Aston Villa play Fulham at Wembley on Saturday with Premier League football the reward.
The Cottagers finished third and Villa fourth in the league, so they both carried on their regular season form into the play-offs even though Fulham’s 23 game unbeaten run came to an end in the last game of the season.
Both sides have experienced a high pressure situation such as this previously because Fulham lost in the semi-finals last season while Villa have a team full of experience from this level and the Premier League with Ahmed Elmohamady winning the 2016 Championship play-off final alongside his current manager Steve Bruce with Hull.
There is little to separate these teams in terms of their league form because Fulham averaged slightly more goals with 1.7 per game compared to Villa’s 1.5. They also won one more game with 25 and drew two more with 13, but lost three times less in the league with 8.
The major differences between the sides is the in-game numbers because it shows their different approaches to games. Villa are a disciplined side as shown by 62 yellows and two reds compared to Fulham’s 81 and 3 respectively. This is one of the bonuses of experience because players have an in-depth knowledge of in-game scenarios.
However, Fulham’s possession based approach which allows them to dominate games can be seen with 57.9% average possession and 83.1% passing accuracy which dwarf Villa’s 51.1% and 76.7%. Although Villa’s approach isn’t reliant on using possession to control the game and dominate territory because they have a substantial set piece threat and can transition quickly.
These are both good sides, so this is likely to be a close game, although the Cottagers will probably create more opportunities and spend most of the game in the opposition half. Fulham’s style should carry them through because they have beaten every side in the top six this season, and they seem destined to take their expansive style into the Premier League.
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