21st July 2018

PLAY-OFFS FINALS WEEKEND

FINALS WEEKEND

25th May 2018

Steve Bruce has been here before - with the likes of Hull, Middlesborough and Birmingham - the irony won't be lost on Blues fans if their city rivals gain promotion back to the Premier League.

The Villa v Fulham contest on Saturday is very tricky to fathom. Heart says Fulham with their adventurous style - head says Villa with John Terry' experience a key factor for Villa.

Fulham finished well ahead of Villa and but for losing their last game at St Andrews could have nicked automatic promotion from Cardiff City. the way they battled back to beat Derby in the semis suggests they have put their disappointment behind them.

But, Wembley is a big stage, and all the experience, both on the bench and in the team is with Villa. No one has more experience of big Wembley games than Villa skipper John Terry - and boss Steve Bruce has been there and wears the T shirt.

Fulham may have the Championship's most exciting player in Ryan Sessegnon - but failure could also see the likes of Tom Cairney, Ryan Fredericks could all go while Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matt Targett have only been on loan.

Steve Bruce is set to manage in his third play-off final - he has been promoted in both of his previous two, progressing on penalties in 2001-02 as Birmingham manager against Norwich and beating Sheffield Wednesday with Hull in 2015-16.

That tips the balance for us - especially as Fulham are odds-on to win the tie. Villa can be backed at 5/4.

In fact, we fancy all three outsiders - with both Shrewsbury and Exeter underdogs against more fashionable rivals.

Shrewsbury were third on merit and well ahead of Rotherham and on the book should be favourites but aren't. Exeter face a Coventry side that rode their luck in the semis and were flattered.

Joe