Aston Villa’s Ahmed Elmohamady admits he’s been dreaming of the World Cup ever since Egypt secured a historic qualification last October but the defender still has Championship play-offs to worry about before shifting his focus to Russia.
Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, face Middlesbrough on Saturday in the four-team shoot-out for Premier League promotion and Elmohamady is hoping to draw on his previous experience to help his club return to the top flight.
“I got promoted twice with Hull in the past, once through automatic promotion and once through the play-offs and hopefully I seal the hat-trick this time,” the Egyptian told Sport360.
The high-pressure unique system of promotion play-offs involving the teams that finished between third and sixth in the Championship was introduced in 1992. Four legs of semi-finals and a final at Wembley will decide which team will move up to the Premier League – a promotion that is said to be worth almost £200million.
Fulham were just two points away from securing automatic promotion but ultimately finished third in the Championship. They enter the play-offs with equal chances to a club like Derby, who ended the league 13 points adrift.
“That’s the point. A club can finish third, just one point off second place and automatic promotion and lose out to a team that finished sixth and made it through the play-offs. But that’s the great thing about it and that’s the beauty of the Championship,” explained Elmohamady.
“I see it as one of the strongest leagues in Europe, it’s stronger than many leagues in Europe. It has huge players as well. We can see one of the greatest defenders of all time like John Terry playing with us in the Championship.
“That just shows you how strong the Championship is. Hopefully we’ll make it through the play-offs and we make our fans happy. It would be great if we make it back to the Premier League.”
The 30-year-old will be reuniting with his Egyptian team-mates at the end of May in preparation for Russia and says World Cup fever has already started to take over.
However players like Mohamed Salah, who is in the Champions League final with Liverpool, and Elmohamady, who has promotion on his mind, are still focused on their club duties.
“We’ve been thinking about the World Cup since we qualified. But we are still currently with our clubs and we have a mission to complete,” assured Elmohamady.
“I have play-offs with my club, there’s also Champions League, many of us have something to finish with our respective clubs before we shift our focus to the World Cup.
“The play-offs are very important to us and the club. Aston Villa is a big club in England that has a huge fan-base and a big stadium. We have a chance in the play-offs, God help us in the two games before the final so we can bring the team back to the Premier League.”
Villa head to Riverside Stadium for the first leg against Middlesborough on Saturday night (20:15 Dubai time), with the second leg taking place at Villa Park on May 15 (22:45).
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