Perhaps unsurprisingly with so much at stake, Championship play-off finals are rarely high-scoring affairs, with 11 of the last 16 seeing fewer than three goals – including each of the past five. In fact, 10 had no more than one strike and given each of the four semi-final legs involving these two featured Under 2.5 Goals, with just four goals combined, we’re expecting this encounter to follow suit.
Four of the last five finals have also been all-square at half-time (each goalless) and that has been a familiar pattern for Villa this season as eight of their last 11 matches with top-six sides have been level at the break, with the Draw/Villa HT/FT combination occurring in four of the last nine of these. Fulham may be the bookies’ favourites after a stunning second half to the campaign, but the higher placed side have won in 90 minutes in just four of the last nine finals. They’ve managed just a solitary first-half goal in their last six outings – against a beleaguered Sunderland – and with the experienced Steve Bruce patrolling the Villa dugout, the Midlands club certainly know how to set a team up to frustrate, as they proved shutting out Middlesbrough across both legs in the semi-final. Indeed, Bruce’s men controlled those matches expertly and they’ll be confident of a first half shut out at the very least.
While Fulham do hold some considerable attacking prowess, it’s worth noting that Villa held the best defensive record beyond the champions and the runners-up this term, while Middlesbrough couldn’t even register a shot on target during the second leg of the semis. However, with Villa having netted more than once on just the solitary occasion over their last seven outings, the 1-0 correct score that they pulled off three times during this run appears the likely outcome.