Saturday 11 May: 12.30pm KO
Live on Sky Sports
Aston Villa looked set for a mid-table finish a few months ago. The return of Jack Grealish has changed all that though and they finished the season in fifth place. They bid to get a good lead to take to the Hawthorns as they host local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
As February came to an end, Aston Villa had won just one of their last ten league games and weren’t even in the top ten of the Championship. The radio phone-ins were full of disappointed Villa fans who seemed resigned to another season outside of the Premier League.
Then it all changed as Jack Grealish made his return to the side and Villa put four goals past Derby County with all the goals scored in the first half. That began a run of ten league wins in a row as Villa moved into the promotion play-off positions.
Their revival isn’t just down to the return of Jack Grealish though. The first half of the season saw Villa involved in one high-scoring game after another. Who could forget the incredible 5-5 home draw with Nottingham Forest and losing a 3-0 lead against Sheffield United with less than a quarter of an hour to go. That problem seems to have been solved with only four goals conceded in their last six home league games. If you place your bet at William Hill, they will give you 19/20 (1.85) on Villa winning this first leg.
Villa’s good run ended with the controversial draw at Leeds United and then a 2-1 home loss to Champions Norwich City. There are odds of 4/6 (1.66) at Betfred that they win this semi-final tie against West Bromwich Albion, where they could again meet Leeds United.
Last season saw Aston Villa lose in the play-off final to Fulham. You can get odds of 15/8 (2.87) at William Hill on them going one better this season and returning to the Premier League.
West Bromwich Albion finished third in the Championship, one place and three points ahead of Aston Villa. Like their opponents, they were known for their high-scoring games in the first half of the season. Their first six home league games saw them score 20 goals but then they started to drop points at the Hawthorns and a run of one win in nine home league games saw their hopes of automatic promotion fade.
It also led to the dismissal of Darren Moore as manager despite eight wins out of nine on their travels. The minute they sacked Moore, the home wins resumed but they only earned one point from their last four away league games. Betfred will give you 4/1 (5.0) on West Brom winning the play-offs and returning to the Premier League at the first attempt.
West Brom are unbeaten in their last four games against Aston Villa. They have won their last two games at Villa Park and William Hill have Albion at odds of 16/5 (4.2) to win this first leg and take a massive step towards the Wembley final.
Jake Livermore is doubtful for West Brom and they also have Hal Robson-Kanu suspended for both legs of this tie.
Kodjia on Target?
Jonathan Kodjia could be the man to fire Aston Villa into the play-off final. Betfred will give you odds of 8/5 (2.6) on him scoring for the third time in four games.
Over 2.5 Goals?
Five of the last six West Brom games have had over 2.5 goals scored in them. The same stat has come up in all but one of the Aston Villa home league matches. You can get 10/11 (1.91) at William Hill on there being over 2.5 goals being scored in this match.
This should be a cracking tie and it’s hard to choose between the two clubs who are both desperate to return to the Premier League. Both sides had a lack-lustre end to the main season once their play-off spots were secured. A bet on Aston Villa to win with both teams scoring is 3/1 (4.0) at Betfred.