Aston Villa’s players can make themselves “icons” with victory over Derby in the Championship play-off final, according to boss Dean Smith.
Villa, looking to end a three-year exile from the Premier League, play the Rams for a place in the top flight worth £170m on Monday.
“It’s not a normal game, we know that, you can’t hide it,” Smith told BBC WM.
“The players have the chance to take an opportunity forward and become icons at Aston Villa.”
Villa finished fifth in the table following an incredible run of 10 straight wins in March and April.
“We’ve been playing must-win games for the past 15 or 16 games now and Monday will be no different,” Smith added.
Derby boss Frank Lampard said he wants his team to play with freedom.
They finished sixth in the Championship, two points behind Villa, and only secured their play-off place on the final day.
“However much the game is worth is not something that we can be in control of. I really want them to enjoy it. I played in finals and big games that I didn’t enjoy and moments passed me by and I don’t want that to happen to them,” he told BBC Radio Derby.
“I want them to play with freedom. We can win this game or we could lose this game but as long as the players give everything I’ll be proud and the fans will be.”
Villa have no new injury or suspension concerns and could name the same XI that started the semi-final second leg at West Brom which saw them go through on penalties.
Derby will be without left-back Scott Malone after he was sent off in their dramatic 4-2 win at Leeds United in their play-off semi-final second leg.
That means veteran Ashley Cole is likely to come in for what could be his final game in professional football, while Jack Marriott is pushing for a start after coming off the bench to score twice at Elland Road.
Striker Martyn Waghorn (Achilles) could feature after missing both ties against Leeds.
- Derby lost both of their Championship meetings with Aston Villa this season by an aggregate score of 7-0 (3-0 at home and 4-0 away).
- Aston Villa have won six of their last nine matches against Derby (all in league competition), losing just once in this run, a 0-2 defeat in December 2017.
- The last Championship playoff final to see both sides score was West Ham’s 2-1 win over Blackpool back in 2012 – each of the last six has seen at least one side fail to find the back of the net.
- This is only the sixth second-tier play-off final between the teams finishing 5th and 6th in the division that season and the first since 2005, when West Ham won 1-0 against Preston.
- Aston Villa are the first side to reach back-to-back playoff finals in the second tier since West Ham in 2004 (runners up) and 2005 (winners). The last side to lose consecutive playoff finals at this level was Leicester City in 1992 and 1993.
- Aston Villa have lost five of their last six in all competitions in matches played at Wembley Stadium, with their only victory in this run coming back in April 2015 versus Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final, with goals from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph securing a 2-1 win.
- Derby are participating in their fourth second-tier play-off final, losing two (1994 and 2014) and winning one (2007) of their previous three.
- Only Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Swindon Town have ever lost three straight games at Wembley without scoring – Aston Villa have lost 0-4 to Arsenal and 0-1 to Fulham in their last two games there.
- The team finishing sixth in the Championship have been promoted via the play-offs in just one of the last 13 seasons, with Blackpool beating Cardiff City in the 2010 final.
- Aston Villa striker Tammy Abraham has scored four Championship goals (including play-offs) against Derby County – he has only netted more against Nottingham Forest (5).
- Aston Villa boss Dean Smith will be taking charge of his first playoff final as a manager – he appeared in two such matches as a player, ending on the losing side for Leyton Orient in both 1999 (v Scunthorpe) and 2001 (v Blackpool) in fourth tier matches.
- Harry Wilson has been involved in eight goals in his last 10 Championship matches for Derby (6 goals, 2 assists – including play-offs), and has scored 16 Championship goals this season – seven more than any other Rams player.
- Should Derby win promotion, their tally of 74 points in the regular season would be the fewest by a side promoted to the Premier League since Crystal Palace in 2012-13 (72 points).
- Excluding the goalless 2017 final between Huddersfield and Reading, 14 of the last 15 occasions a team has scored first in a second-tier play-off final has seen them go on to win promotion, with the exception being Cardiff City against Blackpool in 2010 (lost 2-3).
- The two players to win the most fouls in the Championship this season (including play-offs) are Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (158) and Derby’s Harry Wilson (113).