Matchday 20 of the Premier League is underway with an entertaining tie between Aston Villa and Leeds United set to lock horns in what’ll be a ferocious battle for 3 points.
Following a disappointing FA Cup defeat to Stevenage on Sunday, Aston Villa will be looking to push into the top half of the table as Unai Emery’s side has somewhat stabilised their form in recent games, winning 3 of their last 5. Leeds United sit three places behind Villa in 14th and a win for them would be their first in 5 after the game as Jesse Marsch will hope to use this game to finally create some momentum in the team.
When & Where?
Date: 11th January 2023.
Venue: Villa Park.
Time: 20:00 GMT.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistant referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth official: Jarred Gillett.
VAR: Andy Madley.
Assistant VAR: Lee Betts.
Due to a hamstring injury, Villa will be without John McGinn again on Friday, and Diego Carlos is still recovering from injury. Leander Dendoncker, who was dismissed against Stevenage, as well as Matty Cash and Ludwig Augustinsson, who had to be replaced in the FA Cup third-round match due to injuries, will not be available for the home team. There will be alterations from the lineup that began the weekend encounter, however, Cash is anticipated to recover in time. Emiliano Buendia, Ashley Young, Ollie Watkins, Lucas Digne, Emiliano Martinez, Tyrone Mings, and Boubacar Kamara are all likely to return to the starting lineup.
With Leeds, Illan Meslier, Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Robin Koch, Marc Roca, Tyler Adams, and Rodrigo will all be starting again. Crysencio Summerville will be out for one month with an ankle injury, but Wilfried Gnonto, who performed well against West Ham in the league last time out, should keep his spot in the starting lineup. After recovering from an injury, Patrick Bamford will rejoin the team, while Luis Sinisterra, Adam Forshaw, Archie Gray, and Stuart Dallas are still out.
Unai Emery has had the best success as a manager when he employs a counterattacking style of play that is based on a tight-knit defensive formation. Emery adopted this style of play when playing for Villarreal, favouring a narrow 4-4-2 formation. His first significant decision was to change Villa’s system to a similar 4-2-2-2 formation, which is effectively the same shape but with both wingers. Ralph Hasenhuttl, the former head coach of Southampton, used to be a major fan of Emery’s 4-2-2-2 formation, which defies a current Premier League trend. It was a shape that managers in the top division only utilised six times all of last season. For Manchester United, Ralf Rangnick used it five times, whilst Thomas Tuchel only once told Chelsea to play that style.
Because it strengthens the centre when you don’t have the ball, this formation typically works best for teams that will have less possession than their opponents. The 4-2-2-2 is also effective against pressing teams that prioritise turnovers; this has always been a cornerstone of Emery’s approach. Villa has had great success using two forwards to close down central defenders and inverted wingers to block up space between full-backs and midfielders. With the players at his disposal, it is a shape that works well. He has three nimble, hard-working forwards in Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, and Danny Ings who enjoy spinning down the wide channels that can occasionally be left open by the deployment of narrow wingers. Behind them are two natural attacking midfielders who are equally at home on the flanks as they are in the centre of the field, Jacob Ramsey and Emiliano Buendia. In this setup, the two wingers are also excellent ball-winners and pressers. The club can efficiently use Ramsey and Buendia in those places to form a solid block of four aggressive midfielders, which is perfect for a counter-pressing team.
Marsch frequently uses a 4-2-3-1 formation, emphasising vertical play along the ground as the three defenders behind the striker attack in a narrow fashion. The number 9 particularly enjoys the way it is played since the strikers are frequently given through balls. The defensive cornerstones are aggressive, high-pressing and reactive counter-pressing. Even though Marsch prefers a 4-2-3-1, Leeds changed positions in each of the three games. This was particularly noticeable in the centre of the field when the quarterback was usually a player who dropped between or next to the two central defenders (in this case, Marc Roca).
Marsch wants his players to press, but they also have the option of defending their attack plans (and vice-versa). Leeds needs both space and a disorganised opponent, both of which are possible if you can quickly recover the ball, to attack teams with vertical passes into the centre. To effectively pincer press opponents, Leeds frequently uses numerous pressing players that come from various sides of the ball. Counter-pressing is a team effort, thus this is crucial. This eliminates passing possibilities and forces the man in possession to make a choice, which Leeds will hope is frequently the incorrect one.
Perhaps not quite flying with goals and assists in recent games, Emiliano Buendia will still always be a creative asset for Aston Villa. The Argentine’s dribbling and vision are something that Marsch will be looking out for, given the likely high line he’ll start against Villa. Buendia on the ball, especially in counter-attacking scenarios, has more than enough ability to find a killer ball across the opposition’s defence or even finish chances himself.
Rodrigo has been flying in recent weeks for Leeds, scoring 6 goals in his last 7 games for the club. The Spanish forward has blistering pace that has combined with lethal finishing this season to prove to be the ultimate test for defenders in the Premier League. Always looking to run in behind the defence, Rodrigo will certainly be a crucial asset for Leeds in this game and Villa must be able to keep the former Real Madrid academy player quiet in this game with tight defending, otherwise, there may only be one likely outcome; goals, goals and more goals.
Aston Villa predicted lineup vs Leeds United: Olsen, Young, Konsa, Mings, Digne, Ramsey, Kamara, Luiz, Bailey, Buendia, Watkins.
Leeds United predicted lineup vs Aston Villa: Meslier, Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Struijk, Roca, Adams, Aaronson, Gnonto, Summerville, Rodrigo.