Fulham v Aston Villa head to head – their strengths, weaknesses and key players

Fulham will take on Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday week for a place in the Premier League.

The Whites, who finished third, overcame Derby in their semi-final, while Villa saw off Middlesbrough.

Here’s a closer look at the two sides who will be battling it out for a return to the top flight.

Key players

There have been a number of star players in Fulham’s side, who have all been linked with summer moves away. Teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon is hot property, scoring 16 goals and winning pretty much every award going. Tom Cairney has been a creative presence in midfield and Aleksandar Mitrovic is arguably the signing of the season, scoring 12 goals in 18 games since his January loan move from Newcastle.

Most managers in the division agree Villa have one of the strongest squads and it is littered with top-quality players. Pre-season signing John Terry has governed the defence while Jack Grealish has shaken off his bad-boy image to become one of the top talents in the division. Robert Snodgrass has also added a lot of quality since his move from Hull.


Fulham have been a pleasure to watch, with some of the football on their 23-game unbeaten run in the regular season catching the eye. They play with pace and speed, with the full-backs bombing on more like wingers, and attack from both sides. The first leg against the Rams is the only time since December they have failed to score.

Villa have quality all over the park and strength in depth, with boss Steve Bruce able to turn to millions of pounds worth of talent from the bench. As well as creativity coursing through the side, they are also thrifty at the back, as only runaway champions Wolves registered more clean sheets than Villa’s 20 in the regular season. And their manager is of course a serial promotion winner.


When you go half of the regular season without losing a game, it shows that there are not many areas to improve for Fulham. Perhaps one might be on the mental side as – although the Whites came from behind to beat Derby over two legs in the play-offs, they have had history of failing in the big matches, notably losing on the final day of the campaign when a win would have taken them up automatically. That might be a concern ahead of Wembley, while sometimes they are guilty of overplaying.

Such is Villa’s array of talent that sometimes there is a tendency to play as individuals and if they all suffer an off-day they are prone to the odd strange result, such as late-season defeats against Bolton, QPR and Norwich. Their ability to cope under pressure will come under scrutiny as their support, though vocal, is demanding and will expect their side to seal their return to the Premier League.

The managers

If anyone deserves a shot at managing in the Premier League it is Fulham’s Slavisa Jokanovic. The Serbian has won promotion from the Championship before with Watford, before leaving straight afterwards. He is a cool customer and committed to playing the game in the right way, in a league which is physically demanding.

Nobody has won more promotions from the Championship than Bruce’s four. He knows his way around the big games, having taken Hull up via the play-offs two years ago.