Grealish hopes to make amends

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish says his side have to make the most of their return to Wembley for a second successive Championship play-off final.

Villa edged through 4-3 on penalties against neighbours West Brom after their semi-final tie had ended locked at 2-2 on aggregate, with the Baggies winning the second leg 1-0 at The Hawthorns after losing out 2-1 in the first leg at Villa Park.

That gives Grealish and his colleagues an opportunity to make amends for a 1-0 Wembley defeat at the hands of Fulham just under 12 months ago.

Grealish told the club's official website: "It's massive to get there again. I was part of it last time, we know how it feels to lose. I have the experience of it.

"It's no good going on a good run and then going to Wembley and falling at the final hurdle again. I truly believe we can get promoted."

Meanwhile, Villans boss Dean Smith admitted to be being disappointed that, although a Wembley return had been secured, his side had lost for only the second time in their last 15 games.

He added: "We deserved it, but the disappointing for me was not winning. I couldn't believe we lost the game, that's our (second) defeat since losing at Brentford in February."

Villa will play the winner of the tie between Leeds United and Derby County, with the former holding a 1-0 lead heading into their home second leg at Elland Road.

The Villans are 5/6 to be promoted to the Premier League, with Leeds available at 5/4 and Derby 12/1.

View all Soccer betting

Grealish told to play in top flight

England manager Gareth Southgate has told Jack Grealish that he may not get a chance at international level unless he plays regularly in the Premier League.

The Aston Villa midfielder has seven caps for England at under-21 level but has not yet received a call-up for the senior squad.

He last played in the top flight for Villa in 2016 but they have failed to win promotion since, losing in the Championship play-off final last season.

Grealish was then linked with a move away from Villa Park, Tottenham making bids that were rejected in the summer. The midfielder then pledged his future to Villa, signing a new five-year contract.

However, Southgate says that, if he is to achieve his international ambitions, Grealish will have to either get promoted with Villa or seek a move to a Premier League club.

The England boss said: "Although we can see the quality, when the evidence of the opponent is a different level, that's where it's hard to directly correlate what that's going to look like at a level above.

"With Callum [Hudson-Odoi], he's playing Europa League, he's playing Premier League – that does make a difference."

Southgate added that, as an ex-Villa player himself, he hoped to see Grealish and the club back in the top flight before too long.

Meanwhile Southgate is preparing his side to face Montenegro away in the Euro 2020 qualifiers on Monday night.

His side top Group A after starting their campaign with a 5-0 win at home to the Czech Republic on Friday, Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick.

They are 1/3 for the win on Monday with Montenegro 10/1 and the draw 7/2.

Sterling is 15/8 to score at any time on Monday while England are 7/1 to win the game 3-0.

View all Soccer betting

Smith welcomes Grealish return

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith has hailed Jack Grealish as the 'best player' in the Championship, as the forward prepares to make his return from a shin injury.

The 23-year-old has been sidelined since the 2-2 Championship draw at West Brom in early December, but is set to be in contention to feature against Derby County at Villa Park this weekend.

And, with his side having only won one of their last 11 games in all competitions, Smith is clearly delighted to have a fit-again Grealish back among his options.

He told his club's official website: "It gives everybody a boost. Results-wise, we've not been as good without him.

"I believe Jack is the best player in the league and any team that loses that kind of quality would suffer. We've suffered a bit, so we're looking forward to having him back.

"He's trained well and has worked really hard to get himself into contention. He's pushing for a starting spot on Saturday."

Grealish was involved earlier this season when Villa claimed a 3-0 victory at Derby, with John McGinn, Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane their goalscorers.

On-loan Chelsea striker Abraham has scored 20 goals in the Championship so far this season, but has only found the net once in his last five games.

He can be backed at 1/1 to score at any time against Derby on Saturday afternoon, with Villa 11/10 to win the game and 15/2 to do so by a 2-1 final scoreline.

View all Soccer betting

Grealish commits to Villa

Jack Grealish has temporarily ended speculation over his future by signing a new long-term deal at Aston Villa.

The midfielder, who had two years remaining on his existing deal, has signed a new five-year contract as the Championship side hope he will lead their charge back up to the Premier League.

Villa CEO Christian Purslow said: "Securing the long-term future of Jack, a player we believe will play a pivotal role in leading Aston Villa back to where it belongs, is fantastic news for everybody associated with our football club.

"He is a tremendous talent who has been with us since he was a child and naturally we are delighted that he has now committed the next five years of his career to Aston Villa."

The 23-year-old was the subject of constant speculation throughout the summer with Tottenham known to be keen on signing him.

However, Villa rejected their approaches with new owner Nassef Sawiris insisting that the player was not for sale.

The transfer window shut with Grealish still at Villa Park but, despite rumours that he was "disillusioned" at not securing a route back to the top flight, Villa boss Steve Bruce has praised his attitude.

Villa almost returned to the Premier League themselves last season, reaching the Championship playoff final only to lose to Fulham at Wembley.

This campaign they have struggled so far, sitting 13th in the Championship table having only won three of their nine league games.

Bruce's side were booed off the Villa Park pitch after losing at home to Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend.

They are next in action on Friday night when they travel to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City. Villa are 7/4 for the win with the Robins 6/4 and the draw 23/10.

Villa are 4/1 to be promoted at the end of the season with Leeds 6/4.

View all Soccer betting

Bruce keen to keep Grealish

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has made it clear that Tottenham have not made a formal bid for midfielder Jack Grealish.

Mauricio Pochettino is believed to be keen to sign the 22-year-old, who was outstanding for Villa in the Championship last term.

Spurs have not made a new signing since the end of last term although the likes of Davinson Sanchez, Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Son Hueng-min and Erik Lamela have all penned new contracts with the club this summer.

Bruce is keen to keep Grealish at Villa Park, and said when asked about the highly-rated midfielder's future: "At the moment, Spurs haven't got anywhere near what the owners want to even consider, so there's not a discussion to be had.

"I don't think we've had a formal bid. The one thing that the owners have made pretty clear is no-one is for sale. We don't want to lose our best players."

Villa lost the Championship play-off final against Fulham in May and are 4/1 to be promoted this term while Tottenham are 4/5 to finish in the top four of the Premier League once again in 2018/19.

"The owners are aware that every player has got his price," Bruce added. "The good thing they have been able to do is not let anybody go on the cheap.

"So if somebody wants to come and buy one of our players then they are going to have to find a premium and make sure that the owners are comfortable with that."

Villa have not made any major signings since the end of last season while Jordan Amavi, Pierluigi Gollini and John Terry have all left the club.

Bruce prepared for Grealish exit

Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce says he is prepared to face the probability that star midfielder Jack Grealish will have to move from the club this summer.

The West Midlands outfit are having to sell some of their big names in order to comply with Financial Fair Play and the club have already been forced to make some big decisions.

Skipper John Terry was allowed to leave the club to free up space on the wage bill and more players are expected to go.

One of them is likely to be prized asset Grealish, with the 22-year-old attracting plenty of interest with his performances in the Championship last term on the way to the playoff final.

Bruce is fully aware of the situation and is expecting that he will have to do without playmaker Grealish.

He told Sky Sports: "We might have to take decisions which aren't going to be easy. We will have to generate some money and inevitably that's going to be through player sales.

"And it's going to be people who I don't want to sell. The obvious one is Jack. People will know we've got financial problems and they'll sit and wait until deadline day possibly, I hope that doesn't happen but we've got to wait for it."

Aston Villa are 5/1 to be promoted from the Championship next season.

View all Soccer betting

Fulham back in big time

Fulham will play Premier League football next season after beating Aston Villa by a single goal in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

The Cottagers had skipper Tom Cairney to thank for their goal midway through the opening half and Fulham played out the final 20 minutes a man light after Denis Odoi was sent off for two bookable offence.

The central defender was twice carded for fouls on Jack Grealish, the Villa midfielder having started to dictate matters in the second period.

Grealish could have levelled matters shortly after the hour but he appeared to lack bravery in meeting a cross with his head as Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli rushed out to meet him and the ball flew over the crossbar.

Several Villa penalty appeals were also waved away by referee Anthony Taylor, including one in second-half stoppage time when Grealish fell under a challenge from Matt Target as Steve Bruce's side frantically tried to force extra-time.

Fulham had finished the season in third spot, five points clear of Villa, and boss Slavisa Jokanovic felt his team merited their win.

"I am so excited for my club, for these supporters. We showed we could follow the style that we followed for the past two years, in this stadium," he said.

"I'd have preferred to do the job earlier but, to be promoted at this place in front of these fans, I have to be satisfied.

"I'm happy with what my team offered today and how we played our football."

Fulham are 5/1 to finish in the top-half of the Premier League next season. Championship winners Wolves are 5/4 while second-placed finishers Cardiff City are 12/1.

View all Soccer betting

Bruce upbeat despite Grealish blow

Steve Bruce is content with the strength of his Aston Villa squad even though Jack Grealish could miss the first three months of the campaign.

The 21-year-old has had to have a kidney operation after sustaining a nasty injury on Saturday in the pre-season match against Watford when he collided with Tom Cleverley.

Grealish's father posted a message from his son which read: "Absolutely devastated… got a nasty elbow to the stomach in Saturday's game which caused a bleed in my kidney.

"Had a mini op early on Sunday morning and will now be out for at least two to three months."

Grealish scored five goals in 33 appearances for Villa last season as they finished in mid-table in the Championship after suffering relegation from the Premier League in 2015/16.

Bruce is optimistic about Villa's chances of enjoying a much better time of it this term though and is looking forward to Friday's opening game of the season against one of his former clubs – Hull City.

He said: "I like our balance. The lads we have brought in will certainly improve us with our experience.

"We look far better, far stronger and better equipped in terms of the experience we've got.

"[Glenn] Whelan, [Ahmed] Elmohamady and [John] Terry bring great experience and know-how.

"I do feel you need that to play for this club and they will handle it because they have played in the Premier League before many times.

"I'm very confident they will perform under pressure – like you have to playing for this club."

Villa, 15/8 to be promoted this season, are available at 1/1 to triumph against Hull on Saturday and 8/1 to beat the Tigers 2-1.