Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
We now know the line-up for this season’s £200million game. Both Derby and Aston Villa will be heading to Wembley looking to secure their place in the Premier League, but which of the two will be able to return to the top flight? It’s a huge game filled with subplots, including the reunion of Chelsea duo Frank Lampard and John Terry – the Derby manager and Villa assistant boss.
It certainly wasn’t easy for the pair to make it this far, while they’re set for a real battle in the richest game in football. With just 90 minutes between them and the windfall of the Premier League, the pressure is huge. With a massive clash between the pair looming, we’re looking at their road to the final, along with the latest betting odds.
Two Away Successes
We were treated to two thrilling nights of playoff action this week, which went in two very different directions. First, Aston Villa were narrowly beaten 1-0 at West Brom, with the Villains turning in a poor performance across both legs. Villa won 2-1 at home, while they had the chance to take the game to West Brom in the second half after Chris Brunt’s red card. Despite that, the visitors were unable to make the difference, so it went down to spot kicks. Villa edged through, but they’ll need to up their game if they’re going to claim promotion. Having ended the season with a run of 10 wins in 12, this display was closer to their winless run in early 2019.
Attention then turned to Elland Road, where Derby upended 30 years of playoff history to qualify for the final. They became the first team to win a Championship playoff semi-final after losing the home leg. The Rams had been beaten 1-0 by Leeds at Pride Park, while they found themselves 1-0 down in the second leg too. They raced back to claim a 4-2 away win, which brought Spygate inspired celebrations from their players.
A £200million Burden
While we’re set up for another big clash at Wembley, it’s probably wise not to expect goals. Recent years have seen plenty of tense finales to the Championship campaign. That’s probably not a surprise, given the build-up this match tends to get. It’s labelled the richest game in football, as the winner claims a slice of the Premier League TV deal, along with all the bonuses that come along with top-flight action.
Not only do ticket sales and commercial deals go up, but the promise of top-flight prize money makes this a massive occasion. When Derby won it in 2007, the game was said to be worth £60million. In 10 years, that figure has more than tripled. There’s believed to be around £200million going to the winner of this match, so the pressure is huge.
Given that, it probably isn’t a shock that the last 10 playoff finals have mostly been dull affairs. Only two have seen both teams score, while just one of the last six has seen over 1.5 goals land. None of those six have seen more than two goals, with just four second-half goals scored across the last 10. We do expect another close clash in this one, despite Villa comfortably winning the head to head battle this season. With the pressure in playoff finals growing and goal evaporating, we expect many will be tempted by under 2.5 goals in this one, which clocks in at 4/5 with bet365.
Playoff Final Promotion Odds
The manner of Derby’s victory in midweek should have inspired a few to back them to go up, but Frank Lampard’s men are the outsiders for promotion. Aston Villa are priced at 8/13 with Betfair to go up, while Derby are 5/4 with William Hill. What could be down to the Rams’ record at this level, given that six of their previous seven Championship playoff campaigns have ended in failure.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa are the form side going into this campaign, while three of the last four finals have been won by the side with the higher league finish. That hit Villa a year ago when they were outplayed by Fulham at Wembley. They’re back a year later aiming to build on that loss and finish the job, while we suspect they have learnt a lot from that setback. They’ve brought in Dean Smith – boyhood Villa fan – to finish the job. His career has been building towards the Premier League, while he’d love to be the man to take his club back to the top flight.
Derby have the disadvantage of being sixth, as only one sixth-placed side have won promotion through the playoffs over the last 13 years. All of that has us siding with Villa going into the big clash at Wembley, especially as they have the stronger squad overall. The Villains are our main tip in our Derby vs Aston Villa Predictions, having beaten the Rams 7-0 on aggregate across the season. After heartbreak a year ago, calamity in the summer and gloom during their midseason struggles, Villa could be about to end the campaign on a £200million high.
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