It’s the big one. After 46 league games and two play-off semi-finals, Aston Villa will face Fulham in the 2018 play-off final. For a record 3rd time we’ve recruited the services Fulham fan and Football Whispers writer @thomasmcilroy for the final ‘The Opposition’s View‘ of the season.
The Opposition’s View
Which Fulham players do you think can do the most damage against Villa?
Ryan Sessegnon and Aleksandar Mitrovic. Sessegnon can be ineffective for large parts of the game but he has a habit of popping up with a goal out of nothing, as I’m sure Villa fans will remember from the meeting in January – Axel Tuanzebe had the better of him then all of a sudden he scored from nowhere. Mitrovic is a real handful and is the best striker in the division in my opinion, he won’t give James Chester and John Terry an easy ride for sure.
Who are you most worried about in a Villa shirt?
You’ve got quality all over the pitch, we’ll need to stop Robert Snodgrass and Jack Grealish for sure but my irrational fear, and it has been ever since we looked like we might be in a chance of going up, has been John Terry scoring the winner at Wembley. Fulham fans hate him so much because of the Chelsea connections. He’s already scored against us, after being booed for the whole game, and I can see it happening again. Set pieces aren’t our strong point, even despite us scoring from a corner against Derby in the semi-finals.
If the Fulham don’t go up, do you think you’ll look back on the season as a positive step forward, or one of disappointment?
Ultimately it will be disappointment. We were among the favourites to go up at the beginning of the season, and we went into this campaign on the back of a great end to last season. We’re definitely a better team than we were last season, but if we don’t go up, it’ll feel like a missed chance. We went from 17th to third, largely thanks to our 23-game unbeaten run, but if we’d been better earlier in the season – losing to Burton and Sunderland wasn’t good enough – we would have gone up automatically.
If the Cottagers do go up, will the squad need drastic changes?
I think we’d need eight or nine new signings, but I think everyone does when they go up. Brighton and Huddersfield brought in a lot of new faces. We’ve got quite a small squad so we’d need to add depth, and I’d also like a new centre-back and goalkeeper for sure. Keeping loan signings like Mitrovic and Matt Targett will be key too.
Do you think Ryan Sessegnon will remain at Craven Cottage next season?
If we go up, yes. I think he would be best served by staying with us to get more first-team football than he would at one of the big six. But if we don’t go up, there will be a real possibly of him going and whether we could turn down a bid of £40million or not given it could fund another promotion push. If we don’t go up, I also expect Tom Cairney and Ryan Fredericks to leave.
Who do you think are the favourites going into Saturday’s game?
It’s very tight. I think purely because we finished third, it has to be Fulham.
1-1 and it’s going to penalties. Then I’ve got no idea what could happen. I’m nervous already and penalties would sent me over the edge though!
Finally, where will you be watching the match?
Block 118 at Wembley!