Look out world, here comes Leeds United again.
Who would have thought that Leeds would have the chance to hop into third place by New Years at the beginning of the season? To be honest, it’s probably very few of us.
But here we are. And this is real.
As talked about before here on this blog, the win against Preston was more than just a nice score line. That game has the potential to be the key that unlocks this teams attacking identity.
And that is why this match away against Aston Villa will be hugely important.
Not only does this match give Leeds the chance to leap into the top three, but it also will show Leeds fans if that revelation against Preston is something that can be replicated or if was just a match won purely on post-Christmas excitement and a poor performance from Preston.
The dazzling performance on Boxing Day showcased some key players that will be hoping to carry their good form into Villa Park. Garry Monk knows another multi-goal performance would do wonders for his side's confidence. Also, getting back to the clean sheets would not hurt either.
So who is going to make it happen on Thursday?
Here are the key Leeds United players to keep an eye on, some potential men of the match, and some matchups worth mentioning.
1. Pontus Jansson
A hero. A legend. Can this man do no wrong?
Jansson's status only continues to grow with each match... and for good reason. He was not only a rock in defense against Preston, but he was also an attacking threat. It was his header across goal that set up Kemar Roofe and led to the first goal against Preston.
Always one with a taste for flare, Jansson knows when to apply his technical touch to a critical moment in defense.
Intelligent on the pitch and driven by pure passion for football, he will be an anchor that Monk continues to depend on through these critical winter months.
If Leeds were to secure promotion (and we think they will), Jansson will be a large reason why. If he keeps putting in shifts like he did against Preston, don't be surprised if a stand is named after him during the summer.
On the other side of Pontus, Jonathan Kodjia leads Villa with 8 goals in the Championship so far.
He did not manage to get on the score sheet against Burton in the last match, a fact which will bode well for Leeds. The Leeds defense will have to be aware of Kodjia's dribbling ability since that is his main strength.
As long as the Whites stay as disciplined as they usually do, Kodjia should be kept quiet through this match. And Pontus will be a big reason why.
2. Kemar Roofe
Man of the Match against Preston, Kemar Roofe might be the key that Monk was looking for to unlock the attacking potential of Leeds.
With a goal and two assists on Monday to add to his account, Roofe will have to be full of confidence heading into this match. Leeds might have to ride that confidence to pull out a result against a resilient Villa side.
Monk will undoubtedly have reminded his side that Villa is the only team in the Championship that is unbeaten at home. Players like Roofe can change that with their constant attacking threat.
Fans are taking notice as well.
Judging by his stats & contribution Kemar roofe had his best game since he signed. we're seeing the best of him in the no10 role. #lufc— Luke (@___Lhollick) December 26, 2016
Roofe will have to continue to serve up assists and create confusion in the attacking third against a defense that has not lost behind a home crowd.
Leeds fans will be singing "We want more!"
On the other side: Albert Adomah has been a consistent provider from the right-wing throughout the Championship season.
Managing a team-high 5 assists, Adomah is more than capable of delivering an accurate cross. He comes into this match with an assist in hand from Villa's last match.
Leeds will have to be aware of Adomah as he has also shown the commitment to come in and attack the box to give himself scoring chances.
3. Chris Wood
Yes, this is a return to the MOTM list for the Kiwi.
Last time out, Monk did not risk reinjury with a start, but it will be hard to skip over the leading man with a run-out as a sub under his legs.
Wood will hope that what he saw from the bench at Preston will be the new reality for Leeds in the attacking third. If it is, expect Wood to play with less pressure and more space.
The term for that? Dangerous.
Wood has always been an instinctual player that is in the right place at the right time. If teams now have to worry about the Leeds midfield more in attack (and the defense on set pieces with consistent heading threat from Kyle Bartley and Jansson) then you can expect Wood to keep making intelligent runs that lead to goals.
On the other side: Welshman James Chester has been a mainstay for the Villa defense all season.
This is a man who played a key role in Wales's run in the Euros and has kept that form for the most part. Always a consistent tackler, he is managing just about two tackles a match.
James Chester is quite possibly the best centre back in the world right now— James Lloyd (@LloydyAVFC) December 18, 2016
Wood will hope that he can catch Chester off guard and run in behind to get one of his trademark tap-in finishes.
Thursday will be another real test in a match that has the league's only unbeaten home side taking on a Leeds squad that have won five of their last six matches.
Will Villa Park continue to be a fortress? Or will Leeds put another four goals in the net?
Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter as we watch our Whites look to make it four wins in a row. Third place awaits. Let's march on together, led by our MOTM.