Match Preview: Aston Villa v Leeds - Can comatose Whites at least show some fight?
Friday, 13th Apr 2018 17:43 by @LucasMonk_
After succumbing to a disappointing defeat away to Preston North End at Deepdale on Tuesday, Leeds United are on the road again as they do battle with promotion chasing Aston Villa at Villa Park this evening.
The wait, the excruciating, tortuous wait, for an away victory continues. Leeds United, whose starting lineup had been subject to much derision before kick-off at Deepdale on Tuesday night, led play-off aspirants Preston North End 1-0 at the interval.
The returning Kemar Roofe had scored his tenth league goal of the season, in the 13th minute, to hand United their slender advantage, but Paul Heckingbottom’s team owed a great deal more to the remarkably imperious showing of Paudie O’Connor, who played with a self-assurance that belied his callowness, blocking and tackling and clearing and heading.
O’Connor’s blocking and tackling and clearing and heading continued throughout the second half, but none of his teammates deigned to match him for endeavour. In a second half that saw Leeds meekly surrender the points to their hosts, the fact that he was discernibly the most committed, the most assured and the most mature presence representing the club on the field spoke volumes.
In that lamentable second period, the vastly experienced Vurnon Anita, a player who surpassed 100 games for both AFC Ajax and Newcastle, gave away a penalty, converted by Paul Gallagher, with a thoughtless foul. Pontus Jansson, no longer the abrasive, bullish presence he was last season, cut a feeble figure as he lay forlornly on the floor whilst Preston took the lead through Sean Maguire. Although O’Connor lost out to Alan Browne in an aerial duel for North End’s third, he rightly emerged from this match with credit for his display - the only United player who did not disgrace the shirt on another rueful occasion.
Owing to that defeat, Leeds come into this match away to Aston Villa, a club that has the Premier League firmly in its crosshairs, having won just two of their last 19 matches. It is truly wretched form. Wretched form that would certainly relegate them next season if they were to maintained it for much of it. There is, of course, no prospect of United falling into the third tier at the end of this campaign but when one examines the beleaguered, brittle playing squad, listens to the stream of hollow, corporate platitudes that flow like a gushing waterfall from Angus Kinnear’s mouth and witnesses insipid, incompetent performances on the field, they may struggle to offer even a faint notion of what the near future holds for the club - but they will likely feel foreboding, as many fans presently do ahead of tonight’s imminent fixture.
Villa enter this contest having battled their way to an imperative triumph of fellow promotion rivals Cardiff City in midweek, and Steve Bruce’s team, overwhelmingly the favourites of many to take all three points in comfortable style, will doubtless be relishing the prospect of taking on an out of sorts United outfit in front of their own supporters.
Will the hosts easily brush Leeds aside and steal a march on Fulham in the process? Or will United, against all odds, spring on of the shocks of the season?
Have your say by commenting below!
Defenders Alan Hutton, Neil Taylor, Axel Tuanzebe, and John Terry are all injured and will play no part here, meaning that Christopher Samba and James Bree could be in line for recalls.
Lewis Grabban, who is on loan at Villa Park from Premier League club Bournemouth, is likely to be deployed as the lone forward in Steve Bruce’s preferred 4-1-4-1 formation.
Defenders Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Laurens De Bock and Conor Shaughnessy are all out injured, along with midfielder Adam Forshaw and striker Tyler Roberts. Gaetano Berardi is suspended until the end of the season.
Irish fledgling Paudie O’Connor has partnered Sweden international Pontus Jansson in central defence for the last two matches and although the latter will miss tonight’s clash with a head injury, the former Limerick defender will start here after another impressive performance away to Preston on Tuesday night.
Aston Villa (4-1-4-1): Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Samba, Bree; Bjarnarson; Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Adomah; Grabban.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, O’Connor, Diaz, Anita; Phillips, Vieira; Alioski, Saiz, Hernandez; Roofe.
Aston Villa: LLDWLW
Aston Villa (4th)
Record: 22 wins, 10 draws and 10 defeats.
Top Goalscorer: Albert Adomah (14).
Most Assists: Robert Snodgrass (14).
Shots Per Game: 12.4.
Average Possession: 50.6%.
Average Pass Completion: 76%.
Average Aerials Won: 21.4.
Record: 15 wins, nine draws and 18 defeats.
Top Goalscorer: Kemar Roofe and Pierre-Michel Lasogga (10).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (8).
Shots Per Game: 11.8.
Average Possession: 50%.
Average Pass Completion: 72.4%.
Average Aerials Won: 21.8.
Kick-Off and Coverage
The game is scheduled to begin at 19:45 (GMT), and coverage shall be available via BBC Radio Leeds from 18:00.
Referee: Tony Harrington, who has taken charge of 26 Championship fixtures this season and shown 89 yellow cards and four reds.
Assistants: Daniel Leach and Paul Hodskinson.
Fourth Official: Geoff Eltringham.
Aston Villa are sure-fire favourites to utterly overwhelm Leeds in this match. Indeed, the form guide persuades one to a particular point of view and it isn’t one sympathetic to Paul Heckingbottom’s charges.
If United are to secure a result here, confounding all expectation in the process, then competing well in midfield is absolutely vital. I’d go as far to say that getting at least a point is entirely contingent upon their efforts to stifle the likes of Albert Adomah, Robert Snodgrass, Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish.
If that playmaking posse is afforded the time and space in which to pick their passes and take their shots, this will go down in history as yet another dispiriting debacle in yet another meretricious season of mediocrity.
Noel Whelan, a former Leeds striker and now a summariser for BBC Radio Leeds, called for a "strong, committed performance" on Twitter earlier today.
Every United fan wishes to see the same, and anything less than that is unacceptable.
Villa can be formidable when they want to be and their prospects of promotion are fairly auspicious. Leeds being beaten by them would be no act of disgrace - but Leeds beating themselves for them bloody well would be.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2-0 Leeds
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Photo: Action Images
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