Pundit View: Paul Merson has his say on Aston Villa’s potential play-off opponents

Speaking to The Debate podcast (29/04), Paul Merson has outlined what he, as an ex-Aston Villa man, thinks they should be fearing the most.

What’s he said?

Villa’s march to the play-offs has been quite something and out of each team currently in with a shout of achieving promotion, their momentum is the greatest.

Before their 1-1 draw with Leeds last weekend, Dean Smith’s men had played out a stunning ten match winning streak.

However, that will of course count for nothing if they don’t then get the business done in the play-offs. A fantastic test of how far they’ve come in recent months presents itself with a clash against Norwich on the final day before the play-offs get underway.

It’s a game with not a lot riding on it for the Villans, but it’s a real opportunity to prove themselves.

At the moment, Villa sit in fourth place and could face Midlands rivals West Brom in the play-off semi-finals. With that in mind, Merson had this to say when speaking to The Debate (45:10):

“As a Villa man I’d rather play West Brom in one game at Wembley rather than two because West Brom have got firepower to hurt you over two games. Even though Villa are on such a good run that’s another thing that frightens me.”

Can Villa keep out a potent attack?

Villa’s defence in recent months has been far better than what we saw throughout the opening half of the campaign. Tyrone Mings has made a phenomenal difference since signing on loan from Bournemouth whilst the two full-backs, Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor, have both found consistency.

To add to that, even Mile Jedinak has stepped up in central defence with injury and suspension on separate occasions in recent times.

However, they’ll be met with one of their toughest examinations of the season if they meet West Brom in the play-off semi-finals.

Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez are two of the top scorers in the division and against a Baggies side in full flow, it’s incredibly difficult to keep them at bay. As a result, Merson is right to be scared about the threat they pose.

Keeping West Brom quiet for one game is tough as it is, let alone across two legs. Villa, therefore, will have to be at their very best if they’re to seal promotion back to the Premier League.

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