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Aston Villa v Leeds: Leeds face the form team in the Premier League while carrying some key injuries

Aston Villa have had an incredible start, and while they won’t continue at this level for a full season, this will be a tough match.

Leeds United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Match: Aston Villa v Leeds United

Date: 23rd October 2020

Time: 20.00 BST, 15.00 ET, 13.00 PST.

Venue: Villa Park, Brimingham, England

Streaming/TV coverage: BT Sport Box Office

The decision to charge £15 in the UK to watch this match (and any other that will be on PPV) is ridiculous - if you want to buy it that is fine, and you should not feel bad about that.

However, I have to mention that many Leeds fans have decided to boycott the PPV (although people can find “alternate means” to watch the match) and instead donate the money to the Leeds Fans Foodbank set up by the LUFC Trust.

I would argue that this is a better use of the money and I would ask, if you can afford to, please donate to the Foodbank which is linked here.

**In the interest of being transparent, I may have to watch the game on PPV in order to cover the game for this website, I have already donated my £15 to the Foodbank and will only buy the PPV of the match if I am able to get the price of buying it covered as an expense by SB Nation as I don’t want it to be me “funding” this endeavor, I will also send the Foodbank a second donation in the event I have to use the PPV at SB Nation’s expense. If not I will use the aforementioned “alternate means”.**

Leeds United have a few injuries going into the trip to Villa Park - unfortunately they are all in related positions which exacerbates the problem.

Leeds will definitely be without Spain centre-back Diego Llorente and could well be without captain Liam Cooper as well. This would leave Leeds with a centre-back pairing of Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk. However, Kalvin Phillips is out for around six weeks following a shoulder injury suffered against Wolves and Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed that Struijk will play in Phillips’ position.

Hopefully Cooper is fit and plays alongside Koch, but if the Scotland international doesn’t make it Leeds are significantly weakened at the back (my guess is Cooper won’t make it but I am really hoping to be wrong). The most probable option is for Luke Ayling to move inside to centre-back, with Dallas and Alioski in the full-back roles. If Bielsa wants to stick with Ayling and Dallas as full-backs, then we could see a chance for Oliver Casey or Leif Davis at the back.

Davis has been playing as a left-sided centre-back at times both for the u23s and in pre-season so it would be interesting if he took this role, although I personally am yet to be convinced of his out-and-out defensive abilities (I like him as a left-back).

Ahead of those issues I would expect Leeds front six to be the same lineup that started against Wolverhampton Wanderers, so no first start for Raphinha and no return to the starting lineup for Pablo Hernandez.

Aston Villa have won their first four Premier League matches this season. Wins over Sheffield United and Fulham weren’t unexpected but the recent 1-0 win away at Leicester City and the frankly ridiculous 7-2 win at home to Liverpool have seen them earning a lot of plaudits, and rightfully so. Any result other than a Leeds win will the the Villans top of the league on Saturday morning.

Aston Villa look much more creative than they did for long spells last season. The addition of Ross Barkley in midfield has helped. Not only is he a good player, his presence has taken some of the pressure off Jack Grealish who looks very dangerous playing wide left in a 4-3-3, although he does drift out of that position.

Whoever plays right-back for Leeds will have to get around the pitch well to man-mark Grealish. It is very likely to be Ayling or Dallas in this role and both of them are disciplined enough to stick with Grealish off the ball. My worry would be that Leeds’ man-marking system can fall apart if someone beats their man and Grealish, Barkley, Egypt international Trezeguet, and John McGinn all have the ability to do that well.

Those four will be the main support for former Brentford strike Ollie Watkins. Watkins has caused Leeds problems in the Championship and was many Leeds fans’ choice for who Leeds should sign. He is very quick and hard working and he holds the ball up well. His movement is intelligent and he is a very good finisher. He has already shown his quality with a hat-trick against Liverpool and it will be tough to keep him away from goalscoring opportunities.

Villa’s full-backs Matty Cash and Matt Target also offer a threat in attack, although they are vulnerable defensively so Helder Costa and Jack Harrison (probably) could get some joy if they play well. I also rate the two centre-backs, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa, but neither are faultless and could be forced into errors if Leeds can press well, despite them overall being good on the ball.

Aston Villa needed a new goalkeeper and, although he was expensive, they have signed a really good one. Emiliano Martinez arrived from Arsenal in the summer having ended the season well enough that many thought he should oust number one Bernd Leno in the Gunners’ goal. He has started the season excellently.

The key battle will by Grealish vs Ayling/Dallas, but how Pascal Struijk does as a DM when under more pressure will be interesting to see. Whenever he has played that role previously the opposition didn’t make it too difficult for him, as they were usually sitting quite deep. He will probably have to man mark Ross Barkley and with his early season form that will be no easy task.

Leeds United v Hull City - Carabao Cup - Second Round - Elland Road Photo by Phil Noble/PA Images via Getty Images

Patrick Bamford barely got a touch of the ball against Wolves as he was marked out of the match, he will be hoping that playing against two centre-backs, rather than three, will give him a bit more space to get involved. Bamford does well physically, but he may struggle in that regard against Konsa and Mings.


Aston Villa (4-3-3): Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn, Barkley; Grealish, Watkins, Trezeguet

Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Dallas, Koch, Ayling, Alioski; Struijk; Costa, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford.

I would feel more confident of preventing Aston Villa getting five Premier League wins in a row for the first time since April 1998 without the injuries in key areas. The disruption has knock on effects and players being out of position makes even more difference when the system is so important to the level you play at. Would be happy enough with a point, but this is a winnable game despite their start to the season.

Aston Villa 2 - 2 Leeds United (Watkins, Grealish; Harrison, Bamford)

What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.