Leeds United v Aston Villa: Steve Bruce targets strong start to festive season

Steve Bruce.
Steve Bruce.
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Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce wants to start December with a bang when his side travel to Leeds United tonight.

After a slow opening to the season, the Villains have picked up the pace with eight wins from their last 11 games to climb to fourth in the Championship table.

A trip to Elland Road in the second tier is a reminder of how far both teams have fallen and Bruce knows this will be a crucial period in their hopes of a Premier League return.

The Villa boss said on avfc.co.uk: “It’s fair to say it’s the biggest month of the season - absolutely with the games we’ve got coming up.

“I’ve said it before, we’re barking mad in this country. But it is what it is. The rest of Europe will be having a break and we’ve got six games in a very short period of time.

“There’s no more difficult start to December than Leeds United away, either. It’s a big crowd, a big atmosphere and live on the TV. It’s all to play for.”

Villa will be without midfielder Mile Jedinak, who damaged a shoulder in last weekend’s victory over Ipswich.

Bruce is hoping the injury will heal without surgery but is resigned to the Australian being sidelined until the New Year.

Leeds are three points below the play-off places after two wins in three games, and head coach Thomas Christiansen wants his side to continue their momentum.

“I believe we are in a better way, we still have many things to improve, but the response of the players has been very positive in the past three games and this is the way forward,” he said on leedsunited.com.

“I’ve learnt a lot from both the good and bad moments that we have had and I hope we have passed the bad moments now.

“There is more confidence in the team, it was positive also to keep a clean sheet against Barnsley after several games without doing it.

“We need to build upon this, it is important to take two wins in a row and this is our mission and target for Friday.”

Friday’s other game sees second-placed Cardiff host midtable Norwich.

It is a chance for Cardiff to put pressure on leaders Wolves, who play Birmingham on Monday.

The Bluebirds have won their last three games without conceding the goal, and another victory would make it a very happy 69th birthday for manager Neil Warnock.

The mood at Carrow Road has been rather different, with Norwich having taken just two points from their last six games.

But boss Daniel Farke is taking solace in their away form, saying on canaries.co.uk: “I think we’ve shown we can win points wherever we go. We won at Sheffield United and we won at Middlesbrough.

“All of our games have been pretty close, perhaps just one game we’ve had to accept the other team was better and that was against Wolves.

“We won’t drive to Cardiff and say: ‘They are the favourite and it will be a close loss.’ No. We all believe that we can win some points.”