THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN challenged Leeds United to record back-to-back wins for the first time since September and warned his players that they would need a repeat of their display against Middlesbrough to see off Aston Villa tomorrow night.
A long-awaited promotion bid from Villa is beginning to materialise after three straight victories lifted the Birmingham club into the Championship’s top six but Christiansen said his side were in “a good way” after recent defeats of Boro and Barnsley and claimed Steve Bruce’s side did not pose the same threat as league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wolves outclassed Leeds at Molineux last week, inflicting a 4-1 defeat on Christiansen’s side just days after United earned a deserved win over Middlesbrough, but a derby success at Barnsley on Saturday pushed Leeds back up to eighth in the table.
Christiansen has battled to steady his side after a severe loss of form dented a seven-match unbeaten run at the start of the season.
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Leeds have not won successive fixtures since their home victory over Birmingham City on September 12, the night when the club moved to the to of the Championship, but Christiansen said: “We’ve got a little bit more confidence in the team. We kept a clean sheet (at Barnsley) after several games without doing that so this is also positive. This is what we have to build on.
“It’s important to take two wins in a row and this is our target in this game. We have many things to improve on but the response of the players has been very positive.
It’s a very tough and strong opponent and we need to be at least at the level we were at against Middlesbrough if we want to take three points.Thomas Christiansen
“I learned a lot from the good moments and from the bad moments. I hope we are past that and I believe the team is in a good way now.”
Villa, in fourth, are six points better off than Leeds, creating what Christiansen called “a six-point game” at Elland Road this evening.
United head coach admitted Bruce’s squad was “one of the strongest” in the division but said: “They have their level but from my point of view, and it’s only my point of view, Wolves are one step above that. But Aston Villa and Middlesbrough are two teams who will for sure try to win promotion direct.
“It’s a six-point game as we always say in these situations. It’s a very tough and strong opponent and we need to be at least at the level we were at against Middlesbrough if we want to take three points.”
Villa will be without former England centre-back John Terry, who has a broken foot, and striker Jonathan Kodjia following ankle surgery.
“Aston Villa have a lot of players to choose from so if they are not in the squad for this game, somebody else will be there and they will also be very good players,” Christiansen said. “I don’t see it as a big handicap.”
Leeds, who beat Villa 2-0 at Elland Road last December, have been out of the top six for the past month but an unconcerned Christiansen insisted: “At this stage it doesn’t matter.
“It would be nice to be in again but the target is at the end of the season to be there.”