It’s playoff time in the EFL Championship. While this will not determine the winner of the EFL Championship, like in American sports, it will determine which team will get the coveted final promotion spot to the Premier League. Winning this playoff will come with a big paycheck. This first round consists of a two-game series (home and away) with the winner earning a trip to Wembley. The first found kicks off this coming Saturday (May 11th) when Aston Villa F.C. welcome West Bromwich Albion F.C. to the Villa Park, while the second leg will shift to The Hawthorns on May 14th. Adding to these fixtures is the history between the two clubs, which is known as the West Midlands Derby.
Each of these clubs was founded in the 1870s but they would not face each other until December of 1882 in the 3-3 draw (the replay was won by West Brom). In the history of this derby, these teams have met a total of 145 times with Aston Villa winning 68 and West Brom winning 47. With this being a derby with the chance of promotion on the line we can expect a tightly contested affair. This season has seen West Brom get the better of Villa earning a 2-2 drawback in December and coming away 2-0 winners at Villa Park in February.
West Bromwich Albion vs Aston Villa Albion Vital Information
Both of these games of this two-legged affair can be viewed on ESPN+. The first match will be on Saturday, May 11th with kickoff scheduled for 4:30 am PDT. The second leg will be on Tuesday, May 14th with kickoff scheduled for 12:00 pm PDT.
Referee assignments will be announced later this week.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Injuries might play an important narrative in the match. Aston Villa’s leading goalscorer, Tammy Abraham, missed the last couple of match with a shoulder injury but has since returned to training. This season the loanee from Chelsea has made 37 appearances and scored 25 goals. Abraham becomes the first play for Villa to score 25 goals since Andy Gray in 1977. Villa will want Abraham to be healthy and ready to go for this clash. A healthy Abraham is vital to Villa securing promotion, which is something they missed out on last year losing in the playoff final to Fulham F.C..
For West Brom, the big name on the injury sheet is Jake Livermore. The 29-year-old has made 39 appearances playing over three thousand minutes. Livermore provides cover to West Brom’s backline and would be vital to help to slow the Villa attack. Currently, he is listed as day to day with an ankle injury.
In the last five meetings, West Brom has not lost to Villa. The Baggies have managed to post two wins and 3 draws. The current form for both clubs has been identical each posting three wins, one draw, and one loss in their last five games. Aston Villa hosted Norwich in their last match and lost 1-2. West Brom traveled to Pride Park to face Derby County F.C. and left dropping all three points. Each team will be looking to bounce back from those losses and to kick off the playoffs with a victory.
It will be difficult for West Brom to keep Aston Villa off the board as the Villains are clinical at home. They have scored in each of their last 6 home matches. In that run, they netted 13 times while only allowing 4 goals for the opposition. Villa Park is a tough place to go to. Both teams have an average of at least one goal in their last three matches. This means we should not expect this to be a goalless draw. I would expect both teams to push forward.
A final point about this fixture is the proximity of the two clubs with Villa Park and The Hawthorns only separated by 4 miles. This means that players will be in very familiar areas for both legs and travel will not play a major role in either leg. Players should be well rested and up for both legs.
West Bromwich Albion vs Aston Villa Prediction
While playoff games can be hard to guess. I would guess that with Villa’s form at home and return of Abraham to the side that Aston Villa will walk out 2-1 winners. The second leg will be interesting with West Brom having to push for a goal. I think we will see a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns meaning that Aston Villa will move on to Wembley 3-2 on aggregate.