MX23RW : Saturday, July 31 18:00:52| >> :120:10514:10514:
May 27, 2019 at 3pm UK at Villa Park
Attendance: 85,826
Aston Villa
DerbyDerby County
El Ghazi (44'), McGinn (59')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Waghorn (81')

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Derby County - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Monday's Championship playoff final clash between Aston Villa and Derby County, including team news and predicted lineups.

Midlands rivals Aston Villa and Derby County meet at Wembley Stadium on Monday afternoon in the Championship playoff final.

Billed the 'richest game in football', one of these sides will end the bank holiday weekend as a Premier League club as the English domestic season comes to a close.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa's players celebrate following their penalty-shootout triumph over West Bromwich Albion on May 14, 2019© Reuters

Villa supporters do not need telling about the gut-wrenching feeling of narrowly missing out on a place in the top tier, having tasted defeat to Fulham in last season's playoff final.

Tom Cairney broke the Villans' hearts 12 months ago and the dream looked to be over for another year following an underwhelming first half to the 2018-19 campaign.

Villa were down in 11th place after snatching a 1-1 draw at Stoke City on February 23, eight points adrift of Bristol City in the final playoff spot.

A club-record run of 10 wins in a row lifted Dean Smith's men up the division, though, and in the end they sealed a top-six finish with some time to spare.

One point from the last six on offer was not the best way for Villa to build momentum heading into their playoff semi-final with West Bromwich Albion, but it did not matter as they came out on top in an entertaining battle with their West Midlands rivals.

West Brom led 1-0 in the first leg at Villa Park, only for Conor Hourihane to score a superb long-range strike, followed up by a penalty from Tammy Abraham. A Craig Dawson header in the second leg set up extra time and penalties, which Smith's side edged 4-3.

Smith deserves a lot of credit for the work he has achieved during his seven months at Villa Park, having instilled a real collective belief and given supporters reason to be positive once again.

However, much like 12 months ago against Fulham, there is a real sense that this could be boom or bust for Villa in terms of the financial aspect. Losing Jack Grealish, for example, seems certain if they fall just short for the second year running.

It could be argued that Villa are a stronger side this time around, though, and Derby - for all their strengths - are not as good a side as Fulham were heading into the 2018 final.

Taking that loss to the Cottagers into account, Villa have lost five of their last six matches at Wembley, with their only victory during that run coming in April 2015 against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals. They head into this game as favourites, though - a tag Smith needs to ensure his players live up to.

Recent form in Championship (including playoffs): WWDLWW

Derby County

Frank Lampard celebrates Derby County reaching the Championship playoff final on May 15, 2019© Reuters

Whereas Villa have only spent three years outside of the Premier League, for Derby the wait is a little longer. Not since 2008, when going down with a record low tally, have they graced the top flight.

The less said about that campaign the better, though the good times appear to have returned under Frank Lampard, who has been linked with the Chelsea job thanks to his impressive work at Pride Park.

In his first managerial role, Lampard has guided the Rams into the playoffs, doing so thanks to a strong end to the regular campaign.

County took 14 points from the last 18 on offer to finish sixth, matching their league position from 12 months ago when losing to Villa's conquerors Fulham in the playoff semis.

The emotions could not have been any different this time around, though, as Derby became the first side to lose the first leg of a semi-final on home soil and progress through.

Lampard's men lost 1-0 to Leeds United at Pride Park and conceded 24 minutes into the second leg to find themselves two goals down on aggregate.

Bringing on Jack Marriott from the bench late in the first half proved to be an inspired change for Lampard, however, as the striker scored twice in an incredible 4-2 win for the Rams at Elland Road, seeing them through 4-3 on aggregate.

That match may have been emotionally draining from Derby's perspective, but they will have a 12-day rest between games and, in terms of momentum, they are the side in form.

Derby are participating in their fourth second-tier playoff final, losing two (in 1994 and 2014) and winning one (2007) of their previous three.

The Rams finished two points worse off than Villa, meanwhile, and the team finishing sixth in the Championship have been promoted via the playoffs in just one of the last 13 seasons, with Blackpool beating Cardiff City in the 2010 final.

That is not the best omen, though Derby have already created history in this season's playoffs and Lampard now has his sights set on a dream promotion to the Premier League.

Recent form in Championship (including playoffs): WWDWLW

Team News

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish celebrates scoring against Derby County on March 2, 2019© Reuters

Axel Tuanzebe limped off during extra time of the meeting with West Brom, but the on-loan Manchester United defender is fit and available for selection.

Smith has revealed that he has a nearly fully-fit squad to choose from, with goalkeeper Orjan Nyland the only player missing, so Jed Steer will continue to operate between the sticks.

Albert Adomah is in contention to replace Andre Green out wide, though changes are otherwise expected to be kept to a minimum from the win against Albion.

Chelsea loanee Abraham has scored four Championship goals against Derby County - he has only netted more against Nottingham Forest (five).

Derby have a couple of fitness issues to contend with, meanwhile, as Martyn Waghorn injured his Achilles on the final day of the regular season and missed both legs of the semi-final win over Leeds.

Duane Holmes was a starter in County's last three league games but has been struggling with a thigh problem, while Craig Bryson and David Nugent are confirmed absentees.

Marriott's star showing from the bench at Elland Road last week will likely be enough to earn him a start up top, and there will also be a change at left-back as Ashley Cole is certain to come in for the suspended Scott Malone.

Harry Wilson has been involved in eight goals in his last 10 Championship matches for Derby and has scored 16 league goals this season overall - seven more than any other Rams player.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Steer; Elmohamady, Tuanzebe, Mings, Taylor; Adomah, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, El Ghazi; Abraham

Derby County possible starting lineup:
Roos; Bogle, Keogh, Tomori, Cole; Johnson, Holmes; Wilson, Mount, Lawrence; Marriott

Head To Head

Derby lost both of their Championship meetings with Aston Villa this season by an aggregate score of 7-0 - 3-0 at home in November and 4-0 at Villa Park four months later.

The Villans have won six of their last nine matches against their Midlands rivals, all in league competition, losing just once during that sequence - a 2-0 defeat in December 2017.

This is only the sixth second-tier playoff final between the teams finishing fifth and sixth in the division that season and the first since 2005, when West Ham United won 1-0 against Preston North End.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Aston Villa 1-0 Derby County

Villa are the first side to reach back-to-back Championship playoff finals since West Ham in 2005 and they will be desperate to avenge their loss to Fulham almost 12 months ago to the day.

Derby accrued 72 points across their 46 league matches, meaning that they could go up with the lowest tally since Crystal Palace in 2013. They head into this game as underdogs and will need another magical display if they are to end their wait for a Premier League return.

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Derby County's Jack Marriott scores moments after coming off the bench in the Championship playoff semi-final second leg against Leeds United on May 15, 2019
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CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
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Great BritainGreat Britain891128
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Sunday's key events

· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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Olympic Games Men's Football
Scottish Premiership
Pre-Season Friendlies
Portuguese Super Cup
Taca da Liga
Scottish Championship
Scottish League One
Scottish League Two
Belgian Pro League
Swiss Super League
Russian Premier League
Ukrainian Premier League
Swedish Allsvenskan
Danish Superliga
Finnish Veikkausliiga
League of Ireland Premier
Belarusian Premier League
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