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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Leeds United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday night's Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Leeds United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Aston Villa welcome Leeds United to Villa Park this weekend for the first Friday night game of the 2020-21 Premier League season, and the first top-flight showdown between the two clubs since February 2004.

Villa are the only remaining team in the league with a 100% record, having made it four wins from four at Leicester City last time out, while Leeds have won two, drawn one and lost two on their return to the Premier League so far.


Match preview

Aston Villa's Ross Barkley celebrates scoring against Leicester City in the Premier League on October 18, 2020© Reuters

When picking possible dark horses for the 2020-21 Premier League season, Leeds were the team on many people's minds rather than Aston Villa.

It has taken only four games for Aston Villa to change that, though, sitting second in the table with the only remaining unblemished record, the best defensive record and goal difference, and a game in hand over leaders Everton.

Villa simply have to avoid defeat on Friday to finish the day top of the pile for the first time since August 2011, and the first time at least five games into a campaign since November 2001.

The deeper reality is even more impressive than those bare statistics suggest, with Villa having already won at Champions League hopefuls Leicester and producing one of the all-time great Premier League results by beating Liverpool 7-2 in their most recent home game.

That scarcely-believable humiliation of the champions made it four home top-flight wins in a row - their best such run since October 2007 - and Sunday's triumph at the King Power, courtesy of a late Ross Barkley strike, extended their unbeaten league run to a division-best eight games.

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins celebrates with teammates after completing his hat-trick against Liverpool on October 4, 2020© Reuters

Incredibly, Villa have picked up 20 points in those eight games - more than they had managed in their previous 26 Premier League outings - but the circumstances could hardly be more different, with the first four of those securing a great escape from relegation and the last four having catapulted them towards the top of the table.

If Dean Smith's side are able to continue their dream start to the campaign then it would be the first time in their entire history that they have won their opening five league games of a season, and the first time since April 1998 that they have won five Premier League games on the bounce.

Villa fans will be realistic enough to accept that such form cannot go on forever, but perhaps even more encouraging than their points tally is the fact that they look like a high-quality outfit from back to front now - one which can have significantly higher ambitions than merely avoiding relegation this time around.

Leeds also come under that umbrella in some ways, with survival undoubtedly the number one goal but genuine belief that they could push towards the top half in their first season back in the big time.

Marcelo Bielsa's side fell to their first league defeat since the opening day on Monday night as Raul Jimenez's deflected strike handed Wolverhampton Wanderers victory at Elland Road.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa pictured on September 19, 2020© Reuters

However, as was the case in their only other loss this season - against Liverpool at Anfield - there were positives to take from the performance and Bielsa would have probably taken a 10-point haul after five games given that they have already faced Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves.

The Whites' last away game saw them beat Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United via a late Patrick Bamford goal, leaving them looking for back-to-back top-flight wins on the road for the first time since December 2002 here.

Bielsa will have fond memories of Villa Park having seen his side launch a stirring second-half comeback to recover from two goals down on their last visit in December 2018, with Kemar Roofe scoring a dramatic 95th-minute winner in the 3-2 triumph.

None of Leeds' goalscorers in that game are still at the club but, even accounting for Villa's incredible start, they will go into this game confident of coming away with something having already gone toe to toe with Liverpool and Man City.

Victory would be enough to lift them temporarily up to third, but they will be braced for another stern test of their top-flight credentials against such an in-form Villa side.

Aston Villa Premier League form: WWWW
Aston Villa form (all competitions): WWWLWW

Leeds United Premier League form: LWWDL
Leeds United form (all competitions): LLWWDL



Team News

Kalvin Phillips pictured in action for Leeds in September 2020© Reuters

Leeds have been hit by the news that England international Kalvin Phillips will miss up to six weeks with a shoulder injury, likely sidelining him until December.

With Adam Forshaw and Diego Llorente still out, the latter having picked up a muscle problem on international duty, Bielsa has confirmed that Pascal Struijk - rather than Jamie Shackleton - will fill the void left by Phillips.

Struijk was taken off at half time against Wolves, having himself been a late replacement in the starting XI after captain Liam Cooper sustained in injury in the warm-up, leaving Bielsa potentially short of defensive options for this match.

The Leeds boss has refused to rule out the possibility of Cooper returning in time and he will be assessed ahead of kickoff, but the quick turnaround in fixtures further hampers his chances of recovering in time.

There was better news further up the field as Pablo Hernandez returned against Wolves, and the Spaniard has been directly involved in six goals in seven league starts against Aston Villa.

Summer signing Raphinha also made his debut on Monday night with a late cameo off the bench, and he will be pushing for a full Premier League debut this weekend.

Villa, meanwhile, should have Ross Barkley available again despite revealing that he had been carrying a knee injury prior to his match-winning heroics at Leicester.

The Chelsea loanee has now scored in both of his Premier League outings for Villa and could become the first player since Dion Dublin in November 1998 to find the back of the net in his first three top-flight appearances for the club.

Keinan Davis is also pushing for a return to the squad following a calf injury, but the match is expected to come too soon for Kortney Hause. Tom Heaton and Wesley remain long-term absentees.

Smith may consider naming an unchanged side to the one which beat Leicester last time out, but Bertrand Traore is still pushing for his full league debut for the club and Conor Hourihane will also be hopeful of a recall.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Trezeguet, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins

Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Struijk; Costa, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford


SM words green background

We say: Aston Villa 2-1 Leeds United

This is a fascinating contest between arguably the league's most impressive side so far this season and one that has already proved that they can go toe to toe with the best the division has to offer.

Villa's fairytale start to the season will not last forever, but they will head into this match brimming with confidence and we can see them edging a tight contest to secure their best ever start to a league campaign.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data


Video prediction

Watch the Sports Mole Football Shorts prediction for this game below:


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Who will win Friday's Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Leeds?

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Draw
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Leeds
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Leeds United players celebrate winning the Championship trophy with an open-top bis parade on July 22, 2020
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