Fulham can erase the memory of last season’s disappointment by getting the better of Aston Villa in Saturday’s Championship play-off final at Wembley.
The Cottagers lost out to Reading 12 months ago despite heading into the play-offs as the team in form so Slavisa Jokanovic is determined to guide his side back into the top-flight this time after a four-year absence.
Jokanovic has transformed Fulham in his two-and-a-half years at the club – they were staring at relegation to the third tier of English football when he arrived.
The side that was relegated from the Premier League in 2014 was an old one with the likes of John Arne Riise, Kieran Richardson and Damien Duff in it.
The current team is based on youth and exuberance, in contrast to a Villa side that includes John Terry, Alan Hutton, Mile Jedinak and Ahmed Elmohamady in their ranks.
Ryan Sessegnon and Sheyi Ojo have been excellent this season but Jokanovic also has some wise heads at his disposal with Rui Fonte, Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen and, more recently following his loan switch from Newcastle United, Aleksandar Mitrovic, all playing their part in the team’s success.
Villa showed when edging to a 1-0 aggregate win against Middlesbrough in the play-off semi-finals that Steve Bruce has a well-drilled defence at his disposal so Fulham will need to go for the kill from the first whistle. If they go behind they may find it difficult to hit back.
Villa were relegated two seasons ago and Bruce has done a fine job reviving the club’s fortunes after so many years of decline.
However, Fulham just have the edge and should win Saturday’s final, even if it is after extra time. It may prove to be better in the long run for Villa to spend at least another campaign in the Championship before returning to the top-flight.
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