By Dylan Withers
DERBY booked their ticket to Wembley to face Villa after a dramatic 4-2 victory at Elland Road against Leeds on Wednesday night – to set up an intriguing contest against some high-profile former colleagues.
Villa overcame local rivals West Brom in dramatic fashion, beating them on penalties, with the final spot-kick scored by Chelsea loanee, Tammy Abraham.
Chelsea loanee Mason Mount scored in Derby’s tie against Leeds and has been a bright spark for them all season, along with Fikayo Tomori who is also on loan from the Blues and even won Derby’s player of the season prize.
With all this in mind, how important will the battle of old friends be and how will this Chelsea-heavy tie turn out?
John Terry: The most successful skipper in Premier League history with five Premier League titles, Terry is a natural leader, so a career in management was always going to be a likely one. JT enjoyed a great spell at Villa last year in helping them reach the Play-Off Final, but he will be hoping to go one step further this year as he and Dean Smith look to lead the Villans back in to the Premier League.
Frank Lampard: Derby’s boss has had a great debut managerial season, and much like his assistant, he is used to winning cup finals. Lampard has won 8 cup finals in his career, including captaining Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League victory in Munich.
Jody Morris: The Rams’ assistant manager came through the youth ranks at Chelsea at the same time as Terry – becoming the youngest player to ever play in the Premier League for Chelsea when he debuted at the age of 17 years and 43 days in 1996. Morris became assistant coach of Chelsea’s u18’s in 2015 and took over as head coach in 2017, helping lead them to four consecutive FA Youth Cup triumphs.
Tammy Abraham: The 21-year-old English striker has been a superb addition to Villa’s side this season, and without him, Dean Smith’s team would have struggled to make the play-offs altogether. He has scored 26 goals this season for Villa in the league, second only to Norwich striker Teemu Pukki in the Championship Top Scorers table. With Chelsea still facing the possibility of a transfer ban, Abraham’s form might have earned him a spot in the Blues squad next season, and Villa will be hoping for a clinical performance from him at Wembley.
Mason Mount: A goal-scoring midfielder with good technical ability and great vision, Mason Mount has been compared to his own manager after some stand-out performances in the Championship this season. Alongside Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson, the two youngsters have been pivotal for Derby’s success, so Villa will have to be resolute in defence to ensure that they stop the Rams’ young creative outlet.
Fikayo Tomori: Tomori has been an absolute rock for them at centre-back this year. His pace, strength and composure on the ball make him a top quality modern day defender, and his battle with fellow loanee Abraham will be one to keep a close eye on.
Ashley Cole: Arguably the greatest left-back in Premier League history, Cole has teamed up with his former-team mate Lampard and should be set to feature in the final following Scott Malone’s red card at Leeds. What Cole has lost in pace and power over the years he certainly makes up for in experience, so the England veteran will feel comfortable on the big stage at Wembley.
The Chelsea contingent in this final will undoubtedly play a major role, but if Aston Villa can repeat the performances they have produced against Derby this season, they should feel confident in their chances to return to the top flight.