Well this is all very cosy, isn't it? What happened to the GR Triumvirate? I imagine this is what it feels like to go through your girlfriend's phone and find she's been sending loads of dirty messages to other guys.
Thoughts on your chances? GR meet in Wembley if you get past Villa?
Edit - and if we get past Fulham, of course!
Wembley is a bit far from Japan unfortunately. I only managed to make one or two games a year when I fly back. This year's was against Villa funnily enough.
It's a weird one to judge how optimistic I am. Last time we had been in automatic promotion contention right until the end, having been first, second or third pretty much all season and having it between us, Watford and Bournemouth. There was quite a big gap between us and fifth and sixth and I think most fancied us to get to the final playing against Brentford. We got through pretty comfortably, winning 2-1 away and I think 4-0 at home.
This time, there's still a bit of a gap between third/fourth and fifty and sixth. But bar Fulham's amazing form since January, I don't think there's a massive quality gap between the teams. And as we saw last night, form doesn't count for everything (especially given Fulham lost last week when a win would have seen them up).
I don't think we have anything to be scared of with Villa. Likewise, they don't really have a reason to fear playing us. I think both teams will think they can make it to the final.
We drew with Villa away 0-0 in a decent enough performance, then at home narrowly lost 1-0 in a pretty boring lifeless match where a quality Snodgrass goal nicked it. But how much you can ascertain from those games is debatable, given the first one saw Monk in charge and the home one was Pulis' first game.
We've had a much more stop-start season, changing managers in December and we haven't really got going until the Spring. Pulis has stablized us a bit, though we are probably still performing a bit below our potential. You could argue the same for Villa. On our day, I think both teams could look one of the strongest in the league. We have been less consistent than Villa though.
My main concern is playing the away leg last. Having the home leg last means you can at least chase the game, something that becomes harder to do away. I have a feeling the game tonight will be really tight, so it would be nice to at least take a lead to Villa Park.
You probably have to have Villa as favourites. They had more points, more wins and slightly more goals scored/fewer conceded. I would argue that they've probably got a stronger squad too, having splashed cash on championship players for two summers now. We spent big in the summer though also sold quite a few and had to rebuild our team. Villa built on what they had this season and were fairly settled in terms of playing and managerial staff.
We've also not been up in the top six really until about March. Given how inconsistent we have been, to get within perhaps two wins of the PL is a pretty good achievement. Sometimes a team like that can carry some belief into the play offs and nab that third promotion spot. You'd bet on Villa probably edging it over two legs but you can never be sure...
Wasn't the best match for the neutrals but I was pleased to see Villa largely control the game on Saturday. Probably should've capitalised and scored more - great save from the Boro keeper to keep Snodgrass out - but I was happy with the away win. Got some shitty work dinner tomorrow night but hoping to sneak out and catch the match somewhere.
I'd say there's no chance of us holding on tonight, but the way the season's gone for the most part we'll probably face 76 shots on target and all of them will bounce off Carson's backside, up onto the crossbar and away to safety. Then Vydra will come off the bench and score a belter to see us through 2-0 on aggregate.