It’s what they call ‘The Richest Game in Football’ as the Championship Play-off final between Aston Villa and Derby County takes place on Bank Holiday Monday in the UK, kicking off at 3:00pm local time at Wembley. Will Aston Villa return to the Premier League after a three-year hiatus, or will Frank Lampard’s dream first season have the fairy-tale ending?

Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s form in the first half of the season had left a lot to be desired, as they set a record for conceding the most amount of goals at home in their history, and were quite adrift from the chasing pack at the top of the league. However, performances had improved, as they went on a 10-match winning streak as they cruised into the play-off positions, and finally secured 5th place.

In the semi-finals of the play-off, they had a West Midlands derby with West Brom, which went down to the wire. Villa were losing the first game 1-0, but two late goals saw them take a 2-1 advantage into the 2nd leg. West Brom levelled the tie on aggregate with a 1-0 win, and extra time couldn’t separate the two sides, so it went to penalties. Goalkeeper Jed Steer was the hero, saving two penalties as Aston Villa progressed by winning 4-3 on penalties.

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Frank Lampard’s debut season as a football manager sees him take Derby to the play-off final, and he has done a remarkable job. Derby were always in the mix for a play-off position, often being outside with a few points adrift, or holding a place in the table, as it shifted week by week.

Derby were in pole position with a few games to go, and didn’t let the opportunity slip as they confirmed 6th place on the final day. Unfortunately, they had to face 3rd place Leeds though, and were largely unfancied. Leeds had won both of their fixtures in the regular season, and also won the first leg 1-0 away from home at Derby.

However, despite going 1-0 down on the night, and 2-0 down on aggregate, Derby managed to produce one of their most stunning performances of the season to eventually win 4-2 on the night against 10 man Leeds, and send themselves to the final. Frank Lampard was obviously overjoyed, and in the final, he’ll meet his long-term teammate John Terry, who is the assistant manager at Villa.

Head to Head

Aston Villa boast a better head to head record overall with 71 victories to Derby’s 44, but more importantly, they’ve had the better success in recent times. In the previous meetings this season, Aston Villa dominated Derby and won 3-0 away and 4-0 at home in two one-side affairs. Derby did beat Aston Villa at home last season, by a 2-0 score line, but that remains their only win against Aston Villa in 9 matches, a record that stretches back to 2001. The sides have never met in a play-off final, or even at Wembley.

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Predictions and Betting Tips

Aston Villa are favourites at 6/5 to win in 90 minutes, with Derby at 11/5. For the sides to draw, that is priced at 23/10. To be promoted to the Premier League, Villa are backed at 8/13, with Derby at 6/5.

Derby’s confidence will be sky high after their win against Leeds, so for them to be at 11/5 is tempting. However, Aston Villa were defeated in the final last year, and I cannot help but think they’ll be even more determined to make sure they don’t lose again. My score line prediction is 2-1 to Aston Villa at 17/2. To boost odds even more, you can add Tammy Abraham to score the first goal in that score line at 22/1.

There is potential for a high scoring play-off match, so backing there to be more than 3.5 goals at 9/4 is worth pondering.

Finally, if you want to back Derby, then you may want to back them to win from behind as they did the semi-finals at 16/1.

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