The play-off finals take centre stage this Bank Holiday weekend with Monday’s Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Derby County bringing the curtain down on the domestic English football season.

Brand Ambassador Michael Owen again looks forward to the Wembley finale exclusively for BetVictor.


Aston Villa v Derby County

For much of the two legs between Leeds United and Derby County in the play-off semi-final it looked a very short price that it would be the south Yorkshire outfit who would meet the winners of the Villa v Albion tie at Wembley.

The catalyst for change was the introduction of Rams’ substitute Jack Marriot just before the interval in the 2nd leg at Elland Road. Marriot’s 45th minute equaliser would have changed the mood in both dressing rooms at half-time. Had the Rams gone in one-down at Elland Road – and 2-0 on aggregate – I feel there would have been no way back for Derby.

As it was Frank Lampard’s side played a fantastic second 45 minutes with exciting loanees Harry Wilson (Liverpool) and Mason Mount (Chelsea) to the fore. A remarkable transformation and a richly-deserved 4-2 win for Derby, but it is Aston Villa who I feel will be celebrating a return to the Premier League on Monday evening.

Villa – led by former England skipper John Terry – lost last season’s play-off Final to Fulham 12 months ago – Derby were beaten semi-finalists – but I feel they can learn from that experience when they, arguably, froze on the big stage especially in the first half.

This is a big game for Villa’s Jack Grealish who must impose himself on the game from the opening whistle. The skipper is too good for the Championship as is his teammate Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham and the excellent Villa boss Dean Smith will be desperate to keep the pair in the second city next term.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Richard O'Kelly Assistant head coach, Dean Smith manager and John Terry assistant manager of Aston Villa during a press conference at Villa Park Stadium on October 15, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

I feel that will be impossible if they do not have Premier League football to offer the talented young English duo next season, however, although in the case of Abraham I feel his immediate future lies back at Stamford Bridge especially with Chelsea set to serve a two-window transfer ban.

Tyrone Mings has been a defensive rock for Villa since arriving from Bournemouth in the January transfer window, but he and the rest of the Villa defence will have their work cut out with the pace and skill of Wilson, Mount and Marriot.

It promises to be tight and tense, but it is Villa who I feel will be back among the elite of English football for the 2019/20 campaign.


Villa to qualify for the Premier League at

Villa to win and both teams to score at

Tammy Abraham to score at anytime at

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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