The Villa Appetiser: Aston Villa v Leeds 2018

One of the most worrying things about the Stoke City game wasn’t the disappointing scoreline, but rather our struggles without Grealish.

Unfortunately it looks like we’ll be without Jack for the visit of Leeds, but a near sold-out Villa Park could give us the edge.

Recent encounters against Leeds have been fairly evenly-matched, and that’s reflected in the history tally too. In 84 previous league meetings between Aston Villa and Leeds, both sides have won 28 matches each, with 28 draws.

After letting a couple of three-point hauls slips against the Baggies and Forest, if Dean Smith’s Villa are serious about automatic promotion, then they simply have to beat Leeds.

Can we bag those vital three points for Christmas?

Form

VILLA

8th in the league table with the 6th best home record.

Last five matches at home: W 3, D 2  

LEEDS

1st in the league table with the 1st best away record.

Last five matches away: W 3, L 2  

Smith on Leeds

“They’ve done brilliant. Marcelo Bielsa has galvanised the squad and they’ve won five on the spin. They’re top of the table.

“Very good counter pressing team, high pressing team, high energy. It’s going to be one hell of a game on Sunday as both teams play in a similar manner.

“My last game at Brentford was at Elland Road and it was a 1-1 draw. Leeds equalised in the last minute in a game I thought Brentford deserved to win.

“It’ll be a chess game with two teams playing in a similar way and it’s one I’m looking forward to.”

Bielsa on Villa

“The important thing for this competition is who is getting promoted and who is struggling.

“As it is a very long competition as you have many possibilities because you have six teams who could go up. Any conclusion you make would be premature.

“I see that every time I am asked the same question in a different way but unfortunately I can’t give you a different answer.

“Imagine if I had to give you an answer with a level of certainty! For any observers it would a lack of responsibility because we have only played half of the games so far.

“If you ask me whether they have the players and structure to go up then, yes.

Do they have a brilliant head coach? Of course.”

Memory Match

13 April 2018 – Villa 1 Leeds 0 

A goal from Lewis Grabban was enough to secure the points as Villa guaranteed a play-off place.

Player to Watch

Luke Ayling – A key player for Leeds, the defender could return to the starting XI after missing two months

Tammy Abraham has been involved in 39 goals in just 57 Championship appearances in his career (35 goals, 4 assists), netting 12 and assisting one this season.

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

The last couple of months have been pretty good for Villa fans, and that’s reflected in the general positivity surrounding the big Leeds game this weekend.

New goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, announced on Friday, has also helped add to the festive mood, though he of course will not be involved until January.

We have dropped points in our last couple of games though, and Leeds will be the toughest test at Villa Park yet.

Villa maybe unbeaten in their last seven games, but Leeds have actually pulled away from them in this period.

Thankfully, Villa have been finding the net more than ever. But our defensive issues remain, and we’ve conceded 11 goals in our last five matches.

The appointment of Marcelo Bielsa has disproved the old ‘Championship Experience’ cliche and he’s made a hugely impressive start to life at Elland Road.

Top of the table, Leeds just keep picking up wins, and they’re on an intimidatingly good run right now.

For the first time since December 2009, Leeds have won five consecutive league games. The last time they bettered that same run was in September that same year.

If we want to keep our admittedly very slim automatic promotion chances alive, this is a VERY tough test – and we’ll have to do it without JG!

“DO [VILLA] HAVE A BRILLIANT HEAD COACH? OF COURSE” – BIELSA ON SMITH

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

Things have changed since we last played Leeds at Villa Park, in April this year.

That Leeds side was very different under Heckingbottom, and it was a fairly routine win for Bruce’s Villa.

While they’re top of the table for good reason, there’s still reasons to be relatively confident.

With the signing of Lovre Kalinic announced on Friday, Nyland will be mindful of competition and will be motivated into making the number 1 spot his own.

Kodjia meanwhile could be eyeing a starting place after his rescue mission against Stoke last weekend.

We’re unbeaten in our past three matches against Leeds, drawing twice and winning the recent Villa Park fixture.

More generally, we’re proving difficult to beat, and we’re unbeaten in seven games (winning four and drawing three).

While we did struggle without Grealish against Stoke, Leeds are a more open, attacking team, so we should get more opportunities on the counter.

It’s bound to be an entertaining spectacle. No teams have scored in more Championship games this season than Leeds and Villa – we’ve both found the net in 21 different matches.

Hopefully, we’re on the right side of the scoreline.

Merry Christmas and UTV!

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