to that. Whether it's this season or whatever, you'd want it sooner rather than later. They are backed by more than 40,000 fans at Wembley making it more of a home game. Neil thinks that could be crucial. "When we need to come up with a key moment, we've found it and the fans are fundamental to what they give the players in the dying embers of games when we need something," he said. "You don't win anything yourself. What you can't do is distinguish when it's good and when it's bad.” A lot depends on the result but at least Neil has offered some reason to believe again and revitalized the club in recent weeks. His side have eradicated their tendency to conjure up defeat from the jaws of victory and have a fortunate knack for scoring late goals at crucial moments. "A lot depends on it," Neil said. You can't come and play for a team like Sunderland and not be scrutinized. “You can't come here and play without being under pressure and with expectations on your shoulders. That's part of the job in a team like this. If we don't win a game against anyone, it's not good enough.

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