Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prediction: Aston Villa vs Fulham

Prediction: Aston Villa to win and both teams to score

Odds:13/2

Bookmaker:Bet365

The race for promotion to the Premier League reaches its conclusion at Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening as Aston Villa and Fulham face off in the Championship Playoff final.

Both teams had impressive results in their semi-final fixtures, dismissing of Middlesbrough and Derby County respectively so it is surely set to be a tantalising clash in the capital to see who can return to the promised land.

Aston Villa

Despite falling out of the top-flight of English football only two years ago, Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa look in excellent form to return. Finishing fourth in the regular season, the Midlands outfit were much-improved compared to their first season when they finished a measly 13th. It has been their defence that has seen the starkest improvement under Bruce. Having only conceded 42 goals throughout the whole campaign, the Villans can boast the third-best defence in the Championship – only bettered by the automatically promoted duo of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City. As a matter of fact, Bruce’s men have only let in two goals in their last seven games in all competitions, only losing once in that time.

Their most recent experiences of Wembley may provide some clues as to how their clash with Fulham could potentially go. Then under the management of Paul Lambert, Villa made two trips to Wembley in the FA Cup. They defeated Liverpool in the semi-finals before falling to a heavy defeat at the hands of Arsenal in the final.

Team News

Bruce all-but has a clean bill of health from his squad for what is set to be a huge game. Therefore, the likes of John Terry, Jack Grealish and Albert Adomah, all key players for Villa, are set to take part. The one doubt is over Ahmed Elmohamady who is set to be subjected to a late fitness test due to a hamstring problem.

Fulham

Elsewhere, Fulham will be keen to end their long exile from the top-flight having fallen to relegation in 2014.  The Londoners were extremely close to automatic promotion on the final day of the season but were defeated by Birmingham City, surrendering the spot to Cardiff instead. Slavisa Jokanovic’s men head into the play-off final in a positive spirit after overturning their deficit to Derby County at Craven Cottage.

Furthermore, prior to their final-day defeat to Birmingham, the Whites were in stunning form. In a run stretching back to mid-January, Fulham were on a 19-match unbeaten run and eventually secured their spot in the play-offs. Their main strength will surely be their attacking abilities against Villa. The Whites scored 79 goals throughout the regular Championship season; only champions Wolves netted more throughout the campaign.

Team News

Jokanovic can call on his whole squad for the match. On-loan Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrović is surely set to lead the line after impressing in his brief spell at Craven Cottage. He will be supported by teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon following the youngster’s stunning season.

Key Facts to Consider

  • The two teams have an identical all-time record heading into the match (W23, D22, L23)
  • Fulham won the last match between the two 2-0 at Craven Cottage
  • There has not been a draw between the two sides after 90 minutes since 2013
  • Fulham have only failed to net once against Aston Villa in the last eight clashes
  • Steve Bruce has earned promotion four times from the Championship throughout his career

Conclusion

It is always difficult predicting how the playoff final could potentially go. Some teams thrive on the pressure of Wembley, whilst others can buckle. Despite Fulham’s attacking prowess, Villa head in as favourites. The experience of Bruce and players such as Terry should be telling. Should the Midlanders earn an advantage, it is surely going to be closely guarded. It will be difficult to stop the Whites from scoring, though.

Prediction: Aston Villa to win and both teams to score

Odds:13/2

Bookmaker:Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Orme


Daniel is currently a second-year football journalism student at the University of Derby. He has been freelance writing for approximately four years now and brings considerable experience. A season ticket holder at local club Leicester City, he witnessed the Foxes miraculously lifting the Premier League trophy in the 2015/16 campaign.

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