Friday night football is back as Aston Villa host Leeds United at Villa Park at 20:00, any points on the board for Dean Smith‘s Villa would see them go top of the Premier League with a game in hand as we enter this weekends fixtures.
After beating Leicester with a late goal thanks to Ross Barkley, confidence is sky high for Villa – who are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League and have won all four of their Premier League games so far this season.
Last time Villa locked horns with Leeds, Villa were in a similar vein of form – on an 11 match unbeaten run, which included the famous 10 game win streak. You can read more on that match at Elland Road here.
Dean Smith provided a surprise fitness update stating that goalkeeper Tom Heaton will return to full training next week, after working with goalkeeping coach Neil Cuttler for large parts of this week.
Kortney Hause and Wesley will also miss the game through injury.
Keinan Davis will be available for selection after missing out on a place in the squad against Leicester through injury.
Ross Barkley made a surprise revelation in his post-match interview stating it was touch and go if he’d feature against Leicester. Fortunately, he passed the late fitness test last week; Ross is expected to feature for Villa against Leeds.
As for Leeds, Marcello Bielsa revealed his side will be without their star man in the midfield, Kalvin Phillips. Despite playing a full 90 minutes against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the midfielder will be out of action for an estimated six weeks with a shoulder injury.
Bielsa confirmed during the week that Pascal Struijk will replace Phillips in the Leeds XI.
Leeds will also be without Liam Cooper (groin), Diego Llorente (muscle injury), Adam Forshaw (hip) and Gaetano Beradi (knee).
View Across the Dugout:
This week I spoke with Leeds That (@leedsthat), a Leeds United podcast about Villa’s clash against Leeds. His thoughts can be found below:
This is the first meeting between the two sides since the controversial 1-1 draw at Elland Road. With no fans in the ground this time round, do you see there being a similar spice on the pitch like last time round?
I think there are various personnel that are different, so without fans to fuel it I expect it to be a far less feisty atmosphere than it could have been! That said, a couple of big tackles and perhaps old rivalries could be renewed.
You sit in 10th in the table, what have you made of life in the Premier League so far?
I’m really pleased with how it’s gone. All games have been decided by the odd goal, which shows how fine the margins are in this league. We could have 1 point or could easily have had 12 or more, so 7 on balance is reasonable and anyone would have taken it before a ball was kicked.
Kalvin Phillips will miss the game through injury, how much of a loss is this for Leeds?
Kalvin is a huge part of the system we play and is undoubtedly a massive miss for us. Despite everyone being drilled to play two positions or more it will be a case of square pegs on Friday, which is absolutely not what you want when locking horns with the form team who are have huge momentum right now.
You’ve made a strong account for yourself against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City – coming into the Premier League, did you expect to have such an impact against two of Europe’s best teams?
What we expected was that Bielsa wouldn’t change the system for any team, we only play one way, but quite how that would measure up was more of an unknown! It was really encouraging to see how it went, but it will be games against teams that sit back and look to hit us on the counter that have the potential to frustrate like Wolves did that will undoubtedly cause us the most problems.
What do you make of the faux “rivalry” between both sides?
In all honesty in that game last year there were very few people who covered themselves in glory on both sides, Bamford, Terry, it was a bit farcical really and something I imagine anyone involved wants to forget.
Fans have long memories though, and with a little bit of envy surrounding your promotion and our lack of, combined with perceived double standards on other decisions (I.e the phantom goal that everyone knew was in) I think that has give this mini-rivalry more legs than it ought to have.
Can we get a predicted XI and score prediction?
Meslier, Alioski Ayling Koch Struijk Dallas Klich Rodrigo Harrison Costa Bamford. I’m going with a 2-2 draw.
Villa this season have proved they’re capable of turning up in the big games and getting a result even when they aren’t necessarily playing at their best – we saw this at the King Power last weekend.
There are still many gears Villa can kick into and Bielsa will certainly pose a different challenge for Villa under the lights on Friday.
Leeds have certainly made a good account of themselves upon their return to the Premier League but have found themselves conceding more goals than they’d like to.
Villa will have to be well disciplined to overcome Leeds; Friday will prove a true test for how far Villa have come in such a short period of time. With a chance to make it five Premier League wins in a row and nine Premier League games unbeaten, I’m sure Smith’s men will be up for the occasion.
Predicted XI: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett: Luiz, McGinn; Trezeguet, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins (4-2-3-1).
Prediction: Aston Villa 3-1 Leeds United.