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Dean Smith believes Championship play-off final should be played first

Villa lost in last season’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final to Fulham.

Manager Dean Smith has guided Aston Villa to the play-off final (Nick Potts/PA)
Manager Dean Smith has guided Aston Villa to the play-off final (Nick Potts/PA)

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith wants the Sky Bet Championship play-off final to be given top billing.

Villa face Derby in their promotion showdown at Wembley on Monday, after the Sky Bet League One and Two play-off finals.

Tranmere face Newport on Saturday before Charlton and Sunderland play for the right to return to the Championship on Sunday.

The winner of Monday’s match will net £170million even if they finish bottom of the Premier League next season and Smith feels it deserves to be first.

He said:  “It’s a long time to wait. It’s a little bit wrong in my opinion that – given the prize which is on offer – and we’re the third game on at Wembley over the weekend.

“But the players are really excited and looking forward to the game now.

“We’re confident without being over-confident. There’s been no change in their attitude or application in training.

“There’s a tightness about the group and a lot of banter goes on within the group. But when they get down to work they work very hard. They’re calm but looking forward to it.”

Villa’s slow first-half performance against Fulham in last year’s final contributed to their heartbreaking 1-0 defeat, but Smith feels they will avoid a similar problem this time.

He said: “What we’ve got that can help us is, for the last 15 or 16 games, we’ve been playing must-win games. Each game we’ve taken in isolation and we’ve been on an unbelievable run.

“The players are the first to have won 10 games on the bounce at this club and they’ll always be history makers.

“They’ve got that on their side already. We’ve beaten West Brom who finished above us and the right team went through.”

Only Orjan Nyland is missing for Villa, with the goalkeeper sidelined since January with a torn Achilles.

PA

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