Aston Villa vs Derby - Championship play-off finalists compared

It is the £170million game. The Championship play-off final has the potential to fulfill dreams but also break hearts after a long and exhausting campaign.
This year, Aston Villa
and Derby County
will meet at Wembley Stadium on May 27 for the right to return to the Premier League
next season and all the riches that come with it.
We compare the two clubs in anticipation of the big match next weekend.
 
ROUTE TO THE FINAL
Aston Villa:
Villa ended up fifth in the final league table, having propelled themselves into the top six with a club record run of 10 consecutive league victories during March and April.
That enabled them to enter the play-offs with plenty of momentum but they had to come from behind to beat local rivals West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the first leg of their semi-final.
Dwight Gayle capitalised on a defensive error to hand the Baggies the lead, but Conor Hourihane's eye-catching 25-yard strike and Tammy Abraham's penalty edged Villa in front.
Watching brief 
CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFF FINAL
ASTON VILLA vs DERBY COUNTY
Monday May 27, 3pm at Wembley
Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football 
That advantage was cancelled out by Craig Dawson's header at The Hawthorns on Tuesday night but the 80th-minute sending off of Albion captain Chris Brunt shifted the balance of the game.
Albion saw out extra time a man light but Villa won 4-3 on penalties after goalkeeper Jed Steer made crucial saves from Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi to book a Wembley final.
Derby County:
It was a little touch and go as to whether Derby would get into the play-off places but Frank Lampard's team went their final six matches unbeaten, winning four, to finish just ahead of Middlesbrough.
But their ambition of returning to the Premier League for the first time since the 2007-08 season looked to have been dashed when Kemar Roofe's goal handed Leeds United the advantage following Saturday's first leg at Pride Park.
Cue an extraordinary night at Elland Road on Wednesday. Stuart Dallas extended Leeds' aggregate lead before Jack Marriott came off the bench to offer Derby hope just before half-time.
They then levelled the aggregate scores at 2-2 through Mason Mount and Harry Wilson's penalty put them ahead for the first time in the tie.
Back came Leeds with Dallas scoring again before a turning point when Gaetano Berardi was sent off for a poor tackle with 12 minutes to play.
And five minutes from time, Marriott was Derby's hero with the winner, sparking jubilant touchline celebrations from Lampard and his staff.
 
HEAD-TO-HEAD THIS SEASON
While we all know that form goes out of the window when it comes to the play-offs, Villa have every reason to be confident when it comes to this season's meetings with Derby. They won both... with an aggregate score of 7-0!
Dean Smith was a month into the job at Villa Park when they won 3-0 at Pride Park in November. Three late goals by John McGinn, Abraham and Hourihane secured an ultimately emphatic win that lifted Villa to 11th place.
The return in Birmingham at the start of March was even more one-sided. Villa, seeking to restart their play-off bid, scored four times before half-time in an easy win.
Hourihane scored twice and Jack Grealish produced a stunning volley on his return from injury, with Abraham also on target.
 
MANAGERIAL IMPACT
Aston Villa:
Returning Villa to the Premier League after three seasons away is a very personal mission for Smith, a lifelong fan of the club whose father worked as a steward at Villa Park for years.
Given the personal pressure as a result, Smith admitted he thought long and hard about whether to leave Brentford for Villa when Steve Bruce was sacked amid poor form in early October.
With John Terry as his right-hand man, Smith has slowly transformed Villa into play-off contenders, with everything clicking by the Spring when they won 10 straight games, breaking a 109-year club record.
Now Smith will be desperate to complete the job and manage in the top-flight for the first time.
Derby County:
As first seasons in management go, Lampard has been through pretty much every emotion with numerous highs and lows.
Derby's Championship season started with a 94th-minute winner at Reading before the Rams knocked Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup.
Lampard found himself unwittingly in the eye of the Spygate storm when Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa sent a member of his staff to watch his training session.
But the former England midfielder certainly had the last laugh - firstly, getting Derby into the play-offs on the final day and then beating Leeds in an epic semi-final.
 
THREE KEY MEN
Aston Villa
Jack Grealish:
One of Smith's masterstrokes was handing Grealish, a lifelong Villa fan and academy graduate, the captain's armband when he returned from a shin injury in early March.
The 23-year-old has risen to the responsibility and he certainly has the capability to conjure moments of magic - whether a goal or a pass - to decide games.
Reacted admirably to being assaulted by a pitch invader during the derby with Birmingham in March, later scoring the winning goal.
Tammy Abraham:
What an exceptional season the Chelsea loanee has enjoyed, scoring 26 times in all competitions to power Villa's promotion push.
The 21-year-old showed maturity to hold his nerve and score a penalty to hand Villa the first-leg advantage over West Brom in the first leg and then the winning kick in the second leg shoot-out.
Wherever his long-term future lies, Abraham has repeatedly shown his class and potential in a free-scoring season.
Jed Steer:
It's been a remarkable rise for a goalkeeper who was Villa's third choice behind Lovre Kalinic and Orjan Nyland when he was recalled from a loan spell at Charlton on New Year's Eve.
Injuries to others allowed Steer, whose career has been a pretty nomadic one with countless loans, his opportunity and he seized it by holding down a first-team place.
He made two saves in the penalty shoot-out on Tuesday night to seal Villa's passage to Wembley.
Derby County
Mason Mount:
It's been an excellent season for the 20-year-old midfielder, loaned out by Chelsea to gain experience under the mentorship of Lampard.
Mount has scored 11 times - including a calm finish at Elland Road on Wednesday - and contributed six assists in a season that saw him called into Gareth Southgate's England squad.
With his playing style drawing plenty of comparisons to Lampard's, Mount looks poised for a long career at the top.
Jack Marriott:
The striker's introduction from the Derby bench a minute before half-time completely transformed Wednesday night's game at Leeds.
Determined that his first season with Derby wasn't going to end in disappointment, Marriott scored twice to send them to Wembley.
And that despite suffering a goal drought that dated back to an FA Cup tie against Southampton on January 5.
Harry Wilson:
Another loan signed who has proved enormously influential in Derby's season.
Wilson, 22, was brought in from Liverpool and has excelled, scoring 18 goals and adding six assists to really make a name for himself.
His superb free-kick ability has certainly caught the eye, not least when he scored from 30 yards against Manchester United in the EFL Cup.
 
WEMBLEY PEDIGREE
Aston Villa:
You don't have to go back too far for Villa's last Wembley appearance. 12 months ago they suffered play-off final heartbreak as they lost 1-0 to Fulham.
Prior to that, they played at the national stadium in the 2015 FA Cup final, but were thrashed 4-0 by Arsenal.
Derby County:
The Rams were victorious at Wembley in the 2007 Championship play-offs, when they beat West Brom 1-0.
But they experienced the other side of the coin when they lost 1-0 to 10-man Queens Park Rangers in 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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