A place in the Premier League is on the line when Aston Villa and Derby County square off in the Championship playoff final at Wembley on Monday (3pm, live on Sky Sports).
These clubs will not just be playing for the prestige of forming part of the top flight but also the much more concrete monetary reward. Even just a single season in the Premier League yields £100 million or more in broadcast revenue alone and that’s a transformative amount.
Villa are in particular need of the financial boost that promotion would provide given that this is the final season in which they will receive parachute payments from the Premier League following their relegation from the top flight at the end of the 2015-16 season. After losing out to Fulham in last year’s final, they must go one better this time around.
Dean Smith’s side certainly arrive at Wembley in good form. At the start of March, they found themselves eight points shy of the playoff spots in 13th. Jack Grealish’s return from injury inspired a run of 10 consecutive wins, followed by a draw and defeat, that saw them eventually finish fifth. They had the best record in the Championship down the final stretch, scoring a league joint-high 2.08 goals per match while conceding just 0.67.
Villa were made to sweat by their Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion in their playoff semi-final. They came back from a goal down to win 2-1 in the first leg at Villa Park, with goals from Conor Hourihane and Tammy Abraham (from the penalty spot), but then lost 0-1 in the return at the Hawthorns. The tie went to penalties, where Villa were 4-3 winners.
Having overcome that hurdle, Smith is confident that after scaling a run of must-win matches to get into the top six, his side will be more than ready for another must-win scenario on Monday. The first of their 10 wins on the bounce came in a 4-0 thrashing of Derby in which Abraham, Grealish and Hourihane ran riot. Derby must find a way of containing that trio at Wembley if they are to have any chance of emerging victorious.
Frank Lampard’s side can at least point to the fact that they have already overcome a team who got the better of them during the regular season to make it this far. Leeds won 4-1 away and 2-0 at home in the two league fixtures between the sides, and also won out 1-0 away at Pride Park in the first leg of their playoff semi-final. Derby capitalised on some nervy defending to secure a 4-2 win in the second and so progress to the final 4-3 on aggregate.
Harry Wilson and Mason Mount were both among the goalscorers, and those two Premier-League loanees, from Liverpool and Chelsea respectively, have played a key part in Derby’s season, scoring 25 goals between them and providing four assists apiece. Impressive, too, have been the performances of 18-year-old right-back Jayden Bogle, who has carried nearly 4,000 minutes of action this season and leads the team with eight assists.
Lampard has done a solid job in his first year as a head coach, replicating last season’s sixth place finish and getting Derby into the playoffs (albeit with slightly iffy underlying numbers) for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. If he can go one step further that his predecessors managed and lead them back to the top flight after more than a decade away, his work would look even better.
His side will, though, be fighting an uphill battle against a good Villa team in excellent form. It is one that not only thrashed Derby 4-0 at home but also defeated them 3-0 at Pride Park. With Grealish running things in midfield, Hourihane getting forward to good effect and the prolific Abraham leading the line, Villa have the necessary attacking power to overcome Derby and secure their return to the Premier League with victory at Wembley.
Our Preview’s Aston Villa vs Derby County Championship Playoff Final Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Aston Villa to win in a match in which Tammy Abraham scores (on the ‘score/win double’ market) @ 11/5 (just over 2/1) with Paddy Power.
Compare Championship Playoff Final Betting Odds from Best Bookies