Aston Villa will face Derby for a place in the Premier League, after the Rams beat Leeds in an Elland Road thriller.
Here Press Association Sport looks at the rivals who will shape up at Wembley on May 27.
The former Walsall and Brentford boss grew up in Birmingham and is an Aston Villa fan. He landed his dream job last October following the departure of Steve Bruce and managed to transform the club into promotion contenders. Villa won 10 successive matches for the first time in their history in March and April to cement their place in the play-offs.
Smith’s squad has ability from back to front. Goalkeeper Jed Steer showed his worth in the semi-final win at West Brom while midfielder John McGinn has been a revelation during his first season at Villa Park. However, Jack Grealish is the stand out performer and could be in the Premier League next season regardless of whether it is with Villa or not. On-loan striker Tammy Abraham has scored 26 goals this season.
Villa spent 28 consecutive seasons in English football’s top flight before their relegation from the Premier League in 2016. They were involved in the play-offs for the first time last year, reaching the final at Wembley where they were beaten 1-0 by Fulham.
Should Villa return to the Premier League it could enhance their hopes of keeping Grealish. Playing in the top flight for his boyhood club would arguably be the realisation of a dream for the attacking midfielder.
Promotion could also open the door to turn the loan deals for Tyrone Mings and Abraham into permanent signings.
It has been a successful first season in management for the former Chelsea and England midfielder. Lampard won 11 major trophies with the Blues but recently said guiding Derby to the play-offs is “one of my biggest achievements.”
Top scorer Harry Wilson has shone during his season-long loan from Liverpool, scoring 18 goals. Chelsea loanee Mason Mount has 11 goals and was called up to the England squad in October.
This is the Rams’ seventh involvement in the Championship play-offs this century and it has largely been a tale of woe. Their only success came in 2007 when they overcame West Brom at Wembley.
The only other time Derby reached the final was in 2014, losing to 10-man QPR courtesy of Bobby Zamora’s 90th-minute winner. Semi-finals defeats in 2015-16 and 2017-18 followed.
Lampard has already begun recruiting for next season by signing left-sided player Graeme Shinnie from Aberdeen on a pre-contract agreement, with his deal in Scotland set to expire this summer. Wilson and Mount have been pivotal to Derby’s promotion challenge and Lampard will surely try to get the duo back on loan next season, regardless of what division the Rams are playing in.
- Press Association