Aston Villa's victory on Tuesday night has reopened the door on a possible automatic promotion place but Steve Bruce's side will need to beat Leeds to keep hopes alive. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"With Leeds in the midst of a major defensive crisis, pocketing only three points from a possible 27 on their travels since Christmas (W0-D3-L6) and returning W1-D1-L9 at top-half teams, it’s easy to oppose the guests."
Aston Villa v Leeds
Friday 13th April, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Football
Aston Villa back in automatic promotion hunt
Jack Grealish's stunning first-time volley from 20 yards gave Aston Villa a crucial 1-0 victory over Cardiff on Tuesday night to ignite the Championship's automatic promotion battle. The win saw the Claret & Blue move to within five points of second-place with the opportunity to put further pressure on on Friday evening.
Steve Bruce's side dominated a hotly-contested encounter but it was Cardiff who squandered the best chances. Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was called into regular goal-bound action as the Welsh outfit created numerous clear-cut openings despite their minimal possession.
However, the hosts started the second half brightly, growing into the game before Grealish's moment of magic. Villa were without captain John Terry and he's rated "touch and go" for Friday, whilst Birkir Bjarnason and Axel Tuanzebe may also be unavailable for the quick turnaround.
Leeds limping towards's campaign's conclusion
Leeds' poor recent run of results continued on Tuesday night as the Whites surrendered a one-goal advantage at Preston to go down 3-1 at Deepdale. Paul Heckingbottom's charges shaded the first half and led at the break through Kemar Roofe's strike from Kalvin Phillips' low cross.
North End had already rattled the woodwork before turning the game on its head in three second-half minutes. Having levelled from the penalty spot, Leeds were furious referee Lee Probert did not stop play before Preston's second goal with defender Pontus Jansson down with a head injury.
Heckingbottom believed Preston's second strike was the turning point in the match and was understandably frustrated post-match. The Leeds boss will be forced into a makeshift defence without Gaetano Berardi, Matthew Pennington, Liam Cooper, Luke Ayling and Conor Shaughnessy whilst Samuel Saiz, Gjanni Alioski and Pierre-Michel Lasogga are also rated major doubts.
Villa firm favourites
Leeds [5.40] have avoided defeat in their three meetings (W1-D2-L0) with Aston Villa post the Premier League years but the Whites arrive having claimed maximum points in just two of 18 Championship outings since Boxing Day (W2-D6-L10).
In fact, since United topped the table in mid-September, they've managed W10-D7-L18, collecting an average of just 1.06 points per-game. With Leeds in the midst of a major defensive crisis, pocketing only three points from a possible 27 on their travels since Christmas (W0-D3-L6) and returning W1-D1-L9 at top-half teams, it's easy to oppose the guests.
Only Cardiff and Wolves have earned more home points than Aston Villa [1.57] and Steve Bruce's side have tended to be ruthless operators against bottom-half dwellers here (W8-D1-L2). The Claret & Blue have sealed 12 triumphs from their past 17 Villa Park outings and so a home success appears banker material.
Considering only two of Villa's victories here have been achieved by 1-0 correct scores, I'm happy taking the 10/11 on an Aston Villa win and Over 1.5 Goals for Friday night's fixture.
Goals on the agenda
Aston Villa saw Over 2.5 Goals [1.81] backers collect in six of their previous eight encounters before Tuesday night's triumph. Three of those matches featured at least four goals although three of their past five outings have paid out for Under 1.5 Goals supporters.
Although Villa's goal trends have tended to contrast regularly, Leeds' output has remained relatively solid. Indeed, 11 of their previous 15 fixtures have broken the Over 2.5 Goals barrier, as have eight of their 12 trips to top-half teams.
Mark's 2017/18 Profit/Loss
Staked: 153.00 pts
Returned: 168.29 pts
P/L: +15.29 pts