Aston Villa are looking to continue their hundred percent winning record as they play hosts to Leeds United on Friday.
Aston Villa have emerged as the surprise package in the Premier League this season. They have won all four of their matches so far, with their latest victory coming against Leicester City, thanks to a late stunner from new signing Ross Barkley. The win meant that the club has now collected one-third of their points last season, in just the four matches of the 2020/21 campaign.
The Villans have appeared mightily impressed going forward. But, a record of just two goals conceded is the best in the Premier League at the moment, though that record could be challenged when they play hosts to Leeds United at the Villa Park on Friday.
Much like Villa, though by a varying degree, Leeds United have also raised a lot of eyebrows with some impressive performances early on in the campaign. They most notably rattled Liverpool in the opening fixture before holding Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
The Whites, unfortunately, dropped all three points against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the last fixture due to a second-half goal from Raul Jimenez. But having won against Sheffield United in their previous away game, coach Marcelo Bielsa will be hoping for a positive result on Friday.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this highly fascinating encounter in the Premier League this week.
Tactics & Team News
Dean Smith has no reason whatsoever to make too many changes from the core of the side that has already scalped four wins in the first four matches this season, especially given the fact that the Aston Villa manager will be dealt with no fresh injury-related absentees.
Emiliano Martinez has proven to be an upgrade over the injured Tom Heaton and is guaranteed to retain his place in goal along with the likes of Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa, Matt Targett and new signing Matty Cash. It will be interesting to see whether or not these players can continue their majestic defensive record this week.
There should be no changes in midfield either with Douglas Luiz and John McGinn operating in the double-pivot, with additional support from Ross Barkley in the number ten role. The ex-Everton player has settled in nicely after joining from Chelsea on loan and could be in Aston Villa’s overall chance creation.
Speaking of chance creation, Jack Grealish, at left-wing, will be Aston Villa’s creator-in-chief, looking to break the shackles of Leeds United’s depleted defensive unit.
Trezeguet is set to occupy the opposite flank, with the Aston Villa attack guaranteed to be spearheaded by Ollie Watkins as Wesley continues to remain out with a long-term injury. Smith may, however, have reserve striker Keinan Davis back in contention this week.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Trezeguet, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins.
The biggest blow for Leeds United heading into this game is the injury of Kalvin Phillips. The key midfielder picked up a knock against Wolves in the last game that should keep him out on the sidelines for at least six weeks. Diego Llorente and Gaetano Berardi are also injured while Liam Cooper is a doubt.
Replacing Phillips in the number six role could be a challenge for Bielsa. Although Robin Koch is a natural replacement, the lack of central defensive options, especially with Berardi and Llorente both injured, we could see the young Pascal Struijk featuring in that position.
Meanwhile, in central defence, starting with Cooper could be a risk to we expect Luke Ayling to shift to a more central role, partnering Koch at the heart of the four-man backline. It essentially means that Stuart Dallas may have to operate as a right-back, with Ezgjan Alioski occupying his position at left-back.
There might be another change in midfield with Pablo Hernandez replacing Rodrigo Moreno in the number ten role. It will be interesting to see how the ageing midfielder influences the game, especially against a strong Aston Villa defence.
The likes of Helder Costa, Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford are expected to lead the attack for Leeds United while the likes of Rodrigo, Raphinha and Ian Poveda are almost guaranteed to feature as second-half substitutes.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Koch, Alioski; Struijk; Costa, Hernandez, Klich, Harrison; Bamford.
- Pablo Hernandez has been directly involved in six goals in seven league starts against Aston Villa, with one goal and five assists.
- This is the first match between Villa and Leeds since a 1-1 Championship draw at Elland Road in April 2019, when the hosts allowed Villa to equalise uncontested from kick-off after Mateusz Klich scored a contentious opening goal.
- Aston Villa won 2-0 in the most recent Premier League meeting in February 2004. It’s one of only two victories in their past 13 fixtures against Leeds in all competitions.
- Dean Smith’s side can equal the club Premier League record of five consecutive victories, set in 1996 and matched in 1998.
- The Whites are attempting to win consecutive Premier League away matches for the first time in 18 years.
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— Joe Short (@_jshort) October 21, 2020
As Leeds United look to break Aston Villa’s winning record, Pablo Hernandez could play a key role, as the club’s creator-in-chief. The Spaniard, who returned from injury in the last game, already has an impressive record against the Villans, having been involved in six goals in seven league starts.
Hernandez could specifically play a bigger role in this fixture as Leeds look to cope with the absence of Phillips. So his positional sense, chance creation and technical prowess could be important as the Whites look to expose the Villa defence that has conceded only two goals so far this campaign.
Aston Villa 0-0 Leeds United
This could turn out to be a cagey affair – one in which Aston Villa could soon realise that having momentum is not a tactic. We are expecting a rather 0-0 draw, though the home side undoubtedly has the advantage as their opposition is missing key players.