CHERRIES are the favourites to win the play-offs and seal an immediate return to the Premier League, according to Stoke City boss Michael O'Neill.

O'Neill's Potters inflicted a 13th Championship defeat of the season on Cherries on Saturday, winning 2-0 at Vitality Stadium.

And while Stoke's season is now over, finishing 14th, Cherries will move into the play-offs with their sixth-placed finish setting up a tasty two-legged showdown with Brentford.

The other semi-final sees Swansea City take on Barnsley.

Cherries head coach Jonathan Woodgate spent one season at Stoke as a player, during the Staffordshire club's 10-year Premier League stay, before they were relegated into the second tier in 2018.

Speaking after the loss to the Potters on Saturday, Woodgate labelled his side as "underdogs" to defeat Thomas Frank's Bees.

But O'Neill, who guided Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 knockout stage, fancies Cherries to seal promotion, rejoining Norwich and Watford back in the top-flight, who were also relegated last season.

Asked if he thinks Cherries will win the play-offs, O'Neill told the Daily Echo: "I hope so, because I don’t want another Premier League squad in the league next season.

"We’ll take three. We’ll get three that will come down anyway, we don’t need a fourth in Bournemouth still being in the league!

"They’ve got some really good players here and they’re a good, good side. I know that’s three defeats in their last three, but they came into it with a run where they won seven.

"I always think it’s difficult to adjust. We’re a good example of a club that struggled to adjust to coming back down into the Championship, despite spending a lot of money. So it is challenging.

"But I think if I was looking at them, I think they’re the strongest of the four teams and for me, they would be the favourites to go back up."

He added: "I think Brentford are an excellent team. But in these games, sometimes you maybe need those players that have been there before, those players that have been in the Premier League and that is a big motivation.

"I think Brentford are a very good side. But I just feel that at the minute, on paper I think Bournemouth are probably just the strongest team.

"But Swansea are a very good side as well, they maybe don’t have the depth in their squad that the other two clubs have.

"And obviously Barnsley have done magnificent to get where they have and they go in with nothing to lose.

"I certainly wouldn’t want to be playing Barnsley in that situation either."