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Aston Villa enter race for in-demand Patrick Bamford?

Aston Villa, 9/4 chances with Coral to win the FA Cup this season, are eyeing Chelsea-owned England Under-21 forward Patrick Bamford as the race for his services next season heats up.

Spending the current campaign on loan at Middlesbrough, where Blues boss Jose Mourinho’s protege Aitor Karanka is in charge, Bamford has scooped the Championship Player of the Year prize.

This has helped raise his profile considerably, and is a sign he has kicked on from impressive loan spells at first MK Dons and Derby County.

If Villa boss Tim Sherwood, who already has a track record of nurturing young talent, thinks he will get a clear run on Bamford, however, then earlier reports that European hopefuls Southampton are interested in his services will be a blow.

To match or snatch away what Ronald Koeman’s Saints could potentially offer Bamford, namely Europa League football, Villa must lift the FA Cup and upset Arsenal. Only this permutation can deny the south coast side a place in continental competition next term, as UEFA made a rule change which strips losing cup finalists of any rights to the spot.

Should the Premier League remain one of the top three across Europe for Fair Play, then an extra berth in Europe may be awarded, though this usually goes to the side that records the best disciplinary record. Crystal Palace and Everton are also rumoured to be interested in Bamford, who has struck 19 times in 43 games across all competitions this term.

Making headlines by netting in an FA Cup win away at Manchester City, Bamford looks likely to see his season at Boro extended by at least two more matches, as it is almost impossible for the Teesside outfit to earn automatic promotion.

Only defeat on the final day for Bournemouth at Charlton Athletic and an unprecedented 19-goal swing with Middlesbrough beating Brighton and Hove Albion at home can stop Eddie Howe’s Cherries from going up.

This means it’s almost certainly the play-offs for Bamford and Karanka, with Boro 2/1 to be in the Premier League next term.