After crashing out of the FA Cup at the hands of League Two’s Stevenage, the Aston Villa players will look to get back on track when they host Leeds at Villa Park on Friday evening (8pm). Can the visitors end their winless run, which extended to six competitive games at the weekend? This AVFC vs LUFC preview will endeavour to answer that and more.
By beating Tottenham on the road, a little over a week ago, keeping a clean sheet and scoring twice in the process, Villa looked to have set themselves up nicely for their home FA Cup tie against League Two opposition. The game appeared to be the perfect opportunity for Unai Emery’s men to continue building confidence, and they got off to the perfect start when Morgan Sanson scored the opening goal of the game just after the 30-minute mark.
Unfortunately, complacency set in, and the hosts were unable to double their advantage, which turned out to be incredibly costly, as their fourth-tier opponents Stevenage scored twice in the final minutes to cause an upset. That means that they are back to approaching a league game off the back of a disappointing result.
It was almost a similar story for Leeds, who found themselves not one, but two goals down at Cardiff, who currently play in the Championship, on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, the Premier League side managed to stage a comeback, halving the deficit through Spaniard Rodrigo Moreno, before 18-year-old Sonny Perkins levelled in the 93rd minute, forcing a replay.
That was the third straight competitive draw for the Whites, who have drawn each of their last two in the league, tying against Newcastle and West Ham. They are now without a win since their dramatic late victory over Bournemouth back in early November.
Villa still improving
If we can look past their disappointing FA Cup exit, then it’s fair to say that the Villans have improved in the league of late. They have lost just one of their last five, winning three of the other four, including a win on the road at Spurs last time out.
Besides their Boxing Day loss to Liverpool, Emery’s men have also bettered their last four opponents in terms of expected goals, which is not to be overlooked. During that spell, they have given little away, surrendering xG figures of 0.9, 07, 0.6 and 0.5. Such numbers are probably why they have conceded either a single goal or less in four of their last five. Then again, a clean sheet is not something that they achieve very often, shutting out just one of their seven opponents since Emery took charge.
Visitors still open
The Leeds boys come into this fixture having kept a clean sheet recently, but that was their first shutout since the first week of October last year, and they are still very much a team that is relatively easy to get at, as a struggling West Ham team proved last time out in the league.
We know that this Leeds team wants to be expansive. They get the ball down and they go at teams, which is refreshing. Such a cavalier approach, combined with pacey, tricky attacking players like top scorer Rodrigo and Crysencio Summerville, often means that they thrive offensively, scoring at least twice in five of their last seven Premier League fixtures. Though it doesn’t exactly lend itself to defensive solidity. They have kept just one clean sheet in their last ten. Moreover, they have conceded two or more in seven of those ten.
Hosts on top
In recent times, it is Friday’s hosts who have thrived in this fixture. When the pair met earlier in the campaign, they played out what prior to the game appeared to be an unlikely 0-0 draw, but Villa have won three out of four against Leeds before that. When the teams last met at this venue, they shared six goals, drawing 3-3 back in February 2022. Each of the last three competitive meetings between the two at Villa Park have contained at least three goals.
Goals in store
From a win point of view, this fixture is hard to call. The hosts have improved in the league, but they are far from the finished article, while are they really deserving of odds of 5/6. After all, for all Leeds concede plenty of goals, they carry a real threat. What’s more, their toe-to-toe approach often means that they get positive results, even when the betting expects them not to.
At the prices, ‘Over 2.5 Goals’ makes plenty of appeal. When Leeds last played in the league, we saw that Jesse Marsch’s men aren’t going to change how they operate, so the goals should keep coming, both for and against. It is no coincidence that five of their last seven competitive games have produced at least four goals.
It is not just Leeds who concede goals. For all their improvement, the hosts have kept just one clean sheet under Emery. We should not ignore the fact that both teams, not just Leeds, are comfortably in the bottom half when it comes to goals conceded, so don’t be surprised if neither team can keep it tight on Friday.
More to come from Moreno
The goals often come from different sources at Leeds, but there can be no denying that Rodrigo Moreno is their most dangerous player in the final third. The Spaniard has 10 league goals this term, averaging 0.80 goals per 90 minutes. That is an impressive return.
After notching in the FA Cup last time out, the forward looks a good bet to score again at odds of 2/1. He now has four in his last five in the league as well, plus he is averaging 3.59 shots per 90 minutes this term, so don’t be surprised if he troubles the scorers at Villa Park.
Bradley Gibbs is an experienced football writer. He is an expert analyst on Premier League, and all global football leagues & tournaments, for Just Bookies. Bradley has been published by many respected outlets, including USA Betting and the Racing & Football Outlook. He has also written betting strategy guides.