Few would have thought it possible just a handful of games before last seasons survival, that Villa would be in such great shape.
From a side that looked utterly dead and buried after a late equaliser at Goodison Park, to a huge win over Arsenal that set up a draw on the final day at West Ham to be enough to survive.
A close season of calculated purchases saw Matty Cash, Ollie Watkins, Emi Martinez, Bertrand Traore and Ross Barkley (Loan) arrive at Villa Park.
This has transformed Dean Smith’s side, injecting quality into areas of the pitch that the squad was glaringly lacking. The reward? Four straight victories in the new campaign: Sheffield United (1-0), Fulham (0-3), Liverpool (7-2) and Leicester (1-0).
Whilst a number of alleged pundits have been dismissive of Villa, for those of us who have followed the club and it’s standard for long enough, we know improvement when we see it. This is not a side that has fluked results so far either; this Villa side have deserved to win each of their matches.
LEEDS LEEDS LEEDSEmbed from Getty Images
For this writer at least, Villa-Leeds used to be a mainstay (amongst others) that were looked out for on the fixture list. With Leeds’ financial collapse and subsequent 16 years adrift in the Championship, their return to the top flight can only be welcome.
Parking the obsessive Bielsa media-rat-run and tribal fan banter, there have and remain plenty of no-mark opposition sides on the fixture list. Facing Leeds on a Friday night? I’ll take that over a Burnley, Brighton or Fulham anyday.
Leeds will represent a different test to those sides we’ve faced so far this term. Their high intensity game can be effective, but it now comes up against one of the most improved defences not only in the Premier League, but Europe.
One of the biggest shortfalls of Villa for many seasons was our lack of stamina. This appears to have been addressed by Smith, by driving down the average age of the squad (Cash, Watkins et al) and by taking decisions based on work-rate that other manager’s might not. The preference for Trezeguet over El Ghazi speaks volumes.
It will be interesting to see whether Villa’s stamina, defensive rigidity and Leeds’ prone-ness to fade late in games could be the route to a 5th straight victory.
This is an enticing fixture, if only for the fact that a win will raise the fanbase frenzy even further should they reach the Premier League summit at full-time.
- Villa have won 4 from 4 – a win would see us leap Everton and go top.
- Leeds have been patchy so far – 2 wins, 2 defeats and a draw.
- Leeds are currently 10th in their first PL season in 16 years.
- Korney Hause is a doubt but Keinan Davis is expected to be available.
- Leeds have lost Kalvin Phillips for 6 weeks through injury.
- Venue: Villa Park
- Kick Off Time: 20:00 / 8pm [GMT]
- Watch: It’s not available via paid sports packages – only Pay Per View. Don’t give a single penny to the greedy Premier League – give to a local good cause instead here.
GK – Martinez
DEF – Cash
DEF – Mings
DEF – Konsa
DEF – Targett
MID – Douglas Luiz
MID – McGinn
MID – Trezeguet
MID – Barkley
MID – Grealish (Captain)
ATT – Watkins
Substitutes for Villa tonight:
Steer, Engels, Elmohamady, Nakamba, Hourihane, Traore, Davis.
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