Big Money, Premiership Promotion On The Line In Championship Playoff Final

Sunday’s English Football Championship playoff final is a winner take all matchup for promotion to one of the elite leagues in all of sports–the English Premier League. Aston Villa reached this game by prevailing in a shootout against West Bromwich Albion in the semifinals. Aston Villa took the first semifinal fixture 2-1 but lost the second 1-0. That left the aggregate at 2-2 before Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham nailed the decisive spot kick to give Aston Villa a 4-3 advantage on penalties and put them into this game by the slimmest of margins.

Derby County didn’t have an easy road either. The expectation was that Derby County would have to take advantage of the opening contest against Leeds United on their home field were they to advance to the finals. Instead, they dropped that game 1-0 giving them not only a one goal deficit but giving Leeds an all important away goal. In the second leg, Leeds United struck quickly on Stuart Dallas’ goal at the 24 minute mark.

This put Derby County up against the wall but they responded accordingly. Jack Marriott’s right footed blast from the centre of the box found the bottom right corner of the net to send the teams into the halftime break all level. Derby County came roaring out in the second half quickly scoring a pair of goals to go up 3-1 in the 58th minute. Stuart Dallas’ second cut the advantage to 3-2 but they could get no closer. Jack Marriott would score a second goal to make the final score 4-2 giving Derby County a 4-3 victory on the aggregate.

Aston Villa was relegated from the Premier League in 2016 and reached this stage last year only to be defeated by Fulham. Derby County played in the finals in 2014 but lost to Queen’s Park Rangers. Derby County is trying to return to the Premiership for the first time since 2008. Both teams definitely have a Premier League worthy following–Aston Villa averages 36,029 per home game which is #10 in England for any soccer club. Derby County averages 26,850 in a smaller venue which is better than six current Premiership sides.

Plenty of support for both sides in the final contest at Wembley with plenty of storylines. Derby County is managed by Frank Lampard, while John Terry is an assistant to Dean Smith at Aston Villa. The two men were teammates on the great Chelsea teams of the early 2000’s and won four Premiership titles together along with a slew of other trophies.

The biggest plotline for this contest is the Premier League berth and more significantly the financial windfall that accompanies it. Every Premiership team benefits from the league’s massive TV deals worth more than £5 billion over a three year period. The TV deal alone would be worth £79.4 million per season for the victor. Teams that are frequent players in televised games get more as do those that finish high up in the table. For example, Hudderfield Town received £93.3 million from the Premier League despite finishing at the bottom of the table and being relegated. They didn’t leave without a consolation prize, however, as relegated teams receive a total disbursement of £75m over two seasons intended to soften the blow of leaving the Premier League.

Unfortunately, the same consolation prize does not exist for the team that comes up short in this final matchup. The losing team gets nothing except some degree of satisfaction for a good season in the second level of English football. Both teams here have a good organization with enthusiastic supporters and will be able to persevere but by all accounts it’s a tough psychological and emotional toll to come so close to promotion only to be denied.

Aston Villa has at least one historical edge–the last three teams to lose a Championship Playoff Final and return to the big game the following year have won promotion to the Premiership. This hasn’t happened for well over a decade, however, with West Ham United earning promotion in 2005. Derby County made some history of their own in the semifinals–they were the first team in Football Championship playoff history to lose the first leg at home and still advance to the finals.

Both teams have shown some very strong form late in the season. Aston Villa has won 11 of their last 14 fixtures which included a club record 10 game winning streak. Since that streak, however, they’ve won only 1 of their last 4 with two losses. They’re also winless in their last two contests away from Villa Park. Derby County has lost only 1 of their last 8 contests going 5-2-1 and are unbeaten in their last four games away from Pride Park. Aston Villa did win both games over Derby County this year and convincingly so by a combined score of 7-0 taking a 3-0 decision at Pride Park and a 4-0 win at home.

As one might expect with a game of such high stakes goals have been hard to come by in the Football Championship Playoff Final. The last 6 finals have averaged a total of less than 1 goal in the first 90 minutes per contest (0.8333 goals). The last six have also seen both sides fail to score. Given that tendency we’ll bet the England soccer odds accordingly on the total along with taking Derby on the handicap.


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