Aston Villa vs Fulham: Key players in the Championship playoff final

RealSport examine the key players likely to determine who wins promotion to the Premier League.


(Photo credit: Rob)

The most expensive game in football: The Championship playoff final.

After beating Derby County in the semi-final, Fulham meet Aston Villa at Wembley on Saturday, looking fight their way back into the Premier League for the first time since 2014. The Villans beat Middlesbrough to reach Wembley, for their fifth Wembley appearance in the last eight years.

Both Fulham and Aston Villa have experience in their ranks, comprising the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, who helped Newcastle United to promotion last season, and John Terry, making his 31st senior appearance at the national stadium.

RealSport look at the key players likely to have a major impact on Saturday’s result.

Aston Villa

  1. 1 John Terry

    The 37-year-old is making his 31st senior appearance at Wembley on the weekend, having lost only four of his 30 previous games at the national stadium, winning eight of his nine games there with previous club Chelsea.

    John Terry is a serial Wembley winner- such experience will prove integral to Villa's chances of winning football's most expensive game.

    John Terry's 2017/18 season:

    • 31 appearances
    • 198 clearances
    • 82 aerial duels won
    • 18 successful tackles

    The centre back has been a key cog in Steve Bruce's side, but his task this Saturday is to carefully manage the threat of Fulham striker Mitrovic. 

  2. 2 Jack Grealish

    Forever on the cusp of taking the next step in his career, behavioural issues have held Jack Grealish back from truly fulfilling his potential.

    However, the Englishman has earned praise for his performances in 2017/18, developing into a key part of Bruce's team, leading Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock to declare him the best player in the Championship.

    Jack Grealish's 2017/18 season:

    • 25 appearances
    • 64 take-ons
    • 47 chances creates
    • 85% pass completion
    • 6 assists
    • 3 goals

    Grealish was the Man of the Match in the first leg victory over Middlesbrough, assisting Mile Jedinak for the only goal of the semi-final and the Villans will expect a repeat performance.

Fulham

  1. 1 Aleksandar Mitrovic

    Arriving in January on loan from Newcastle, Mitrovic was a major part of why Fulham reached the playoff final, scoring in 10 of their final 14 Championship games this season.

    In that time he netted 12 goals, second only to Mo Salah in terms of English league goals scored since his February debut. However, he is yet to score against Villa despite going unbeaten in his five games against them.

    Aleksandar Mitrovic's 2017/18 season:

    • 15 appearances
    • 68 shots
    • 50% shooting accuracy
    • 12 goals

    Mitrovic has a big task ahead of him when he lines up opposite Wembley veteran John Terry, a central defender experienced in handling physically imposing strikers.

  2. 2 Ryan Sessegnon

    The left back-cum-left winger has captured the attention of the nation with his fantastic performances at Craven Cottage this season, resulting in links with a host of Premier League clubs.

    The 18-year-old was the first-ever Championship player to earn a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award, whilst he, too, was considered for a call-up to the England World Cup squad.

    Ryan Sessegnon's 2017/18 season:

    • 54 successful take-ons
    • 49 chances created
    • 16 goals
    • 7 assists

    With Fulham 1-0 down to Derby after the first leg, Sessegnon inspired the comeback with a goal and an assist in the 2-0 second leg victory.

    Despite his youth, Sessegnon is the Cottager's key man and any hope of winning promotion will depend on how he plays. By all accounts, he seems able to handle the pressure.

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Oli Stein

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Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_

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