Championship playoff primer: Who’s coming up?
The story lines for the 2017-18 Football League Championship playoffs are many.
Aston Villa is looking to return to the Premier League, where it was a mainstay for so long, while Fulham competed in the Europa League within the past decade.
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Derby County has been knocking on the door to return to the top flight on a near annual basis, while Middlesbrough is bidding to go one-and-done in the second tier.
So here’s a bit of a cheat sheet ahead of the weekend’s semifinal first legs, as only one of the quartet can joins Wolves and Cardiff City as promoted sides.
Derby County vs. Fulham -- 2:45 p.m. ET Friday
Middlesbrough vs. Aston Villa -- 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday
Fulham vs. Derby County -- 2:45 p.m. May 14
Aston Villa vs. Middlesbrough -- 2:45 p.m. May 15
Derby County - Matej Vydra, 21 goals
Aston Villa - Lewis Grabban, 20
Fulham - Ryan Sessegnon, 15
Middlesbrough - Britt Assombalonga, 15
Last Premier League season
Aston Villa 2015-16
Derby County 2007-08
Fulham has two Americans on its current roster: mainstay defender Tim Ream and young midfielder Luca de la Torre. Some of the U.S. most recognizable names have played for Fulham, including Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, and Kasey Keller. Eddie Johnson, Eddie Lewis, and Emerson Hyndman have also played for the team once nicknamed Fulhamerica.
Aston Villa was the long time home of USMNT backstop Brad Guzan, and Eric Lichaj also spent a good period of time in Birmingham. Michael Bradley and Brad Friedel also played for Villa.
Derby County‘s American alums include Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Lewis, and Ian Feuer.
Middlesbrough had Guzan on the squad for its 2016-17 relegation campaign.
Best top flight finish
Aston Villa - 7 top flight titles
Derby County - 2 top flight titles
Middlesbrough - 3rd place in 1913-14
Fulham - 7th place in 2008-09