Marcelo Bielsa wary as on-song Leeds hunt Christmas number one

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Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa is wary of the threat Aston Villa pose having been undone in his last trip to the West Midlands a month ago.

United have the chance to top the SkyBet Championship table at Christmas, which over the last decade has meant guaranteed promotion, with a win at Villa Park on Sunday.

Victory would be Leeds’ sixth in succession – something they have not achieved at this level since 1988 when they were in the old second division – but it is their last defeat, a 4-1 humbling at West Brom on November 10, which has warning bells ringing for Bielsa.

“It is the last rival that we haven’t played against,” the Argentinian told a press conference.

“Aston Villa are a team with a very significant offensive strength.

“They are good in the collective play and good with their individual players, they also have many good players.

“If we take into account these aspects, there are many similar points to the game against West Bromwich Albion.

“If you ask me if Aston Villa have players to get promoted- my answer would be yes.

“Do the have the structure to go up? Yes and they have a great head coach.”

Villa boss Dean Smith was similarly full of praise for the work his opposite number has done since arriving at Elland Road in the summer.

His side are currently 12 points off top spot but have taken 18 points from the last 30 available since he took charge mid-October, having previously managed 15 from 12 matches, and are unbeaten in seven games.

“They’ve done brilliantly. Marcelo Bielsa has gone in there and galvanised the squad,” he said of Sunday’s visitors.

“They have won the last five games on the spin, they are top of the table, they are a good counter-pressing team, high pressing team, with high energy – I think it will be one hell of a good game because both teams play in the same manner.

“It’s one I’m looking forward to.”

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