Aston Villa v Leeds United - Pascal Struijk's key battle, dangerous free spirit Jack Grealish and Graham Smyth's prediction

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Leeds United make their first return to Villa Park since December 2018's 3-2 win, to face an Aston Villa side in fine Premier League form.

The old Championship rivals do battle in the top flight tonight and the main talking points beforehand involve Pascal Struijk, Jack Grealish and the fitness of Liam Cooper.

Here's the YEP verdict on the individual contest to look out for, the Villain's dangerman and our prediction.


Pascal Struijk v Ross Barkley

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This will be a real test of just how adept Struijk is at nullifying opposition number 10s, in the way Kalvin Phillips has done time and time again in front of Marcelo Bielsa's back line.

As Leicester discovered, if you give him an inch he can take a mile, and he didn't need much of an invitation to score a late winner for Villa.

He got lucky for his goal against Liverpool but showed that he and Jack Grealish can link up to great effect in the lead up to his deflected strike.

MEETING AGAIN - Leeds United and Aston Villa will do battle in the Premier League tonight. Pic: GettyMEETING AGAIN - Leeds United and Aston Villa will do battle in the Premier League tonight. Pic: Getty
MEETING AGAIN - Leeds United and Aston Villa will do battle in the Premier League tonight. Pic: Getty

Defensively, Struijk has to be spot on. When he gets on the ball, he needs to show all of his passing range to ensure Leeds get moving forward, quickly.


Jack Grealish

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The player who invites foul after foul can be the source of frustration, and more, for opposition fans but his playing style is such that contact is inevitable.

Sometimes it's the only way to stop the attacker. When he's in full flow he's good to watch.

A free spirit who can drift around, find space, receive the ball and then make something happen, his start to the season has been truly impressive. The man to stop, if Leeds want an easier life, defensively.


Leeds' injury woes cannot be ignored and neither can Aston Villa's confidence and form.

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Yet if Liam Cooper is passed fit to play, it will be a huge boost and negate a significant defensive reshuffle. If he doesn't play I would expect Luke Ayling to play in the middle beside Robin Koch, with Stuart Dallas at right-back to look after Grealish and Gjanni Alioski and Leif Davis to play left-back.

Villa's front three are incredibly dangerous, so any defensive frailty will spell trouble. But Leeds continue to cause teams problems with their own attack and Villa will not have it all their own way. It's difficult to see Marcelo Bielsa's men being shut out two games in a row, so I predict they'll score, twice, in a 2-2 draw.