Aston Villa take on Fulham in the Championship Play-off final at Wembley on Saturday, just one step behind a promotion to the Premier League. All the hard work, concentration, victories, triumphs and lessons learnt come down to this game, which could be nothing short of high-octane footballing action and intense situations.
While Villa held Boro with a goalless draw at home after having scored an away goal, the Cottagers came back from behind to reverse a 1-0 deficit sustained in the first leg. They have shared two games with Slaviša Jokanović’s men, emerging victorious at home and losing the reverse fixture.
The key is to get Snodgrass and Adomah on the ball as much as possible, sustain Sessegnon and stay comfortable while not in possession, as Fulham are expected to dominate in that aspect.
Sam Johnstone, one of Steve Bruce’s most reliable players, will guard the goal for Aston Villa. He has recorded a remarkable 22 clean sheets this campaign.
James Bree will man the right side of the defence. He reads the situations well, plays to his strengths and whips them in with accuracy. Alan Hutton, who has been a revelation at left back, will continue on the same side. He is one of the most disciplined full-backs in the league.
The prolific duo of John Terry and James Chester should continue at the heart of the defence. They are robust, sharp and good in set-piece situations.
Mile Jedinak will form the nucleus of the midfield. The Australian is expected to hold the midfield, close down spaces and foil the back four.
Robert Snodgrass should play at right wing. He occupies the wider area, combines with Bree and cuts inside to create an opening. He will also take charge of set-piece formalities. The dynamic Albert Adomah will occupy the other flank. He is a certain match winner, as he has earned over 18 match-winning points for the Villans through direct contributions.
The magic and craft of Jack Grealish will be witnessed at central attacking midfield. He creates chances, holds the ball well and possesses fine technique. Conor Hourihane will accompany him in a similar yet advanced position. The onus is on both of them to run at Tim Ream and Denis Odoi.
Lewis Grabban, who has 20 goals this season, will spearhead the Villa attack. He makes clever runs into empty channels, links up play with the midfielders and can punish the opposition if he finds room for a shot.
Probable XI – (4-1-4-1)
Sam Johstone, James Bree, James Chester, John Terry, Alan Hutton, Mile Jedinak, Robert Snodgrass, Conor Hourihane, Jack Grealish, Albert Adomah, Lewis Grabban