After a long season and close matches, we finally got ourselves the two finalists of the Championship playoffs, one of which will get to join Norwich and Sheffield Utd in the Premier League next season.
Surprisingly it was Aston Villa and Derby, who ended up in the finals instead of West Brom and Leeds, who were considered the favourites to be in their place instead. There were only a few people who could’ve imagined seeing Aston Villa and Derby get so far, but here they are, and to be fair, they deserved it. Aston Villa managed to overcome West Brom in the semi-finals, while it was Derby who shook the world with a dominant win over Leeds in the 2nd leg (2:4). After impressive performances in the playoffs, there is still one more question that needs to be answered. Who will end up victorious and join the English football elite next season?
Aston Villa and Derby met each other twice thus far this season, with Aston Villa coming out as a winner on both occasions. The first match ended 0:3 and the second one 4:0, thus combining a 7:0 aggregate score for Aston Villa. Despite that, there was not a lot to separate the two sides by the time Championship season ended. Finishing the season on 5th and 6th place, there were only 2 separating them, so it’s safe to say, the teams are equally strong in the greater picture. Furthermore, both use similar tactics to beat their opponents. Their aggressive and high-tempo playstyles which prefer high ball possession resulted in the teams not only finishing the season 5th in 6th on the leaderboard but also 5th and 6th regarding the highest ball possession average. With that there are a lot of things the two sides have in common, however, there are also a lot of things that separate them.
Aston Villa finished the season 5th with 76 points, which is 7 points worse compared to where they finished last season. Still, a solid performance from them, especially in the playoffs, when they knocked out West Brom. What worked for Aston Villa this season was their strong attack. Scoring 82 goals in the span of 46 games, Aston Villa ended the season with 3rd most goals scored, only trailing Norwich (94 goals) and West Brom (87 goals).
Derby on the other side just barely managed to secure their spot in the top six, 1 point above Middlesbrough, who were stopped by Nottingham three rounds before the season end. Overall, Derby played well this season and earned their spot in the playoffs, but it was the playoffs, where they really shined. Defeating Leeds 2:4 in an away game was something no one expected to see, but Derby delivered. Still, Derby has one last and the most important match ahead of them.
Featuring two strong teams going head to head at Wembley on May 27th, we still need to figure out which one will come out on top. While the recent results work heavily in favour of Aston Villa, there is something to be said about Derby’s chances to win as well.
Aston Villa enter the finals with high confidence they can once more defeat Derby, who failed to produce much resistance in the last 2 fixtures. This, not surprisingly also makes them favourites to win and return to Premier League. Nonetheless, there are some doubts about Aston Villa being able to repeat their incredible results against the rams. Derby were just exceptional in the playoffs, where they outclassed the 3rd placed Leeds. Aston Villa, on the other side had to work very hard to earn their spot in the finals, as they almost lost to West Brom, which makes us wonder if they ran out of steam. Calling out a winner here is tough. Despite the fact Villa won the last two h2h encounters with Derby, the Rams hit form just at the right time and should perform much better this time out. If I had to predict a result here, I’ll have to go with 1:1, and the winner to be decided after penalties. The reason behind that is that the match as a whole seems like a 50/50, and while there are some arguments to be made in Aston Villa’s favour, Derby look strong enough to finally break the Championship chains and play in the Premier League next season.