After a long season, here we are in the Championship play-off final, where the winner will join Sheffield United and Norwich City in the biggest league in England, and possibly the world.
While Aston Villa will be aiming to banish the demons of Wembley they suffered 12 months ago when they lost the final to Fulham, Derby County are in this situation after quite some time, and their young squad would be looking to make history.
On paper and form of the last three months, Dean Smith’s men would most possibly start as favourites. They also won both league games against Derby, with an aggregate score of 7-0.
However, Frank Lampard’s men defied the odds to reach the final. They defeated Leeds United at Elland Road in the second leg of the semi-final tie to take the road to Wembley. Hence, counting them out of contention to play one last odd-defying match of the season would be foolish.
All in all, we can expect a fabulous game between two teams who play an attacking brand of football.
Below, we take a look at the key battles on the pitch, that could possibly decide the fate of this encounter:
Tammy Abraham v Fikayo Tomori
Chelsea loanee vs Chelsea loanee.
With 26 goals in 39 appearances, Abraham has been in great form up front for the Villans. His ruthlessness in front of goal could mean that Derby centre-backs have to be tight to him in and around the box.
Fikayo Tomori has had a fantastic season at the back for Derby. He was rightly the club’s player of the year and his battle with the Villa marksman would be the one to look out for.
Jack Grealish v Bradley Johnson
Grealish is without doubt the star player in the Villa team. He plays as an attacking midfielder, with an eye to find space in between the lines.
He drifts across the final third of the pitch as well to make it difficult for the opposition to mark him.
The Englishman may battle with Derby’s Bradley Johnson in this game as the latter operates in defensive midfield.
If Grealish gets the better of Johnson, then Villa have a massive chance of winning the game.
Harry Wilson v Neil Taylor
Harry Wilson has been Derby’s star player this season. He has a lethal left foot that can do some damage to Aston Villa’s hopes.
The Welshman plays on the right wing, but he drifts inside to link up with the striker as well.
Villa’s left-back Neil Taylor will have to make sure that if the winger stays wide, he marks him.
But, whenever the central movement is made, the baton should be handed to the defensive midfielder or a centre-back to do the marking job.
Jack Marriott v Axel Tuanzebe/Tyrone Mings
Jack Marriott scored a tie-winning brace in the second leg against Leeds and looked a real threat in behind the defensive line.
He will be up against Axel Tuanzebe/Tyrone Mings, a centre-back partnership that has done well for Aston Villa.
If the Derby striker gets the better of the duo in terms of finding space in the box, then Lampard’s men have more than a chance.
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