Aston Villa and Derby County take center stage at Wembley on bank holiday Monday when they go head-to-head in Championship play-off final and a place in the Premier League. Not only is there a place on the top table of England’s footballing elite at stake, but a financial windfall of an estimated £170m. Throw into the mix that two former Chelsea team-mates in Frank Lampard and John Terry will be sitting in opposite dugout’s, it is game on! Form Labs bring the curtain down on the Championship season with their betting preview and tips for the game while we have plenty of value as ever with our selection of enhanced odds available in our FanBoosts section.
Spectacular Derby Comeback
Derby were mightily impressive in their second-leg comeback at Leeds, becoming the first side to lose at home in the first leg and still reach the final, with the 4-2 win at Elland Road leaving them W5-D2-L1 over their past eight fixtures.
It was all the more notable as the team that has finished third (in this case Leeds) has won the play-offs on seven occasions over the past 13 seasons, while over this period, only Blackpool in 2010 were promoted after finishing sixth.
They’ll hope that Aston Villa’s slowdown isn’t just temporary, as Dean Smith’s outfit have only emerged victorious once in their last four now, having won their previous 10 matches.
Although Leeds, Norwich and West Brom (twice) are hardly kind fixtures, they’ll likewise be facing top-six opposition here too (albeit the weakest of that bracket).
Play-off History Positive Omen For Villa?
A draw and two defeats from 14 matches isn’t exactly disastrous however and Villa can point to history for pleasant omens.
Since the play-offs were introduced in 1987, 11 teams have lost a Championship final and returned to compete in the play-offs once more in the following season (including this season).
Six of them departed at the semi-final stage but of the four that managed successive appearances in the showpiece event, three went up (Villa are aiming to make it four from five).
Meanwhile, across the Football League, nine of 11 sides to reach successive play-off finals have ended their season in joy.
Returning Players And Injury Concerns
Scott Malone’s late dismissal against Leeds means that Derby will certainly have experience at left-back in the shape of 38-year-old Ashley Cole, but there’s better news for Frank Lampard elsewhere with Martyn Waghorn returning to the fold after missing the semi-finals through injury.
That means they’ll be competition for the striker spot with Jack Marriott pushing for a start following a brace from the bench last time out.
Meanwhile, Villa’s major concern rests over the fitness of Man Utd loanee Axel Tuanzebe, with the defender limping off in the second leg versus the Baggies.
However, while his employers may take him back to Old Trafford for next term, Villa have actually won 50% of the 22 games where he wasn’t included in the starting line-up this term, compared with just 38% of the 26 he’s started.
Championship Play-Off Final Betting Tips
Derby’s last 11 matches have seen 40 goals in total, though they’ve varied between extremes in that regard as there have been 6-1, 4-0 and 4-2 wins over Rotherham, Bolton and Leeds respectively, as well as a pulsating 3-3 draw with Brentford, but at the same time five of these games also contained just two goals or less.
We’re strongly inclined to think the latter is more likely as Championship play-off finals have a big tendency to produce low-scoring affairs and in fact, 11 of the 15 since 2003/04 have seen fewer than three strikes.
This has become more pronounced in recent seasons as well, occurring in each of the past six seasons.
Two of them finished goalless after 90 minutes, three of them ended 1-0 and another 2-0, as there were just five goals across these games in total (0.8 goals per game on average).
Derby have lost five of their last eight encounters with the other sides to make the play-offs, netting just a solitary strike across those defeats, which included both meetings with Villa this term.
The Rams will certainly be suffering from a psychological disadvantage after losing those two head-to-heads by a combined score of 7-0, and while we don’t expect another thumping, a combination of Villa’s greater squad experience, form and a low-scoring habit in play-off finals make the correct score an attractive proposition.
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