Premier League

Aston Villa-Leeds United Preview

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa insists he would rather be playing a full-strength Aston Villa than one devoid of their key attacking talent in Jack Grealish.

England international Grealish, who has six goals and 10 assists in 22 Premier League appearances this term, has been ruled out of Saturday's clash with a leg injury.

Villa struggled in the midfielder's absence last week as they suffered a 2-1 loss to Leicester City, but Bielsa wanted to see Grealish back involved at Elland Road this weekend.

"I always prefer that opponents have their best players available because even if that fortifies a team and makes them more scary to face, it's also a stimulus for us to face such players and to try to neutralise them," Bielsa said.

Bielsa has injury concerns of his own as Rodrigo and Kalvin Phillips have been ruled out, while Mateusz Klich is a big doubt and Robin Koch is also not expected to play any part.

Leeds returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Southampton in midweek to move into the top half and within a point of Villa, albeit having played two games more, and Villans boss Dean Smith admires what Bielsa has achieved.

"Leeds have hit the ground running and found that it's a real tough league and you can be inconsistent," Smith said. "They've done fantastically well and there are similarities between how both teams play. They're a team that I love to watch play. They've come into the Premier League and lit it up in terms of how they've played.

"I have an awful lot of respect for the work that Marcelo has done. I'm not sure another manager could have gone into a club like Leeds and made the impact that he's had on them."

Leeds United - Raphinha

Brazilian attacker Raphinha has enjoyed an impressive first campaign in English football since arriving from Rennes and was the star of the show in the win over Southampton.

He has now been directly involved in six goals in his last seven Premier League outings and will possibly hold the key to unlocking Villa's tight defensive unit.

Aston Villa - Ollie Watkins

Ten goals in 23 Premier League appearances is a good return for Watkins, but he has gone back-to-back matches without netting and does not tend to fare well against Leeds.

Indeed, the striker has faced Leeds more often than any other opponent without scoring in his English league career, drawing a blank in all seven appearances against them.

- Leeds are looking to complete their first league double over Villa since the 1975-76 campaign, following their 3-0 win at Villa Park earlier this season.

- Villa have won just two of their last 17 away league games against Leeds (D9 L6), with those victories coming in January and December 2000.

- Leeds have lost five of their eight Premier League games played on Saturdays this season (W2 D1), while Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last six Saturday league games (W5 D1), keeping a clean sheet each time.

- All three of Villa's Premier League games against promoted sides this season have finished 3-0, with the Villans beating Fulham and West Brom and losing to Leeds. Smith's side are looking to win away against all three promoted teams in a single Premier League season for the first time.

- Leeds striker Patrick Bamford has scored five goals in his three starts in all competitions against Villa, including the first Premier League hat-trick of his career in the reverse fixture earlier this season.

Updated February 26, 2021

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