Though it would be hard to say that Leeds United fans like Steven Gerrard, there is a grudging respect for his talent as a player and a coach. The Liverpool legend might not have had too many games at Elland Road to be treated to the useful atmosphere, but he knows all about it. Growing up watching the Reds, Gerrard would have seen some truly great Leeds teams – including those housing his current number two in Gary McAllister.

However, despite that rivalry, it is clear that Gerrard has plenty of time for the Leeds project. When asked about what he thought of opinions that Leeds were a second season syndrome outfit, Gerrard was utterly dismissive of the claim.

Given the Whites have battled injuries all season to key players in what was already a shallow squad, the drop-off is understandable. With everyone fit and improving from the experience of last year, Leeds could have properly challenged for a European spot. However, their poor form has given the likes of Aston Villa a chance to fight for a European slot themselves.

Rather than gloat or make himself sound better, though, Gerrard was quick to rise to the defence of Marcelo Bielsa and the Leeds project.

What did Steven Gerrard say about Leeds United?

In his pre-match press conference ahead of the clash between the two teams on Wednesday night, Gerrard was noted as defending Leeds. In his press conference, he said: “My opinion on Leeds is, as a team and as a squad, they’ve got really talented players, very, very dangerous players,

“They haven’t had the best of luck in terms of injuries, so it’s not fair to judge them too strongly, certainly from where I’m sitting.

“I’ve only really focused very much on Leeds in the last couple of weeks because I knew they were the next fixture. Obviously, I was in Scotland up until November, but from the outside I’ve always really enjoyed watching Leeds.

“They’re a very exciting team. They take it to every opposition, they’ve obviously got a world-class manager who’s done a phenomenal job so far, from where he took over to where he’s got them to now.”

When asked on what he thinks the future will hold for Leeds this season, Gerrard opined: “They’re getting players returning from injury and I’m sure once they get Kalvin Phillips back and Patrick Bamford, it wouldn’t surprise me if they find a higher level of consistency. You’d be a fool to judge them on what’s happened so far. You can only judge what you’re going to come up against and these have got very, very dangerous players.

“They showed that in the last away fixture against West Ham. Really strong on the counter-attack, they’ve got goals in the team and they’ve got people returning from injury. We’ll certainly respect this challenge in front of us.”

So, it sounds like the Villa manager is taking nothing for granted as he sees an injury-ravaged Leeds team arrive for what should be a cracking match.