After an impressive performance at The Riverside on Saturday, Aston Villa returns home to what will be a bouncing Villa Park that will be pushing capacity with a tidy 1-0 advantage. A perfectly timed, glancing header from our bearded enforcer, Mile Jedinak, will send Steve Bruce’s men into the second leg full of confidence and on the front foot.
The same can’t be said for Middlesbrough who will be heading into the game behind and probably nervous knowing they must take the initiative and dictate the game if they are with any hope of reaching the final.
On Saturday, Middlesbrough didn’t play badly and could claim they were unfortunate not to come away with something from the game. In the opening 20-30 minutes, their top goalscorer Britt Assombalonga, fired multiple chances wide or over the goal that had he put away, could’ve made the game a very different story.
Another Middlesbrough man who will feel that he could’ve done more with his opportunities is former Aston Villa flyer, Adama Traore. The Spanish winger attempted a massive 25 dribbles in the game completing 13 of them which is more attempted dribbles than the entire Aston Villa team combined. However, Villa’s dribblers were more successful in their attempts with Villa’s top dribbler on the day Jack Grealish, attempting 9 and completing 8.
Middlesbrough will be disappointed with the outcome of the first leg as they actually dominated the majority of what many would call the “key stats”. Middlesbrough had 62% of the possession, 16 shots compared to Villa’s 11, 10 corners to Villa’s 2, 496 passes (427 accurate) with a pass accuracy of 86% compared to Villa who attempted 318 passes (228 accurate) with a pass accuracy of just 72%.
If you took away the scoreline and only showed someone these statistics, they’d probably think that Middlesbrough came away with the advantage rather than Villa.
Aston Villa will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Neil Taylor once again through injury. There is also a doubt surrounding right-back Ahmed Elmohamady who limped off on Saturday with a hamstring injury. If he is fit he will start but if not it is likely we will see youngster James Bree replace him in the starting eleven.
Middlesbrough is looking as though they will be without dependable centre-back Daniel Ayala who was unable to finish the first leg due to a suspected knee injury so it is likely we will see a straight swap for Dael Fry or Ryan Shotton will move to centre back and Fabio will move to right-back.
There is also talk in the North-East that Tony Pulis will opt for Patrick Bamford, who has netted 11 times in the league this season, as the lone striker rather than Britt Assombalonga.
THE BIG MATCH
This game will be huge for both sides with the winner guaranteeing themselves a place in the playoff final against a confident Fulham who overcame a 1-0 deficit against Derby County last night returning to winning ways after losing two on the bounce post their club-record run of 23 games unbeaten.
Villa should not go into this game complacent with their 1-0 lead as with 1 goal having the ability to change everything, things can change rather quickly if not carefully managed. Middlesbrough will come to Villa Park looking to attack as they know what they need at least one goal to give themselves a chance of progressing.
Due to the fact that Middlesbrough will be looking for the opening goal, this may leave a few gaps in behind where Middlesbrough have sent players forward that Aston Villa can play a few balls in behind and find space.
In my opinion, the key to this game will be the first goal. If Steve Bruce’s men strike first then it would be safe to say that the tie will be pretty much over with Middlesbrough needing 2 goals away from home just to send it to extra time. However, if Tony Pulis’s men score first then it is very much game on and everything will be to play for.
This game is a complete sell-out with Middlesbrough bringing 2,000 supporters.
LIVE MATCH CHAT
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