Aston Villa only has one game remaining in the league this season and with our position in the playoff’s cemented, Steve Bruce will have one eye on who his opponents could be in the playoffs.
Villa will play the side who finish 5th in the Championship with the first leg away from home. As it stands, Tony Pulis and his Middlesbrough side will be our opponents, however, Derby County could still sneak into 5th spot with a four-goal turnaround.
I am going to take a look at the two possible opponents and how we have fared against the two this season.
Villa has picked up four points from a possible 6 against Middlesborough in the Championship this season.
It ended goalless at Villa Park which also resulted in both sides having a player sent off while we picked up a crucial 1-0 away at the Riverside stadium courtesy of a Robert Snodgrass header.
The two sides also met in the League Cup at Villa Park with Middlesborough winning 2-0 against a 10 man Villa side.
Pulis teams are usually known for their long ball no-nonsense approach but the statistics from whoscored.com suggest otherwise. Although they average 69 long balls per game (Villa average 70), they also average 320 short passes with a 78% success rate (Villa average 370 with an 80% success rate).
There is no doubt that Middlesbrough’s biggest threat comes from a former Villan, Adama Traore. Despite a slow start in the North, Pulis is finally starting to get the best out of the former Barcelona man.
The Spanish winger has bundles of pace and is undoubtedly one of, if not the fastest players in the league. One criticism of him is that he lacks end product, only scoring 5 goals but having 10 assists.
We have come up against Derby twice this season and have only managed a single point from a possible 6.
A 2-0 defeat a Pride Park in December when we couldn’t seem to buy a win and a 1-1 draw at Villa Park last weekend.
Derby is known for their counter-attacking style and has pace up top from the likes of Cameron Jerome, Matej Vydraw and former Villan, Andreas Weimann. It is enough to make any team fear for their defence, especially one that isn’t that quick.
We may have only managed a draw with Derby last weekend but the second half was one of the most convincing performances of the season. We dominated play and for the majority kept the Derby strikeforce pretty quiet.
Gary Rowett’s men average 11.9 shots and 1.5 goals per game compared to Villa’s 13 shots and 1.6 goals per game.
WHO WOULD I RATHER HAVE?
Although it looks nailed on to be Middlesbrough, out of the two opponents I think I would like to come up against Derby. Boro looks like a different side since we beat them before the New Year but Derby looked there for the taking the weekend and on another day we would have scored a few goals.
One thing is for sure, regardless of who the opponents are, if we are to return to the Premiership we must beat whoever is put up in front of us.
Which of the two opponents would you rather come up against and why?