Aston Villa go into tonight’s Championship play-off second leg against Middlesbrough as the favourites after their 1-0 win at The Riverside on Saturday.

Fulham await the winner in Saturday’s final at Wembley after they overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit to Derby County, showing Middlesbrough that it can be done.

Neither side can be expected to make major changes to the sides that played on Saturday.

Villa manager Steve Bruce confirmed that Ahmed Elmohamady will likely play no part after pulling his hamstring during the first leg.

The right-back’s unavailability could see left-back Neil Taylor or right-sided defender James Bree come into the side with Alan Hutton shifting from the left to the right if the former returns.

Axel Tuanzebe remains sidelined, also with a hamstring problem.

And Bruce knows that although his side have a slender lead, the job is far from done.

“There’s no doubt we have a small advantage, and that we’re pleased, but that’s all it is,” he told the club’s official website.

“Saturday, to a man, we were terrific.

“We need to repeat it and show the same hunger and desire,” he added.

Villa go into the match having not lost at home in five matches, while the visitors have only taken one win in the same number away from home.

Bruce’s opposite number Tony Pulis may be forced into the match without the services of Daniel Ayala, but that could be the only change he has to make.

The centre-back had to leave the field with a knee injury on Saturday and had a scan yesterday (Monday).

“If there’s any chance of Dani playing, then he’s going to play,” Pulis told Middlesbrough’s official website.

Left-back Fabio replaced Ayala on Saturday, but the manager could opt to partner Ben Gibson with either Martin Cranie or Dael Fry from the start at Villa Park.

Long-term absentee Rudi Gestede remains sidelined but otherwise Boro have no other injury problems after the first leg.

And Pulis – like Bruce – seems likely to stick with the same players that started on Saturday.

Aston Villa (possible): Sam Johnstone; Neil Taylor, James Chester, John Terry, Alan Hutton; Mile Jedinak, Conor Hourihane; Robert Snodgrass, Jack Grealish, Albert Adomah; Lewis Grabban

Middlesbrough (possible): Darren Randolph; George Friend, Ben Gibson, Martin Cranie, Ryan Shotton; Muhamed Besic, Adam Clayton; Stewart Downing, Jonny Howson, Adama Traore; Britt Assombalonga


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