All the hard work each side have put in this year comes to a head in the finals of the Championship play-offs. The very fact that they are both here should prove neither are going to be pushovers. They ended the main season a mere two points apart and have since managed to fight off Leeds United and West Brom to claim their place in the final, meaning neither has a clear advantage.
You could argue that Derby County have a touch more momentum, with their 4-2 comeback over Leeds being more impressive than Villa’s effort, which saw them lose their goal advantage before clinging onto their promotion dreams in a penalty shoot out. On the other hand, Villa have arguably been more consistent in recent months. This has all the ingredients of a razor tight, nerve-shatteringly close contest.
Aston Villa vs Derby County Prediction: Aston Villa 1-0 Derby
While we expect nothing less than an extremely hard-fought, close game here – their very future does hang in the balance after all –, we do think Villa has the slightest of advantages here. That’s thanks to the side’s astonishing set of performances across March and April, which have made them the more consistent team recently. Even though Derby County’s stunning win over Leeds United showed they are very capable of winning here, they’ve rarely been able to string together consecutive victories with the frequency of their opponents. Still, an easy win in either direction seems very unlikely. Therefore, we’re predicting a scoreline of 1-0 to Aston Villa.
Our recommended tip: Aston Villa win to nil
The home side are the bookmakers’ favourites heading into this Championship play-off final clash. At Paddy Power, Aston Villa have low-risk 11/10 match odds, with Derby County getting slightly higher risk 12/5 odds on a win. However, Villa managed their last five victories over Derby with a clean sheet. On top of that, the last six Championship play-off finals have seen at least one side fail to score. Considering all this, we recommend that you predict Aston Villa will win to nil to get 11/4 odds from Paddy Power and a higher potential ROI.
With close to 150 games having taken place between Aston Villa and Derby County – and over a century since their first meeting in 1885 –, there’s hardly a lack of history between these two. But what really matters heading into this match is that Aston Villa have a distinct edge. They won their last two encounters and by a considerable scoreline too, as those games ended 4-0 and 3-0 respectively. They also hold the overall statistical advantage. This should be a big confidence booster for Villa fans, no doubt, but the team should avoid overconfidence: Derby have defied plenty of odds to get here already.
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Players to watch: Tammy Abraham & Jack Marriott
Aston Villa: Tammy Abraham
It seems unlikely that Aston Villa would have made it through the play-offs without Tammy Abraham and his penchant for penalties. That’s what made the difference in the first leg, and he scored the winning goal in the penalty shoot out in the second. Should they end up in a similar situation, lightning could very well strike thrice. However, he’s far more than a one-trick pony, having been instrumental to his side’s success all season. He’ll likely be a major factor in the final too.
Derby County: Jack Marriott
While we don’t want to play down the efforts of any of the Derby team when it comes to credit for their astonishing comeback against Leeds United, there is little doubt who the hero of the match was. That’s the man that got the brace which secured their place in the play-off finals: Jack Marriott. It was a truly brilliant, game-changing outing which, if repeated, could see them make it to the Premier League.