Preview: Aston Villa vs Derby County | Championship play-off final 2019
Date: May 27th, 2019
Time: 10:00 ET (Canada-USA) | 16:00 Cairo Local Time
Venue: Wembley National Stadium | London
The English Championship concluded its 46-game season 2 weeks ago with Norwich City claiming first place and Sheffield United taking second, with both now promoted to the Premier League. The final promotion place is decided in the Playoffs, and one of Aston Villa or Derby County will claim that coveted spot.
The Championship Playoff semi-finals have now taken place, with Aston Villa and Derby County having emerged in different ways to take their place in the Wembley final on Monday 27 May. There wonít be an empty seat at the national stadium as the two Midlands clubs battle it out for that final place in next seasonís Premier League.
The Villans were the first to claim their final spot after surviving a West Brom onslaught at The Hawthorns and eventually coming through after a penalty shootout. Having come from behind to win 2-1 at Villa Park, Dean Smithís team conceded early in the second leg against the Baggies and can be thankful that Chris Brunt was sent off just as the hosts looked like going ahead.
Derby Countyís victory over Leeds was altogether more dramatic. Frank Lampardís side were roundly outplayed at Pride Park when losing 1-0, while the Rams fell behind at Elland Road and it appeared as though the writing was on the wall for Frank Lampardís man.
However, substitute Jack Marriott was to have an instant impact on the stroke of half-time and that triggered a frenetic second-half which saw Derby eventually win the match 4-2 which meant a 4-3 aggregate victory over a Leeds team who appeared to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Aston Villa back at Wembley!
Aston Villa are now favorites to land promotion back to the Premier League, having been relegated from the top flight at the end of the 2015/16 season. Itís been an eventful three seasons since then, with Steve Bruce having taken them to last seasonís Championship play-off final before a 1-0 defeat against Fulham at Wembley.
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Aston Villa are favorites to win the Wembley showdown in ninety minutes and you might think they have an advantage purely because they reached the play-off final last season. The experience of losing on that particular occasion might well spur on the Villans who will take to the field with Tammy Abraham going in search of further goals.
However, itís hard to argue that the team were particularly convincing in either match against West Brom and it was largely backs-to-the-wall stuff at The Hawthorns, especially after conceding an early goal. Derby will be confident that they can cause problems for a team who are not defensively tight and relied on goalkeeper Jed Steer against the Albion.
Derby fresh from that comeback at Leeds
Frank Lampard is one match away from a hugely successful debut season as a football manager. It was hard to predict how the Chelsea legend would fare when handed a relatively poisoned chalice by Derby County owner Mel Morris back in August, although the 40-year-old was partially recruited due to his links at Stamford Bridge which enabled a couple of influential loanees to head north.
Itís fair to say that the Rams wouldnít have reached the play-offs without Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori who might well be playing first-team football for Chelsea next season. Mount, in particular, has been a revelation in midfield and it was his driving performance at Elland Road which helped County get over the line.
Harry Wilson is another loan player and the Liverpool man has also made a huge impact for Derby this season, with the 22-year-old scoring a penalty against Leeds and heís been a big threat from set pieces ever since the season began. It also appears that Jack Marriott has finally woken up from his slumber to make a scoring impact after a brace at Elland Road.
This Derby team are certainly hard to predict although theyíve been the team for the big occasion many times this season. They got the better of Southampton over two matches in the FA Cup and also knocked Manchester United out of the EFL Cup. Confidence will be high in the ranks and theyíll positively relish the tag of being underdogs.