AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Middlesbrough v Aston VIlla

Both Middlesbrough and Aston Villa started the Championship season as favourites to go up and there might not be much between the two sides when they meet in the first leg of their Championship Play-Off semi-final at The Riverside.

A late, late equaliser from Patrick Bamford against Ipswich last Sunday sealed fifth place for a side who ended up putting together a late charge to keep promotion hopes alive. A season of inconsistency, especially with the starting XI, spelt the end for Garry Monk and Tony Pulis has managed to find a more settled side.

Steve Bruce is no stranger to taking a team up. He has four promotions in his career and will provide plenty of steel to a side that, whilst experienced, has never played a play-off game. Villa’s route to the playoffs was much less stressful than that of the hosts; their fourth place was confirmed before the final weekend, which allowed Bruce to make several changes in a 1-0 defeat at Millwall on the final weekend of the season.

Villa were described by Tony Pulis as “big favourites”, possibly a nod to the fact that Middlesbrough were seven points behind them in the league table, but there should be less between the two on paper. Middlesbrough have improved immensely since Pulis took over, with just two defeats in fourteen, whilst Villa had 20 clean sheets through the season and the third best defensive record overall (only Wolves and Cardiff have let in less).

Matches at this level are also traditionally tight. The average goal tally in Championship Play-Offs is a paltry 2.10 per game and half of the last 14 matches have ended with just one goal.

Middlesbrough v Aston Villa
Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 1st Leg
17.15 Sky Sports Football / Sky Sports Main Event

(Maximum 10 matches)
Dec 2017 CHAMPIONSHIP Middlesbrough 0-1 Aston Villa
Sep 2017 EFL CUP Aston Villa 0-2 Middlesbrough
Sep 2017 CHAMPIONSHIP Aston Villa 0-0 Middlesbrough
May 2009 PREMIER Middlesbrough 1-1 Aston Villa
Nov 2008 PREMIER Aston Villa 1-2 Middlesbrough
Mar 2008 PREMIER Aston Villa 1-1 Middlesbrough
Nov 2007 PREMIER Middlesbrough 0-3 Aston Villa
Apr 2007 PREMIER Middlesbrough 1-3 Aston Villa
Nov 2006 PREMIER Aston Villa 1-1 Middlesbrough
Feb 2006 PREMIER Middlesbrough 0-4 Aston Villa

With two astute defensive managers who have solid backlines, this could be a tense game. The draw looks the best option and there could be value in also taking the 21/4 about a 0-0 one at that with

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)

BACK DRAW 4 points win at 19/10 with

BACK 0-0 CORRECT SCORE 2 points win at 21/4 with

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