Southend were tipped by many to struggle in League Two this season, although the Essex club have acquitted themselves well and now stand three games away from getting promoted.
Phil Brown has previously steered Hull City from the Championship to the Premier League through the play-offs, with the ex-Tigers boss now looking to reach Wembley again with a small but talented squad of players.
Southend finished fifth in the League Two regular standings, with the Shrimpers having finished the season strongly to finish ten points clear of eighth-placed Oxford United, a run which included a 1-0 win against the Brewers on the final day of the season.
Previously to this, they enjoyed a 3-0 surprise away win at Rochdale, before beating Accrington and drawing away to a Fleetwood team who could be lying in wait when it comes to the Wembley final later this month.
Burton will feel confident that they can edge this tie over two matches considering they performed well against Southend in both games this term, with Albion having been in the top seven for pretty much the whole season.
Indeed, we probably shouldn’t read a great deal into the two matches played between these teams, both of which ended with a 1-0 winning scoreline in favour of Southend.
Freddie Eastwood’s deflected winner was the difference between the two teams at the Pirelli Stadium in October before the sides met in a dead rubber on the final day of the regular season, with manager Gary Rowett having rested several first-team players.
“You can flip both of those games on their head,” he said.
“If you’re Southend you’ve won both games 1-0 and if you’re us you can say you dominated the home game with 10 men for 55 minutes, probably should have won the game and ended up losing to a deflected goal in the 93rd minute, so we can’t be too displeased with that.
“Then we took a mixed side with six of our main players not in the team and narrowly lost 1-0 away in a tight game at Roots Hall.
“So, I think you can take the positives, you can take the negatives – but I don’t think it’s going to have too much bearing on the games.”
Burton are favourites to establish a first leg advantage, with BetVictor offering a stand-out 29/20 about the Midlands side drawing first blood, although Southend won’t be going for the draw in this match and United can be backed at 23/10 to beat Albion for the third time this season.
Perhaps Southend are the value at 10/11 to qualify for the Wembley final based on Brown’s big-match experience along with the fact that the Shrimpers play the second leg at Roots Hall.