High-flying Leeds, Villa suggest this Premier League title race could be the best one ever

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As Patrick Bamford curled in a stunning left-foot shot to seal a 19-minute hat-trick and put Leeds United 3-0 up against Aston Villa, the craziest season in Premier League history took another remarkable twist.

The super clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United wanted to carve up the Premier League landscape with their audacious, and failed, Project Big Picture plan, but Leeds are another of those famous old clubs who are biting back and showing that they are ready to fight every inch of the way to ensure that England’s top-flight never becomes a closed shop to all but the biggest, richest and most powerful.

If it continues like this, we are on course for the most open Premier League season for a quarter of a century, and Leeds are set to be a central character in the story.

Leeds, having ended the club’s 16-year Premier League exile by winning promotion from the EFL Championship last season, are now third in the top-flight after this victory at Villa Park.

Their win denied Villa, who had won four out of four until this game, the chance to claim top spot, just three months after avoiding relegation on the back of a late surge of form at the end of the coronavirus-affected 2019-20 season.nfl nike jerseys cheap

So after failing to grasp the chance to go top, Villa must now sit back and watch Everton attempt to open up a three-point lead with a win at Southampton on Sunday.1

Yes, the Premier League top three in late-October is Everton, Villa and Leeds. Leicester City are also in the shake-up for the top four, as are Wolverhampton Wanderers. Liverpool are fourth and still the favourites to finish the season as champions, but not since the mid-1990s have we seen a Premier League campaign with so many unfamiliar names at the top end of the table.

When Manchester United won the first Premier League title in 1992-93, Villa finished as runners-up with Norwich in third. Blackburn came fourth, one place ahead of Queens Park Rangers.

A year later, Blackburn and Newcastle finished second and third respectively behind champions United, with Leeds fifth and Wimbledon sixth.

Nottingham Forest finished third in 1994-95, when Blackburn pipped United to the title, but since those heady days of a wide-open competition, the heavyweights have tended to dominate the top four, with only Newcastle, Everton, Leeds and Leicester able to upset the hierarchy in the years since.

But could the 2020-21 season, made even stranger by the absence of fans due to the pandemic, end up as a throwback to the Nineties, when every club had a shot at breaking into the top four?

Everton have laid a marker down with their unbeaten start under Carlo Ancelotti and the Merseyside club are strong contenders to finish in the top four due to the proven quality of their manager and a squad enhanced by players such as James Rodriguez and Allan.

But Villa and Leeds both showed in this game that they have the players to sustain a top six push at least.

Villa, who hammered Liverpool 7-2 earlier this season, were well beaten in the end, but Jack Grealish had a shot cleared off the line and was denied a first-half penalty before he almost scored a contender for goal of the season, with a long, mazy run, prior to Bamford’s 55th-minute opener.

Grealish, Chelsea loanee Ross Barkley, striker Ollie Watkins and former Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez are players capable of making a difference against any team and they will ensure that Villa bounce back from this defeat.