Leeds United are still in with a slim chance of grabbing the second automatic promotion spot in Championship as they host Aston Villa on Sunday.
Marcelo Bielsa would have been extremely happy with how his Leeds side have performed throughout the season in the Championship. But, the fortunes have not favoured them in recent weeks, with Leeds losing grip over the second automatic promotion spot in the Championship, conceding the place and a three-point gap to Sheffield United.
Leeds are still very much in with a chance to get automatic promotion to the Premier League. But, they would need to upstage an Aston Villa side that have been on an incredible run of results, which has seen them climb from being mid-table mongers to confirming their place in the playoffs for the third promotion spot.
Unless a chain of unprecedented events happen concerning the teams around, Aston Villa are most probably locked to play West Bromwich Albion either way, be it as the better seed or worse. Still, Dean Smith would love for his side to go into the playoffs having maintained their winning streak.
Leeds’ last home game in the Championship against Aston Villa was back in 2017 and it ended in a 1-1 draw. As the two teams set their eyes on different targets while having three points on their mind for Sunday, we take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Ezgjan Alioski joins Barry Douglas out on the sidelines. The Macedonian came off early against Brentford on Monday and is now set to miss the rest of the season for Leeds. Stuart Dallas, who came on for Alioski against Brentford, should replace him in the starting eleven, which should be the only change in the back four.
Tyler Roberts had a poor game on Monday and will be gunning to redeem himself. The youngster should start in central midfield, with Mateusz Klich by his side and Adam Forshaw at the base of the midfield in what is expected to be a 4-1-4-1 shape.
The midfield should also see a solitary change, with Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison making way for Kemar Roofe, who will slot in on the right. Pablo Hernandez will shift to the left.
Patrick Bamford will continue to lead the Leeds United attack. The youngster has scored a goal every 2 starts in the league for Leeds and Bielsa will hope he can influence the scoreline against an in-form Aston Villa.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Dallas; Forshaw; Roofe, Roberts, Klich, Hernandez; Bamford
While Dean Smith would love to continue the winning streak, Aston Villa are set for the playoffs and the manager is unlikely to risk Tammy Abraham on Sunday. The Chelsea loanee missed the Millwall game and should be left out of the starting eleven against Leeds United.
Kortney Hause is still sidelined while the likes of James Chester, Orjan Nyland and Lovre Kalinic are doubts and unlikely to be pushed into the starting eleven on Sunday. Dean Smith will also field his Villa side in a 4-1-4-1 shape.
With Axel Tuanzebe returning to full fitness, the Manchester United loanee should replace Mile Jedinak in central defence in what is expected to be the only change from Aston Villa’s win over Millwall.
Conor Hourihane will come in for Glenn Whelan to play the role of the defensive midfielder. Albert Adomah should be handed some much-needed rest, with Andre Green likely to be given an opportunity to impress on the right side of the midfield. Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi should retain their spots.
Jonathan Kodija should lead the frontline once again, with Tammy Abraham still out.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Steer; El Mohamady, Tuanzebe, Mings, Taylor; Hourihane; Green, Grealish, McGinn, El Ghazi; Kodija
1. Leeds United have lost their last two league games. They have not lost three league games in a row this season.
2. Aston Villa are on a 10-game winning streak in the Championship.
3. Leeds United have not lost consecutive home fixtures in the Championship so far this season.
4. Three of the last five meetings between Leeds United and Aston Villa in a league setting have ended in a draw.
5. At the age of 34, Pablo Hernandez is enjoying his best season of his footballing career, with a return of 12 goals and 12 assists in the league so far.
Player to Watch
The 23-year-old has had quite an eventful season. While his numbers have been decent (6 goals, 6 assists in Championship), the fan incident saw Grealish being propelled into the papers once again. Now, Tottenham are said to be lining up a summer move for Grealish, who already had one opportunity of a Premier League move dashed last season.
Grealish would now look to end the regular Championship season well and try to help Aston Villa return to the Premier League. A good performance against Leeds United would go a long way in reaffirming Spurs’ interest in the youngster. It will be up to Grealish to find holes in between the Leeds back four and their defensive midfielder.
The 23-year-old missed the earlier fixture in the league against Leeds and will be looking forward to the challenge.
Leeds United 1-1 Aston Villa
Marcelo Bielsa would hope Leeds United do not have to go through the gruesome playoffs for the promotion spot. But, their form indicates otherwise, especially with Sheffield United opening up a three-point gap, with just two games remaining in the regular season.
Aston Villa will be more relaxed, having already achieved a playoff Spot. They can only improve a place to fourth at maximum, which would not change their opposition for the first round of the playoffs for the third promotion spot to the Premier League.
We expect Leeds to go for a win. But, recent form suggests this should be an even encounter, with Leeds to stop Aston Villa’s winning streak. A 1-1 draw is what we are going with for Sunday.