With a week to go until the EFL Championship play-off final, one club emerges as the favorite in betting markets.
When Aston Villa kick-off at 3 p.m. next Monday, they will do so as prohibitive favorites over Derby County. Well-rested, and having beaten West Bromwich Albion on penalties in the earlier round, Villa are seen as the likelier team to advance, with an outright win in 90 minutes returning around $1.20 on every $1 risked. Compared to Derby’s ~+240 lines floating around, most bettors see an edge in the claret and blues.
These lines, of course, will change in the days leading up to the final when further injury information and such is disseminated to the public.
So is it cut and dry that Villa will return to the Premier League in one week’s time?
No – Derby remain a formidable opponent full of quality and quantity in most areas of the pitch. The likes of Harry Wilson, Mason Mount, Jayden Bogle, Martyn Waghorn and Duane Holmes are more than capable of opening-up a Villa defense that has been revitalized in the new year with Tyrone Mings, Jed Steer and others.
Question marks linger for both sides. Is Axel Tuanzebe recovered after being helped off in Villa’s penalty shootout victory over Albion? Will Dean Smith call upon the more attack-minded Conor Hourihane and André Green, or the savvy veterans Glenn Whelan and Albert Adomah?
How will Derby fare with Scott Malone’s suspension for the final? Will veteran Ashley Cole – still recovering from a groin problem – be able to keep-up for 120 minutes if need be? Moreover, who exactly is going to start up top if Waghorn is not recovered in time?
All valid questions, but today, Villa are seen as favorites. Dean Smith, however, will undoubtedly have his team preparing with an underdog mindset.