Kick Off: Sunday, 15 May at 12.30 AM IST
Stadium: The Hawthorns
Free EFL Championship Playoffs Semi Finals Picks West Brom vs. Aston Villa
Aston Villa travel to The Hawthorns to take on West Brom in the second leg of their Championship playoff semi-final tie – which is in Villa’s favor 2-1. Dwight Gayle’s stunning finish put West Brom in front only to be denied by Conor Hourihane and Tammy Abraham who struck for the host in last 15 minutes of the match. The Baggies have been handed a big blow courtesy of Gayle’s double bookings which means the striker will not be able to play for them in the return leg. West Brom finished four points above Aston Villa at the end of the season and a one goal advantage was never going to be enough.
West Brom started the game well thanks to – Gayle, who’s been a crucial figure in the side – the Baggies have a 54% win rate in 41 games in which he has played. Jimmy Shan the caretaker manager would feel his side were undone by substitute Hourihane’s strike from 25 yards. Kieran Gibbs foul caused more damage to West Brom chances and Tammy Abraham didn’t miss from the spot to make it 2-1 for Villa. West Brom had a Mason Holgate penalty shout turned down, things would have been interesting if it were to be given. Albion’s approach to sit back and relax after their 16th minute goal has made them pay.
Sixteen of the last 18 sides to have lost the first leg of a Championship playoff semi-final have been knocked out – the exceptions being Derby County last season and Leicester City in 2013. The Baggies have the potential to turn over the deficit and if they manage to it without their key man, they surely will return to the Premier League next season. Jacob Murphy is expected to replace Gayle, who’ll also be joined by Jay Rodriguez and Matt Phillips in the attacking department. Craig Dawson remains doubtful to start.
It’s been three years since Villa played in the Premier League – yes, they did have an opportunity against Fulham in last season’s playoff finals, but here they’re – close to another final. Aston Villa didn’t find their feet in the first half at Villa Park, but their second half performance had put West Brom under pressure, which led them to glory in front of their home crowd. Villa boss Dean Smith will be confident going into the match, as his side’s away form has been good – Villa finished the season remaining undefeated in seven matches.
Villans will need to overcome their rivals – who’ll be waiting to strike back, Villa have a poor record at the Hawthorns where they have not won in their previous seven attempts. Abraham will once again be the key for Aston Villa, even a draw would be enough for Smith’s men to progress through. Hourihane is likely to replace Glenn Whelan, Andre Green is another candidate who’s cameo in the first leg might earn him a spot in the squad. Jed Steer will expected to retain his place in goal. Defender James Chester is sidelined through a knee injury.
Match Prediction : DRAW