Aston Villa v Leeds United: YEP Jury predictions

Pablo Hernandez celebrates his goal at Preston with Marcus Antonsson and Chris Wood.
Pablo Hernandez celebrates his goal at Preston with Marcus Antonsson and Chris Wood.
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Our YEP Jury have their say on Leeds United’s Championship clash at Aston Villa.

STEPHEN CLARK

As 2016 draws to an end, Leeds United have given their fans huge cause for optimism that 2017 might just be the year that they return to the promised land of the Premier League after 13 long years stumbling around in the wilderness that the EFL has become.

Not since 2009 have Leeds entered a new year with such high hopes, and those dreams eventually came true, despite a huge wobble after winning at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. The hero of that day in Manchester remains revered by the hordes of Leeds fans, and Jermaine Beckford certainly seems to hold us very dear to his heart as well.

Following on from vowing never to score at Elland Road unless he was in a Leeds shirt, and after infuriating one of his managers so much with his waving to the support whilst playing for Leicester that he was substituted at half-time, Beckford managed a new way of endearing himself to the travelling army at Preston on Boxing Day by getting himself sent off just three minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Whether that misdemenour would have made any difference to the result on Monday is a moot point as Leeds were already well on their way to an impressive 4-1 win, a result that entrenches Garry Monk’s men in the play-off places ahead of tonight’s visit to Aston Villa.

The win over Steve Bruce’s side was the one that really gave Leeds the belief that they could compete at the top end of the table and they will travel to Birmingham full of belief that they can continue this fantastic run.

With players returning to fitness, United are getting even stronger, but any sort of positive result will be a most welcome one.

I would be delighted with a point, and a continuation of our great form into 2017.

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Leeds United 1.

MATTHEW EVANS

A fantastic Boxing Day for all United fans and not before time. Winning games like this by such a margin feels like uncharted territory in recent times and it was a pleasure to be at Deepdale, with more than 5,000 other fans, to see it.

Preston were a more difficult opponent than the scoreline would suggest and Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley had to work very hard to maintain their own high standards.

Preston’s Makienok was a constant menace and mostly got his own way in the air. He was instrumental in the goal United conceded with a swift knock down for the assist and could have created more but for our solid defending.

His obvious threat made it all the more puzzling, then, when Simon Grayson swapped him for Jermaine Beckford after 66 minutes and that decision looked even more ill judged when Beckford was shown the red card just three minutes later.

United didn’t care, either on the pitch or in the stands. Beckford was cheered onto the pitch, chanted at solidly for three minutes and then cheered off again and all the while the United players kept going in the machine-like fashion we’ve very quickly come to expect.

This was the same never-say-die performance that we’ve seen before but with added incision as Sacko and Hernandez finished smartly to follow less pretty (but no less important) goals from Roofe and Doukara.

Towards the end of the game, at 4-1, a United corner was held up with the match ball missing somewhere in the away end. As the fans chanted Pontus Jansson’s name he took a break and leaned casually against the goalpost just soaking it all up.

A couple of minutes later the final whistle blew and Boxing Day smiles broke out for the first time in many years. With every game that goes by there’s more belief that we could actually do it this season and the bond between players and fans grows stronger.

Garry Monk managed to crack a few jokes post match and with Hernandez, Bridcutt and Wood all back there’s even reason to be optimistic about Villa Park tonight too. Unbelievable times.

Prediction: Aston Villa 0 Leeds United 1.

KEITH INGHAM

Turkeys are the usual ‘fowl’ that find their way to the nation’s table on Christmas Day and the effects are sometimes felt the day after, listless and reduced motivation. The last statement cannot be levelled at this current Leeds squad, a superb performance at Deepdale, where a 4-1 victory kept Leeds in the hunt for the play-offs.

Leeds without doubt were up ‘for this’, three goals in less than ten minutes made for a entertaining first period, with Kemar Roofe, Hadi Sacko and Souleymane Doukara all finding the net. Pablo Hernandez finished the home team off late on. A superb win.

The televised game at Aston Villa tonight is another stern test of this impressive run. The Midlands club will be seeking revenge after their recent 2-0 defeat at Elland Road.

Charlie Taylor looks like he’ll miss the game with a hamstring injury but Kyle Bartley should be fit after a late clash of heads. Chris Wood may be preferred to Doukara but the latter may be moved to the left of the attack to accommodate Leeds’ top scorer. Hernandez or Roofe will operate just behind the New Zealander.

The last time the club won at Villa Park was back in 2002 – a 1-0 victory courtesy of a first-half Mark Viduka goal. The same scoreline would send United into 2017 in a fantastic position.

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Leeds United 1.

DAVID WATKINS

It just keeps getting better for Leeds; I didn’t expect a win at Deepdale but in the end it was a pretty convincing demolition job. Okay, on the day Preston did a poor job defensively and of course the sending off of Jermaine Beckford didn’t help them but even so it was an efficient display from a Leeds team that began without the likes of Hernandez, Wood, O’Kane and Taylor.

So, a visit to Villa Park doesn’t look half as daunting as it did. We assume Hernandez and Wood will now be fit to start and that will be a huge boost to our chances as will the memory of our recent win over Villa at Elland Road when they looked nothing particularly special.

The momentum is with us at the moment so few Leeds fans will expect us to lose; whether we can win it may well depend on getting the rub of the green at crucial moments and ensuring our super solid defence remains exactly that. I’m going for a 1 -1 draw… but then again I did that for Preston!

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Leeds United 1.

GARY NEWBOULD

United head to Villa Park tonight boosted by a superb and comprehensive Boxing Day victory over Preston North End where goals from Kemar Roofe, Hadi Sacko, Souleymayne Doukara and Pablo Hernandez secured a highly impressive 4-1 victory.

However Villa are on a good run themselves having won five on the spin at home and should not be discounted from the promotion places.

Nevertheless the home side will be wary of the Whites who have now won three successive games and also secured a 2-0 victory over Villa at LS11 less than a month ago.

Once again a large festive crowd will include significant numbers of the loyal hordes who will once again be in fine voice to roar their heroes onto even greater heights.

Prediction: Aston Villa 2 Leeds United 2.

MIKE GILL

After the heroic performance at Preston, United travel to Villa tonight bursting with confidence.

Against Preston Leeds showed how much they have developed as a team. In addition to the consistent performers we are now seeing the emergence of Roofe who is maturing into a very promising player. Let’s also hope that now that Sacko has “tasted blood” that he adds to the goal tally more often. The only negative was Bartley’s concussion but let’s hope that he is soon fit.

Just like Leeds, Villa have won three and lost one of their last four games albeit by very tight margins. This one really is going to be a tough challenge.

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Leeds United 1.

VERSATILE: Leeds United's Conor Shaughnessy. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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