Villa Park promises another goal fest
Who’ll get the better of this match-up between two former giants of the Premier League? That’s a tough call but Villa Park has been the place to go for goals recently and I’m expecting the same outcome come Sunday afternoon.
It’s fair to say Villa were a stodgy and hard to watch outfit under Steve Bruce. But the arrival of Dean Smith has changed all that. The former Brentford boss, renowned for fielding sides with a strong emphasis on attacking, has transformed Villa into one of the great entertainers of the Championship.
The hosts have been free-flowing whoever and wherever they’ve played of late, hitting an average of 3 goals a game in last six fixtures. Considering this run featured play-off chasing Derby, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, and West Brom, as well as a resurgent Stoke and the second city derby against Birmingham, that is some going.
It doesn’t get much easier with top-of-the-table Leeds coming to town. But the big games appear to be bringing out the best of this group currently and so expect little respect shown to Marcelo Biesla’s side. Villa are certainly in no mood for holding back and possess all the tools in attack to cause their opponent plenty of trouble.
Leeds, on the other hand, aren’t winning as many friends with 5-5 draws and what have you. But crucially, they are a point ahead of Norwich to lead the Championship table with almost half the season played and appear genuine promotion contenders.
Biesla’s reign has played out the opposite to how many predicted. The Argentinian, known for his maverick ways, has actually settled things down at Elland Road and has Leeds playing effective football at both ends of the pitch. His side are churning out the wins - Saturday’s at Bolton was their fifth victory on the spin - and they’re sharing the responsibility of scoring goals too; four players have popped up with the matchwinner in as many games.
Aside from Sheffield United though, the fixture list has run kind to them of late. The last time they faced a fellow promotion contender, the Whites went down 4-1 at West Brom, the only side to have scored more than their next opponents, Villa, They may be top and on a good run but playing at Villa Park represents one of the toughest fixtures in the division at present.
While Leeds have been collecting the points, Villa have been banging in the goals right, left and centre. Both sides will be in positive shape coming into this but I sense this could be the first game of the season Leeds face a side able to dictate the tempo of the game better than them. Villa will be out to attack - they don’t any different - and I envisage this resulting in a lively Sunday lunchtime encounter with goals for both.