Championship Play-Off Final Preview: Fulham v Aston Villa
Nick Murphy | 26 May 2018
Odds, tips and team news for the showpiece
The Premier League honeypot is the aim for Aston Villa and Fulham this afternoon when they meet under the Wembley arch in the Championship Play-Off Final.
This afternoon’s season-ending fixture in the second-tier is reportedly worth around £170m to the victor. The loser will face another gruelling 46-game season next time around.
Can Villa make it back to the big time after two years away? Or will Fulham’s crop of young guns return to the top table for the first time since 2014?
The Coral News Team have previewed the 5pm kick-off…
Head-to-Head and Wembley record
After 68 meetings spanning 113 years, there’s barely anything to split these two play-off rivals. Both sides have won 23 matches apiece, while the spoils have been shared on 22 occasions.
They’re level at one win apiece so far this season, too. Steve Bruce’s side edged the initial fixture 2-1 at Villa Park before Fulham got their revenge through Ryan Sessegnon and Floyd Ayite in February.
However, there’s only one winner when it comes to Wembley experience. The Villans have played at the North London venue 10 times, although they’re winless in two visits to the ground since it was reopened in 2007.
Fulham’s only previous Wembley appearance ended in defeat to West Ham United in the 1975 FA Cup Final.
Slavisa Jokanovic has a fully-fit squad to choose from following Sheyi Ojo’s return from injury. He’ll be vying with Ayite, Aboubakar Kamara and Lucas Piazon for the vacant right-wing spot. Otherwise, it should be as you were for the Cottagers.
Villa’s only real concern ahead of the final is at right-back. Ahmed El Mohamady missed the second-leg of their semi-final against Middlesbrough with a hamstring injury. He’s touch-and-go for the Wembley clash, which could open the door for youngster James Bree to start just his 10th game of the season.
Youngsters Ryan Sessegnon and Jack Grealish could be the key to how this match ends up. Both possess extraordinary quality and will need to be marked resolutely in order to stem their influence.
The opposing duo of Tom Cairney and Conor Hourihane will look to pull the strings in midfield, while midfield enforcer Mile Jedinak could give the Midlanders a slight advantage over the Londoners.
Both sides also boast impressive defensive records alongside free scoring forward lines. That could make the use of set-pieces key in a showpiece which is so often defined by tight margins.
Serial play-off final winner Lewis Grabban is considered the most likely scorer for Bruce’s boys at 11/5 Anytime. He’s already bagged 20 goals this season.
Neither side will want to give anything away early on. Our traders go 5/4 that the game is a Draw after 60 minutes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing