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Leeds United at Aston Villa preview: A Merry Christmas… and a Happy New Year?

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After all the excitement of the Christmas thriller against Preston the other day, it was back to a hard week of work for Garry Monk’s men as they prepare to travel to Villa for a game on the cameras this Thursday evening. 

Aston Villa v Huddersfield Town: Sky Bet Championship
Leeds will have to keep this man at bay if we are to take all 3 points on Thursday night.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Leeds United are riding high at the moment and I’m sure there isn’t a team in the Championship who wants to come up against us, least of all one who have already been on the end of a defeat from the Whites not even a month ago. Aston Villa are a changing side under Steve Bruce, and with McCormack back from a minor spell on the side-lines and being at home, they could be a tougher proposition this time out.

Leeds will look even stronger than against Preston though with the hopeful return of both Pablo Hernandez and Chris Wood in the offing. Both are needed in my opinion, with Wood being critical away from Elland Road and Pablo providing that spark on a more consistent basis than any of our other number 10 options (although Roofe has been excellent).

Here are the three key things I think this game will come down to on Thursday evening.

Keeping our feet on the ground

In the past, Leeds have been guilty of getting carried away with themselves and not being able to string together consecutive good performances. This season has been different and Monk seems to have instilled a good work ethic which has led to consistency. This is more important than ever over the next few weeks and months if we want to ensure meaningful football come May.

This will be even harder this week given the dominant display and score line against Preston, as opposed to a hard-fought close victory. The minute we start to think we belong in the play offs is the minute it all falls apart; we need to keep fighting every second of the game.

Clinical finishing

Being away from home to a playoff standard team (don’t let Villa’s current position fool you) will mean that Leeds don’t have as much of the ball as normal and will most likely play large spells in our own half. Counter attacking football may be the tactic of the day and whether it’s Chris Wood, The Duke, or Kemar Roofe, we need to be very sharp against Villa. Especially as they have a goal or two in them themselves.

Contain their attacking threat

We all know how deadly Ross McCormack can be, and we all know how much stick the away end can give. Both these things lead to the inevitable on Thursday. I’m calling it now: he’s going to score.

Containing not only Ross but the likes of Grealish, Adomah and Kodija is priority number one if Leeds are to get anything out of this game. We’ve looked incredible defensively this season so far but we won’t face much of a tougher test then this lot away.

Form

Leeds United – WLWWW

Our only loss in the last 5 games came against Brighton, where we played most of the 90 with 10 men. Impressive wins since then against Preston, Brentford and Reading make Leeds one of the in-form teams in the Championship at the minute, but I don’t think that will scare Steve Bruce’s men too much.

Aston Villa – LWLWW

Villa know what it’s like being on the end of a United-inflicted defeat, but all in all they’ve been on a good spell of form themselves only losing two in their last 10 outings. Villa have strong home form, so Leeds will have to be at their best if we are to inflict another defeat on the Villains.

Head to Head

A televised game not even a month ago led to a 2-0 victory for Leeds in a hard fought battle. Before that, the last time we played was a Premier League tie back in 2004 for head to head record doesn’t count for much. Which is probably best as Villa have a 38-30 advantage since we first met back in 1934.

WHAT

Aston Villa vs. Leeds United

EFL Championship fixture

WHERE

Villa Park, Birmingham

Sky Sports 1, beIN Sports, LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings

WHEN

Thursday, December 29, 2016

11:45am PT / 2:45pm ET / 7:45pm BT

WHO

Leeds United predicted starting XI

Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, Phillips, Bridcutt, Sacko, Roofe, Dallas, Doukara

Aston Villa predicted starting XI

Bunn, Hutton, Chester, Baker, Amavi, Jedinak, Gardner, Bacuna, Adomah, McCormack, Kodija

ODDS

Leeds 14/5

Draw 9/4

Villa 21/10

PREDICTION

With the way Leeds are playing at the minute, anything is possible, and despite Villa being a very good side under Bruce and being slightly better odds, this is still a game that I think Leeds could quite easily win. After a terrific outing at Preston, optimism is high, but I am keeping my feet on the ground for this one.

Away from home we don’t score quite as freely and things in every area of the park will be much tougher than they were against Grayson’s men. I’m going for 1-1 and a very tight game but if one team’s going to knick a winner, it isn’t going to be the home team. A draw would be a good result here though: keep the points tally rolling and keep us in the top 6 come New Year’s Day. MOT.