By Wayne Veysey

29th Dec, 2016 | 1:00pm

Speculation intensifies that key Leeds player has pulled out of Aston Villa clash

By Alex Stevens

There was intense speculation about Leeds fans on Twitter that Kyle Bartley is set to miss the Championship showdown against Aston Villa on Thursday night.

The Elland Road centre-back required treatment for a head injury during and after Monday’s 4-1 victory at Preston following an incident which resulted in the dismissal of Preston striker Jermaine Beckford.

Bartley and his Leeds defensive colleague Luke Ayling collided in mid-air as the pair competed with Beckford for a high ball near the halfway line.

Former Leeds forward Beckford reacted to Bartley’s challenge on him by kicking the centre-back in the face, incurring a straight red card just three minutes after appearing as a substitute.

Leeds manager Garry Monk said Bartley had been “groggy” after the collision with Ayling but allayed any fears of Bartley missing the club’s televised trip to Villa Park.

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“Kyle will be fine for the Villa game,” Monk said. “He had a little clash of heads with Luke Ayling but nothing serious. He was feeling a little groggy, he had a bit of treatment at the end of the game but it was nothing more than that.”

However, speculation mounted on social media on Thursday afternoon among Leeds supporters that Bartley has not travelled with Monk’s squad to Birmingham for the eagerly anticipated clash of the two giants.

Here is a selection of their messages on Twitter:

Leeds head to Villa Park on the back of three straight wins and with an improving injury list after Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez returned from hamstring strains in the victory over Preston.

But Bartley would leave a considerable gap in the defence as his leadership and authoritative displays have been integral to Leeds’ against-the-odds promotion challenge.

The defender, who is on a season-long loan from Swansea, has been a mainstay of the Leeds team, starting all 23 of their Championship matches as well as four of their five League Cup encounters.

If Bartley misses out, Liam Cooper is set to partner Pontus Jansson at the centre of the defence against Villa.

In other Leeds transfer news, a 25-year-old has signed for the club after agreeing terms.