Former Premier League sides Fulham and Aston Villa are only 90 minutes away from a return to the top tier of English football. Both sides quite rightly deserve their respective place in the Playoffs Final, and we expect an interesting showdown at Wembley Stadium on 26th May.
Since their relegation from Premier League in 2014, the Cottagers have never found themselves so close to the promotion. The Cottagers have been in quite a remarkable form in 2018, and they should have already earned an automatic promotion to Premier League. However, they suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Birmingham City on the final day of the regular season and finished two points behind second-placed Cardiff City. The defeat was a shock for the Cottagers who hadn’t lost a league game throughout 2018.
Fulham did well to recover and beat Derby County 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final, and now they are favourites to win their final against Villa. Youngster Ryan Sessegnon was the hero for Fulham as he scored one goal and assisted another in the 2-0 win over the Rams in the second leg. It is a great achievement for Fulham, who will return to Wembley after a gap of 49 years.
Aston Villa are on the path towards recovery under the guidance of Steve Bruce. The Midlands club were in a shambolic state when they suffered relegation from Premier League in 2016. New owner Tony Xia has invested a lot in the last couple of years, and the Villains find themselves very close to their rightful place in the top tier. Villa finished their season in the fourth spot, five points behind their opponents in the league table.
Aston Villa have been a better defensive side this season, and they have picked 22 clean sheets as compared to Fulham’s 16. Villa managed to keep Middlesbrough at bay for 180 minutes as they registered a 1-0 win on aggregate in their playoff semi-final. We expect them to adapt the same pragmatic approach in the final. However, Fulham have been scoring goals for fun, and behind champions Wolves, they were the second-best attacking side in the recently-concluded season with 79 goals. We don’t see Villa keeping a clean sheet in the final, but we are backing them to give a tough fight to the Cottagers.
Fulham vs Aston Villa Head-to-head
Fulham and Villa both won their respective home game in the league this season. Villa claimed a 2-1 win at Villa Park in October, but Fulham returned the favour with a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage in February.
Fulham Team News
Fulham seem to have no serious injury concerns ahead of the final. We expect Slavisa Jokanovic to name the same starting eleven that claimed a 2-0 win over Derby in the second leg of their semi-final.
Aston Villa Team News
Villa were without Neil Taylor and Axel Tuanzebe in the semi-final, and Ahmed Elmohamady missed the second leg with a hamstring injury. They will rely on veteran centre-back John Terry to marshal their defence, and the likes of Lewis Grabban and Jonathan Kodija will handle goalscoring responsibilities.
Fulham are favourites to qualify in the betting market. The Cottagers have been the best side in the Championship in 2018, and we believe they will prove too much for the Villains in the final. Thus, we are backing Fulham to claim a win in normal time on 26th May.
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