The English Championship playoff final will take place Monday with two teams hopeful to get promoted to the top of the English pyramid. Norwich and Sheffield United each earned the two automatic promotion spots and either Aston Villa or Derby will join them next season.
Aston Villa finished in 5th place this season and earned their way to the final with a 3-2 aggregate win over West Brom in the semifinals. Aston Villa won the first leg, at home, 2-1 thanks to two goals after the 70th minute. West Brom was able to “win” regular time of the 2nd leg which forced extra time between the two. Neither team could score in the extra time and it was Aston Villa who went through after winning 4-3 on penalties.
Derby finished in 6th place this past season, earning them the final playoff spot, and advanced to the final with a 4-3 aggregate win over Leeds. The first leg went pretty much as expected with Leeds scoring a 55th minute goal to win 1-0. It looked like Leeds were going to cruise into the final after scoring early in the second leg, but a goal just before the half gave Derby some hope. What followed was one of the more stunning comebacks in recent Championship playoffs memory. Derby scored two more goals with the first 15 minutes of the second half saw Derby take a 3-2 aggregate lead, but just four minutes later Leeds scored to tie up the affair. It looked like the two teams would be heading to extra time, but an 85th minute goal saw Derby clinch their spot in the final.
A win Monday will earn Villa a spot in the Premier League for the first time since the 2015-2016 season. It would be their 106th (!) season in England’s top flight which only trails Everton’s 116 seasons in the top flight. Derby would enter the Premier League for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. It would be their 66th season of top flight play.
Who will earn promotion to the English Premier League? Here is my pick for the Championship final between Aston Villa and Derby.
Aston Villa (+125) vs Derby (+260): Draw (+229)
Aston Villa enter Monday with seven wins in their last 10 games and 10 win in their last 15 games. In their last 10 games Villa have scored more than two goals just one time and have not conceded more than two goals in that span.
Derby have five wins in their 10 games and just seven wins in their last 15. In their last 10 games Derby has scored more than two goals four times while conceding more than two goals just once.
I like Aston Villa to get the win and get back to the Premier League.
Aston Villa have won three of the last five, and two straight, meetings between these two clubs.
YTD Soccer Results: 68-62