West Bromwich Albion vs Aston VillaEnglish Championship, KO: 20:00 May 14, 2019, The Hawthorns
ALMOST one year on from suffering Wembley woe, Aston Villa are just 90 minutes away from returning to the richest game in football.
Dean Smith's men make the short trip to Midlands rivals West Brom defending a 2-1 lead after a final 15-minute foray on Saturday put the Villans in the driving seat towards the English Championship play-off final.
So it's advantage Aston Villa and they are 7/5 (Paddy Power) favourites to beat the Baggies for the second time in three days. A draw would be enough to send Smith's side to the final and that outcome is on offer at 5/2 (Bet 365) However, it's must win for West Brom at The Hawthorns and a home win is available 17/10 (Betway)
Seldom have the Baggies been a bigger price at home this season and that can be attributed to top goalscorer Dwight Gayle's red card on Saturday. Albion caretaker boss Jimmy Shan's side seemed to be in control after Gayle grabbed the opening goal at Villa Park but his dismissal was the Baggies' downfall – and turning this tie around in his absence will be a tall order.
What's more, West Brom will have to win against an Aston Villa side who have only lost once in their last 14 outings. The Claret and Blue ended the season brilliantly by racking up 10 wins on the trot prior to their final two games of the season against Leeds and Norwich respectively.
A vital figure for Villa during that remarkable run was the magnificent John McGinn. After a delightful debut season down south, McGinn recently picked up two awards at Aston Villa's Player of the Year ceremony.
McGinn's all-action displays have endeared him to the Villa faithful but the combative midfielder has been carded a notable 14 times in doing so. After a frantic first leg, a hectic night at the Hawthorns could follow. McGinn looks a good bet to be booked in the Black Country at 19/10 (BetVictor)
The Scotland international has also contributed six goals to a Villa side who were the third-highest scorers in the Championship, as such don't expect in-form Aston Villa to sit back – they will more than likely go for the win that will send them to Wembley.
However, the hosts are the division's second top scorers and even in the absence of the aforementioned Gayle the Baggies will still believe that they have enough ammunition to hurt Aston Villa.
Albion will be out to get the first goal and there may come a point in this play-off semi-final where the home side have to take risks to remain in contention for promotion to the Premier League.
On the other hand, Smith will feel that Villa can hit the net at the Hawthorns, and with the pace and power of the likes of Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham at his disposal, the Villans could well expose the Baggies backline with some cutthroat counter attacks.
Consequently, Both Teams To Score looks likely at 4/6 (William Hill) but given the the short value on offer for that to happen, an alternative angle to consider could be to back Over 2.5 Goals at 4/5 (Bet 365) in what could be a manic night in the Midlands.
Free-scoring Aston Villa have scored in their last 14 games, whereas Albion have only kept one clean sheet in nine games.
Therefore, vibrant Villa can progress to the playoff final as they aim to return to the top-flight after a three year stint in the second tier.
This English Championship match between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa will be played on May 14, 2019 and kick off at 20:00