With injuries to key players Boubacar Kamara, Lucas Digne, and Matty Cash, things feel hopeful, but uncertain. The way Steven Gerrard likes his squad to play (narrow with full-backs attacking and the need for a disciplined holding midfielder), losing your starting left and right-back, not to mention your brand new holding midfielder, is going to make things difficult. Nevertheless, Leeds United is the focus for this weekend. The Whites have lost two and drawn one match from the last three (1-0 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion, a home draw to Everton, and a 5-2 loss at Brentford) and the extended international break muddies the waters a bit on what to expect from them in terms of form. They’re not bad, but they’re not going to be challenging for a European place. Players to look out for from the 13th placed team in the table include Jack Harrison in midfield, striker and amateur stunt-man Patrick Bamford, and defender Luke Ayling.
Aston Villa could go a number of different directions in the squad for this weekend’s match, and it’s likely we’ll see a 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 type of lineup, but a 4-2-3-1 could serve well this weekend. I’d enjoy the added width given the back line injuries and having two defensive midfielders wouldn’t be the worst idea (though given depth, it may not be the best either). Presuming it’s a 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 look, expect to see Emi Martinez in goal, with a center-back partnership of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza. Jan Bednarek or Calum Chambers could play in place of Konsa but Konsa will likely get the start. Things are trickier with the left and right-backs, but Ashley Young will play regardless. It’s risky playing an unproven Ludwig Augustinsson, and you could move Konsa to right-back and play Young at left, but I feel like it’s best to stick Young on the right and Augustinsson on the left. In midfield, the conventional wisdom would see Douglas Luiz in the number six position, with Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn to his sides. I’d love to see Leander Dendoncker start as the holding midfielder and wouldn’t be too shocked to see it, with Ramsey and McGinn alongside. If depth wasn’t the concern it now is at holding, I’d start Luiz over Ramsey with the latter playing in an attacking position on the left. In the aforementioned attacking positions, expect to see Ollie Watkins at striker with Philippe Coutinho on the left and Leon Bailey to the right.
: Given circumstances, this should prove to be a stiff test for the Villa. A win might be too much to ask for, but a 1-1 draw feels about right.