English Championship Playoffs – Aston Villa vs Middlesbrough
Aston Villa have one foot in the playoff final after picking up a 1-0 win away from home at The Riverside Stadium on Saturday and Steve Bruce’s side now know that if they avoid defeat at home, then they will progress to meet either Derby County or Fulham in the final. Australian midfielder, Mile Jedinak headed the only goal of a fairly dour first leg as Middlesbrough turned in a surprisingly flat performance in front of their own fans. Tony Pulis’s side have it all to do on Tuesday night now if they are to have any chance of achieving promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Aston Villa will come into this game full of confidence after turning in a solid first leg display on Saturday. Much of The Villains strength this season has been built on their solid defensive unit and they showcased that skill in the first leg, keeping the dangerous duo of Adama Traore and Patrick Bamford at bay. Jack Grealish picked up the man of the match award in the first leg and the young winger is finally starting to realise his full potential this season as he looks to kick on.
Tony Pulis will have been extremely disappointed with the performance shown by his side in the first leg at The Riverside Stadium. For a side that are so dangerous in attack, they looked toothless in front of goal on Saturday as they created very little up against a solid Villa backline. Patrick Bamford started Saturday’s game on the bench, but the striker could well come into the starting line up on Tuesday night with Middlesbrough chasing the game. Pulis will have been even more annoyed by the nature of the goal, with it coming from a set piece. The experienced manager has always set his sides up well to both attack and defend set pieces, and so he will have been very disappointed that Jedinak was allowed the space to head in the winning goal.
1. Saturday’s match was the first time in almost three months that Middlesbrough have failed to score.
2. Aston Villa have kept clean sheets in six of their last nine matches.
3. There have been over 1.5 goals in seven of the last ten meetings between these two sides.
Middlesbrough were very disappointing the first leg between these two sides, but they can draw strength from the fact that they beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park earlier this season. If they can repeat that scoreline on Tuesday night, then they will advance to the playoff finals. I’m not convinced that they can though, as this Villa side are much stronger than they were back in September. Steve Bruce’s side are so well organised at the back and I can see them picking up another narrow victory in this one.
Betting Tips (Coral)
Aston Villa start this game as favourites at odds of 5/4, whilst an away win for Middlesbrough is available at 5/2, with the draw priced up at 21/10. I do think Aston Villa will win this one and the 5/4 available is pretty decent odds. When you consider that Villa have kept a clean sheet in six of their last nine matches, the 12/5 available on Aston Villa to Win to Nil looks extremely tempting. A repeat of the scoreline from the first leg in favour of The Villains is priced up at 11/2 and that could also be well worth a look.
Aston Villa to Win to Nil – 12/5 (Coral)