Aston Villa v Leeds: Entertainment expected at Villa Park

Aston Villa entertain Leeds at Villa Park on Wednesday night. Mark O'Haire previews the Premier League showdown and picks out his favourite fancy.

Aston Villa enjoy mini pre-season

It's 18 days since Aston Villa were last in action as Steven Gerrard took the opportunity to give his squad a mini pre-season through the international break after climbing clear from immediate relegation danger. The Villains signed off for January with a 1-0 success at Everton to move into the safety of mid-table and 11 points above the bottom-three.

Villa's trip to Goodison Park was a scrappy encounter with victory secured by Emiliano Buendia's header in first-half added time. The visitors lived dangerously at times but it was a backs-to-the-wall effort that brought plenty of praise from Gerrard, who described the display on Merseyside as his side's "strongest performance" of his tenure thus far.

Calum Chambers could be in-line for a debut after joining Aston Villa in the transfer window with fellow new arrivals Lucas Digne and Philippe Coutinho expected to start from the off. Bertrand Traore has returned from the African Cup of Nations and could make the bench and Leon Bailey is hoping for a return. Marvelous Nakamba remains a long-term absentee.

Leeds take time to rest and recover

Leeds have also enjoyed an extended mid-season break from competitive action with Marcelo Bielsa's men returning to Premier League duty in midweek following a frustrating 1-0 loss to Newcastle last time out at Elland Road. Not for the first time, the Whites enjoyed plenty of dominance in the final-third but were unable to find the killer touch.

Leeds monopolised possession with 63% of the ball, Raphinha and Jack Harrison created plenty of problems on the flanks with Dan James a willing runner, leading the line in Patrick Bamford's absence. But Bielsa's boys fluffed their best chances and were undone by a 20-yard free-kick by Jonjo Shelvey 15 minutes from time to halt a two-game winning streak.

Without a game for two-and-a-half weeks, Leeds have at least had the opportunity to recover a clutch of players for Wednesday's trip. Bamford could return to the fold, whilst the likes of Junior Firpo, Adam Forshaw, Jamie Schalketon and Charlie Cresswell could also be involved. However, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper are still weeks away from a recovery.

Villa odds-on favourites

Curiously, the home team has won just one of the last seven league meetings between Aston Villa and Leeds (W1-D3-L3), a 1-0 Villa win in April 2018. In fact, the Villains have been turned over in each of their last two such fixtures against the Whites at Villa Park, including a 3-0 reverse last season with Patrick Bamford scoring a second-half hat-trick here.

Aston Villa 1.89 have returned W5-D1-L4 under Steven Gerrard with three of their four defeats arriving against the top-three. Villa have scored in nine of those 10 tussles and appeared much more secure defensively under the Liverpool legend's watch, leaking multiple goals just once against teams outside of the current top-six.

Leeds 4.40 produced a thrilling display to win 3-2 at West Ham in their most recent away day, although the Whites haven't won back-to-back road trips since May. Leeds have returned a reasonable W4-D4-L5 since mid-October with the bulk of defeats arriving against the league's elite; Marcelo Bielsa's boys are W4-D7-L2 against teams outside the top-seven.

Goals on the agenda

Goals could be on the agenda at Villa Park. Aston Villa have only failed to score in one of their last 16 games at Villa Park, whilst the hosts have also plundered multiple goals in eight of their 12 tussles with sides sitting in eighth and below - that includes scoring twice or more in five of six home ties against the league's lesser lights this season.

Meanwhile, Leeds have gotten on the scoresheet in seven of 10 away days this term, as well as well as 22 of 29 games as guests since returning to the Premier League. A chunky 19 (66%) of those 29 fixtures featured Over 2.5 Goals 1.73, including five of the Whites' most recent six road trips. The visitors could also be aided by Patrick Bamford's possible return.

With that in mind, the 1.90 available on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score could hold plenty of appeal via the BetBuilder on the Sportsbook.

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