Aston Villa defender James Chester reckons they must ‘get about’ Fulham if they’re to stop the Cottagers at Wembley and join Wolves and Cardiff in the Premier League next season.
Since the claret and blues dropped down into the Championship in 2016, all four meetings between the two sides have been won by the home side.
The clubs finished third and fourth respectively in the regular campaign, and both edged out Middlesbrough and Derby to appear at the season’s grand finale on next Saturday.
Play-off finals are traditionally cagey with matches rarely being decided by more than one goal either way, and though Fulham are narrow favourites heading into the fixture, Welsh international Chester believes that getting among their opposition’s possession-based style could work in Villa’s favour.
“It’s a huge game,” Chester told AVTV. “I’ve been lucky enough to have a few big games in my career and a couple of them at Wembley.
“There’s a few lads in the changing room that have done the same, so hopefully that’ll give us a slight advantage going into Saturday.
“It’ll be a fabulous occasion for our fans and ourselves to look forward to and hopefully we’ll be celebrating come the end.
“It’ll be a difficult game. I think over two seasons at this level we’ve beaten them at home and they’ve beaten us away.
“They’re very possession based but we’ve shown in the home games that if we can get about them then they can be beaten.
“There’ll be a lot of hard work between now and the game. With our experience of big games and playing at Wembley hopefully it’ll put us in good stead.”
Aston Villa have received more than £34m in parachute payments for the 2017-18 season.
Money handed to clubs relegated from the Premier League lasts over three campaigns, though the sum gradually decreases in that time.
In year two, alongside Norwich City who were also relegated from the top flight in 2016, Villa received an equal share of £15,665,651 for participating.
The claret and blues, on top of this, were also granted £18,346,999 from agreements with international broadcasters.
It adds up to an exact total of £34,012,650 – a sum that the Canaries also received.
The sides who were relegated from the Premier League last season – Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull City – received a grand total of £41,571,016.
Those who were relegated in 2014 – Cardiff City, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers – are into the final year of parachute payments.
That trio of clubs were all given £16,595,917 in total. The Bluebirds are planning for their return to the top flight, while Fulham – like Villa – harbour ambitions of their own to join them.
Aston Villa are reportedly in pole position to land free agent Abel Hernandez this summer – provided they beat Fulham in the play-off final.
Hernandez, 27, has left Hull City upon the expiry of his contract this summer – a contract he signed when Steve Bruce was manager of the Tigers back in the summer of 2014.
He’s since been linked with a reunion with Villa manager Bruce in almost every transfer window that he’s been boss at Villa Park, though owner Dr Tony Xia revealed via Twitter recently that the deal wouldn’t happen this time because of what the Uruguayan and his representatives demanded last summer.
Hernandez has missed most of the season because of injury but still managed to net eight goals in ten appearances, including a hat-trick against Burton.
He also bagged 24 goals for club and country in 2015-16 – the previous season that Hull were in the Championship.
Despite Xia’s recent comments, LeedsLive are reporting that the claret and blues are in ‘pole position’ ahead of Leeds United to snap Hernandez up.
The attacker has missed out on a place at this year’s World Cup having been left out of the Uruguay squad that boasts Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.
Wolves are also said to be interested in the potential of picking up Hernandez on a free transfer as they prepare for the Premier League.
Aston Villa defender Ritchie De Laet’s future is up in the air after claims that loan club Royal Antwerp may go back on the agreed deal to turn the Belgian’s temporary stay into a permanent one.
De Laet moved back to his native Belgium in January for the remainder of the season in order to source more regular first-team football, and it’s understood that Antwerp had the option of buying the player in the close season.
De Laet has played 13 times for the club this term, as they finished mid-table in the Belgian Pro League, but there are now doubts over his return, reports HLN via Sport Witness.
The fee was thought to be in the region of €2m.
“I was hoping to get back to Antwerp almost every year,” De Laet added at his official unveiling. “I’ve always been a fan of the club (Antwerp). When I heard about the interest, there was no doubt in my mind. I did everything to get back here.
“Thanks to all Villa supporters as well wishing me all the best, I will keep supporting the boys for our push to the Prem. All the best for the season.”
De Laet made nine appearances in league and cup this term for Steve Bruce’s claret and blues, but ultimately the competition at full-back restricted him to few minutes in the Championship.
The 29-year-old signed a three-year contract when he arrived from Leicester City to hook up with Roberto Di Matteo in the summer of 2016, meaning the right-back still has a year to run on his existing Villa Park deal beyond the summer.
De Laet’s Villa future will likely depend on the division the club finds itself in next season – the play-off final against Fulham on May 26 will decide that.
At this moment, a return to Antwerp is looking unlikely.
Source : BirminghamMail