Aston Villa could maintain their 100% start to the new campaign when they host newly promoted Leeds in the Premier League on Friday (3pm ET).
Villa were involved in a campaign-long relegation battle in their return to the top flight last season and eventually finished just a single point clear of relegated Bournemouth. They have begun the new season like a side determined to avoid such concerns this time around.
Victories over Sheffield United and Fulham in their opening pair of matches were followed by a famous, scarcely believable 7-2 thrashing of champions Liverpool. Villa then returned from the international break to put another three points on the board with a 1-0 win away to Leicester last weekend.
It was an even match of few good chances settled late on by a low, long-range strike from Ross Barkley. A third clean sheet in four saw Villa defying all predictions and on their way to a victory that leaves them as the only Premier League side with a 100% record and one of two, alongside Everton, yet to lose. The last time they began a league season with four straight wins was way back in 1930.
Everything seems to be going well for them. A second summer of pretty heavy investment has paid immediate dividends. Emiliano Martinez has looked good between the sticks, Matty Cash has settled straight in at right-back, Barkley will provide some more attacking impetus through midfield and Ollie Watkins already has a hat-trick against Liverpool to his credit. Add that to a superb start to the campaign from Jack Grealish and you have a good side.
It is still exceedingly early days, but a 12-point haul represents a fantastic start to the season and one that has already seen Villa re-rated from potential relegation candidates to a side likely to finish comfortably in mid-table by both the stateside odds setters’ betting markets and the publicly available statistical models. Can they keep the positivity going on Friday?
Leeds stand in their way of doing so. The winners of last season’s Championship have made a solid start to life back in the top flight following more than a decade and a half away, picking up seven points from five matches to position themselves in mid-table.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side opened the campaign with a 3-4 defeat away to Liverpool and then defeated Fulham by the same scoreline a week later. Things have calmed down a little since, with a 1-0 win away to Sheffield United followed by a 1-1 draw with Manchester City and then a 0-1 defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.
Leeds comfortably out-shot their visitors and were visibly on top during the first half, but they were unable to find a way through, lost some of their rhythm after the break, and eventually fell to defeat thanks to a fortuitously deflected strike 20 minutes from time.
Bielsa’s team were a dominant side at Championship level and they haven’t looked out of place in the Premier League. They have a neutral goal difference and their underlying numbers are around there too, which is promising given they have already played last season’s top two. A mid-table finish was the pre-season expectation and that so far looks about right.
It is, though, likely to take some time for their off-season arrivals to settle due to their unique play style. Any injuries to regulars in the meantime would stretch a relatively thin squad, as is already evident in the centre of defence.
Leeds were 3-2 winners the last time these two teams met at Villa Park in the Championship a couple of seasons back. Both have changed in the meantime, Villa particularly so, and so it doesn’t necessarily provide any useful context for Friday’s match.
Villa may well find themselves on the wrong end of the shot count, but with a defence that has maintained the improvements seen at the back end of last season and an attack that is readily producing chances and goals, they should be able to find a way past awkward opponents to continue their winning streak into a fifth match. So our Aston Villa vs Leeds predictions and betting tips verdict for this EPL match preview is:
- Back Aston Villa to win @ best odds of +135 on the moneyline with BetOnline.