The Playoff final is finally upon us. More than 35,000 Villans will head down to the Capital as Villa take on Frank Lampard’s Derby County at Wembley.
It really has been an up and down 12 months. I won’t go into it too much as I am sure you have seen one of the many video previews doing the rounds over the past 7 days. For me, it has been an indifferent season writing these previews. At one stage this season, they felt like a chore. It really is amazing how far we have come since then. Now, as I sit here and write this, I am just full of nerves. My one big fear – Aston Villa fail to turn up again at Wembley.
I can only hope that when Dean Smith says “we will be prepared”, he means it. Surely he understood the pain we felt last May. Plus there is a feel-good factor between the club and fans at the moment. I don’t want to lose that again.
Come on Villa. This is your time to stand up and be counted.
In previous seasons, Derby was labelled bottlers. A side who always look to be in and around the playoffs only to fall short when it really matters. Not this season though. Lampard made sure of that when his Ram’s side brushed Leeds United to one side in the Playoff Semi-Finals.
Derby are a possession-hungry side. They averaged 53.7% of the ball in the Championship this season. Only four sides averaged more. They will look to play the ball on the floor and are not afraid to shoot from distance.
As Anwar El Ghazi proved earlier in the season, their one weakness is probably down the wings. If Villa can exploit these areas then we could have a very good chance of coming out on top.
Smith confirmed that everyone except the goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland is fit for the playoff final.
Axel Tuanzebe limped off in the playoff semi-final second leg against West Brom be he is fit and available for selection.
Derby could be without Duane Holmes and Martyn Waghorn. Waghorn picked up an injury on the last day of the regular season while Holmes has struggled in their last three games with a thigh injury.
Craig Bryson (ankle) and David Nugent (knee) have both been ruled out through injury.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Predicted XI: Steer; Elmohammady, Mings, Tuanzebe, Taylor; Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish; El Ghazi, Adomah; Abraham.
Kick Off: 15.00
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
Tickets: Sold out
Odds: Aston Villa 5/4 Derby County 27/10 Draw 23/10 (Skybet)