LEEDS host Aston Villa on Saturday. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Leeds vs Aston Villa | Saturday 27th February 2021, 17:30 | Sky Sports
Batman without his Robin, Ben shorn of his Jerry and Ant floundering without Dec – all iconic but all a pale imitation without the key extra ingredient which brings me to this Saturday’s clash as Leeds welcome a Jack Grealish-less Aston Villa to Elland Road.
As fantasy football fans across the midlands scratch their heads to work out how best to fill that Grealish shaped void with Dean Smith’s rebuke still ringing in their ears the man himself will be hoping to improve on an awful record without his talismanic captain.
It’s been a solid season for the men from Villa Park – thrashing a Liverpool side including Virgil Van Dijk along the way to a current eighth place with games in hand, certainly meaning no need to repeat the Houdini survival act of last campaign.
That form however, has coincided with Grealish avoiding injury, but it was no surprise to see Leicester exploit his absence from the Villans line up last weekend to take all three points.
The 25-year-old from Birmingham played 36 of his teams 38 EPL fixtures last season – a calf injury meaning missing the visit of Liverpool and the trip to Wolves with both games ending in 2-1 defeats – look further back to the Championship promotion campaign of 2018/19, and of the 13 matches for which he was sidelined – Villa only won twice.
As a result, I am going to back Leeds to win this one – yes, I know what can I say I’m a thrill seeker who thrives off adrenalin!
Marcelo Bielsa’s men haven’t drawn any of their last 17 competitive matches, not since a goalless draw with Arsenal back in November, what’s more they have virtually split victories with defeats – winning eight, losing nine – so I know this is a little leap of faith.
The Peacocks too have a key absentee in the form of Kalvin Phillips but have enough match winners to secure the result which will lift them above their opponents in the top half of the table, as was showcased by the recent 3-0 home win over Southampton – they also have experience of how to win on their treacherous newly laid pitch.
So, I am happy to take the 23/18 on offer from SBK for Leeds to complete the double over Villa and in doing so stretch their unbeaten run against them at Elland Road to six matches.
The match ball from that 3-0 win for the Whites is sitting, I assume, somewhere in Patrick Bamford’s house after the striker completed an all left footed hat-trick at Villa Park – Boyle Sports odds of 5/6 for over 0.5 and 4/1 for over 1.5 shots on target with his left foot were tempting me but instead I am going to follow a familiar path and focus on his headed shots which has been a profitable option all season.
Although the 27-year-old isn’t your stereotypical number 9, his total of 29 headed shots is more than any other player in the EPL, he also leads the way in accuracy with 37 of his total efforts this season hitting the target and he will be looking to find the net for the third successive home game here.
With the direct wing play of Jack Harrison and Raphinha deployed on either flank, Bamford shouldn’t be short of crosses in to the box to feed off of even more so when Villa are also without first choice right back Matty Cash with Harvey Barnes registering both a goal and assist, as well as drawing a yellow card against stand in Ahmed Elmohamady.
Betfair offer 5/2 for at least one Bamford headed shot on target via their #OddsOnThat – Shots on Target Specials – although that price is gradually shrinking, I still think it is worth taking.
Finally, I have been a fan of a flutter on the whoscored man of the match market for some time now – not reliant on Alan Smith’s favourite player and being stat based means, we can at least attempt to solve the conundrum without bias or agenda.
As discussed at length Dean Smith has ruled out the usual obvious contender for this market and if we follow the thread that Leeds are to win this, we can form a relatively short shortlist.
Patrick Bamford tops the WhoScored ratings for Leeds with an average of 7.16 and it is Jack Harrison by winning it three times, who has scooped the MOTM award more than any of his teammates – both worthy contenders as previously discussed, however, having watched a few Leeds games recently it is one man that has really caught the eye – Raphinha.
The October signing from Rennes looks to really have found his feet – which is no small achievement given that Elland Road surface – scoring an outstanding free-kick that sealed the three-goal win for his side against the Saints as well as putting in five crosses (three accurate) and two successful dribbles, which are good points scorers.
A yellow card was costly for the Brazilian as his score of 8.3 was only beaten by Stuart Dallas (8.5) last week but I am taking him to go one better in this clash and think the odds of 8/1 with Betfair/Paddy Power look very nice.
Leeds vs Aston Villa – Leeds to win (23/18 SBK)
Leeds vs Aston Villa – Patrick Bamford 1+ headed shots on target (5/2 Betfair)
Leeds vs Aston Villa – Raphinha Whoscored Man of the Match (8/1 Paddy Power)