Championship Play-off Final Preview: Aston Villa vs Fulham - Who will return to the promised land?

Who will make a return to the Premier League come Saturday evening?

Championship Play-off Final Preview: Aston Villa vs Fulham - Who will return to the promised land?
Vew of the Wembley pitch via Getty Images: Claudio Villa

Aston Villa take on Fulham at Wembley on Saturday afternoon with a place in the Premier League next season up for grabs for the winners. 

Both sides have had a win apiece in the league fixtures this season. Villa won 2-1 at Villa Park with goals from John Terry and Albert Adomah, Fulham triumphing 2-0 at Craven Cottage in February, with the goals coming from young sensation Ryan Sessegnon and Floyd Ayite.

Aston Villa will be looking to return to the Premier League after only two seasons outside of the top tier of English football, whilst Fulham will be looking to make it back after being relegated in 2014.

Steve Bruce looks to end a difficult month on a high

Steve Bruce is looking to get his fifth promotion with a third different side on Saturday. Bruce will also be returning to Wembley for the first time since the play-off final win with Hull City in 2016.

Bruce has had to recover quickly from the news at the start of the month when his mother lost her three month battle with illness. Bruce has been in attendance at all of Villa's matches throughout May and will hope to add another promotion to the Premier League with Villa come Saturday.

Villa finished one place, and five points behind Saturday's opponents in the regular season. Villa reached the final after beating Middlesbrough, 1-0 over the two legs. The winner came from Aussie Mile Jedinak in the first leg and had to holdout throughout the second leg at Villa Park. 

Bruce has said that this has been 20 years in the making, when he spoke Aston Villa's official site. He said: "I've waited 20 years to work at a club like this.

My hope now is that I can get it moving even more in the right direction and make it even bigger. Let's get it up, build again for next season and take it to where it needs to be.

Let's hope this is the start of a new beginning for us – in the Premier League."

Will Ryan Sessegnon be the difference maker?

18 year old, English sensation Ryan Sessegnon is hoping that he can add a play-off winners medal to all the awards he has picked up this season for his stand out performances for the Cottagers. 

Sessegnon has hoovered up the individual end of season awards whilst being part of the EFL Team of the Season, having been Fulham's top scorer with 15 goals in the regular season, before adding to that tally in the semi-final against Derby County

Fulham will also hope that Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic will be firing after impressing in the second leg against Derby. Mitrovic scored 12 times in the Championship after moving on loan to the Cottagers in January from Newcastle United.

Boss Slavisa Jokanovic is proud of where his Fulham side are at the moment but knows that they will have to be at their best to beat Villa at Wembley. Jokanovic had this to say in his pre-match press conference:  "A massive challenge is ahead of us, It’s big for myself, the Club, the supporters.

We have an important chance in front of us, and we expect we are going to find our best performance, follow our style, be confident, and cross this important line.

Team News

Aston Villa will be monitoring the fitness of Ahmed Elmohamady ahead of the game, but they have no other injury concerns.

Jokanovic will have a full squad to choose from for this important game.

Predicted Lineups

Aston Villa (4-1-4-1): Johnstone, Bree, Chester, Terry, Hutton, Jedinak, Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Adomah, Grabban.

Fulham (4-3-3): Bettinelli, Fredericks, Ream, Odoi, Targett, Johansen, Cairney, McDonald, Kamara, Mitrovic, Sessegnon.