Two banged-up clubs fight on Sunday in what is the EFL Championship’s match of the week. There are promotion implications on the line – which side’s depth will prove itself more?
Aston Villa and Leeds United face-off on Sunday with serious promotion implications. Leeds, top of the table going into the weekend, can distance themselves even further with victory away from home. Villa need a result to keep automatic promotion within reasonable striking distance.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side received a much-needed injury boost when news broke that centre-back/right-back Luke Ayling will return after more than a month out.
Attacking midfielder Samuel Saiz, however, is not available and is set to leave Leeds when the transfer window opens. Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown, too, is unavailable through injury.
For Villa the injury front is a bit shakier. For starters, Jack Grealish is indefinitely out with a mysterious shin injury. Birkir Bjarnason is back, but Henri Lansbury is still out. Mile Jedinak and Albert Adomah could come back into contention on Sunday.
Aston Villa Predicted XI (4-3-3): Nyland; Hutton, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor; Bjarnason, McGinn, Hourihane; El Ghazi, Abraham, Kodjia.
Substitutes: Bunn, Bree, Elmohamady, Whelan, Adomah, Bolasie, Hogan.
There shouldn’t be too many changes to the squad from the one that drew with Stoke City 2-2. Albert Adomah’s probable inclusion could see one of Anwar El Ghazi or Yannick Bolasie drop to the bench. After a strong performance, Jonathan Kodjia might get the nod to start. Up top, it’s Tammy Abraham’s spot at striker with Scott Hogan second choice.
The defense is back to default settings with Neil Taylor returning at left-back. Alan Hutton sifts back over to the right with Ahmed Elmohamady dropping to the bench. Ørjan Nyland continues in net after the official signing of Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic on Friday.
WHEN: Sunday, 23 December, 2018
WHERE: Villa Park
PREDICTION: 3-2 Aston Villa victory (Abraham, Kodjia, Hourihane).