Leeds United and Aston Villa are two of English football's greatest ever clubs. Yet both are languishing in the Championship, yearning for a return to the Premier League. Which of the two clubs is best placed to do it?
Ahead of their weekend clash, both sides are in the top half of the Championship although neither is close to league leaders Wolves. Villa currently sit fourth in the table, with 10 wins, 5 draws and 4 defeats giving them 35 points. They're managed by Steve Bruce and are five points off the automatic promotion places and nine off top spot.
Leeds, meanwhile, are a bit further down. With Thomas Christiansen as boss, They sit eighth with 9 wins, 2 draws and 8 defeats totalling 29 points. They're three points off the lowest playoff spot (Derby on 32) and six behind Villa ahead of them.
There's obviously a long way to go but right off the bat it's clear that Leeds have a problem. So few draws indicate a defensive instability: whilst they have scored 29 goals to Aston Villa's 28, they have conceded 24 to Villa's 17. Their goal difference is +5 whilst Villa's is a healthy +11.
Villa's ability to grind out draws when they are perhaps not at their best is the kind of quality that can make or break a promotion campaign of such fine margins.
Leeds 0-1 Aston Villa
Leeds' top scorers are Pierre Lasogga, Egzijan Alilovski, Kalvin Phillips and Samuel Saiz. All four men have 5 goals so far this season. Goalscoring is certainly not Leeds' problem. Saiz has 4 assists, a team high. Whilst Lasogga, Alioski and Eunan O'Kane each have 3. Leeds are a side with many weapons.
Contrast this with Villa. The Birmingham side have star striker Albert Adomah scoring for them. The Ghanaian has 10 goals so far this season and is lethal in front of goal (the next highest scorer is Conor Hourihane with 5). Meanwhile on the creative end they have Robert Snodgrass who has 5 assists and Ahmed El Mohamady who has 3.
Villa have the better talents in terms of sheer quality, but it is focused onto a few brilliant individuals. An injury to Adomah or Snodgrass and Villa would struggle to maintain their level. Meanwhile Leeds' splitting of the duties means they could absorb an injury or two and maintain a decent performance level.
Leeds 1-1 Aston Villa
Both of these teams are looking to return to the Premier League. And whilst they're both on the same track (more or less, anyway - Villa are slightly ahead) they can look to increase their hopes with spending in January.
Adding new players is key, not just in January but should they achieve promotion. Being able to spend money (and spend it wisely) is how to become an established Premier League team.
Leeds United are owned by Aser Group Holding, with Andrea Radrizzani taking over in the summer. Radrizzani means business, reinstating Leeds Ladies as part of the club and even buying Elland Road back after they sold it over a decade ago. He has money and is willing to spend, but not to a crazy degree. Though they signed a lot of players in the summer these deals were all offset by selling striker Chris Wood to Burnley.
Aston Villa are owned by Recon Sports Limited and their eccentric chairman Dr. Tony Xia. Dr. Xia is a prolific user of social media and has revealed that the club plan to strengthen in January. They didn't spend too much in the summer but did secure the high profile free transfer of John Terry.
Dr. Xia has made clear that he is aware Villa will need to spend big should they get promoted, so Villa fans can have faith that they will. Meanwhile Radrizzani is clearly interested in making Leeds great again but appears to be in no rush to do so. He will spend, but do so sensibly even if promoted. Dr. Xia is being savvy for now but is prepared to splash big when the time comes.