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Leicester City vs Aston Villa
Two weeks on from an emphatic, historic victory over champions Liverpool, Villa travel to Leicester City looking to keep the good times rolling. With the only remaining 100% win record in the Premier League, they are the current form team.
Leicester have also started the season strong, aside from a faltering performance against West Ham last time out. They will be hoping to bounce back quickly from that, with an opportunity to mount another legitimate title challenge still on the cards.
Leicester have injury worries with Pereira, Soyuncu, Ndidi, Maddison and Vardy all out the Foxes’ first XI.
Leicester City XI to face Aston Villa: Schmeichel (C); Castagne, Evans, Fofana, Justin; Praet, Mendy, Tielemans; Pérez, Iheanacho, Barnes. Subs: Ward, Morgan, Choudhury, Maddison, Albrighton, Ünder, Slimani.
Villa are unchanged from their Liverpool win.
Leicester – W W W L
Aston Villa – W W W
Brendan Rodgers on Aston Villa
“For last season, it was always going to be difficult for Villa. Dean did fantastically well. They obviously came up late and then had to have an influx of signings, a lot of loan players.
“That takes a bit of time and you don’t quite get into your rhythm and the nature of the Premier League is so competitive, so it can then get difficult for you. They got the job done in the end and recruited very, very well this summer. Ross Barkley’s a huge signing because playing in his natural position as a No.10, he could blossom there.
“Obviously, Jack Grealish staying is a massive help for them, so they’ve started very well and had an outstanding result against Liverpool. It will be a really, really tough game for us.”
Dean Smith on momentum
“We’ve started the season well, there’s confidence within the group and a belief that we’re better this season. It’s a tough game but one we’re looking forward to.
“Momentum is key. There’s an awful lot of belief in the team. There’s a lot of quality in the team as well and I think that performance against Liverpool proved that.
“But if we want to be talked about in glowing terms, then you have to make sure you maintain that. We’ve got a really tough game against Leicester where we want to exorcise some demons that occurred pre-lockdown.”
Leicester’s preferred lineup this season has been a 4-1-4-1 with Jamie Vardy leading the line, Youri Tielemens and Dennis Praet behind him, Nampalys Mendy shielding the defence and Wilfred Ndidi partnering Çaglar Söyüncü in defense. However a major injury crisis means that it is impossible to predict how they will line up against Villa.
Since establishing themselves in the league a few years back, Leicester have slowly transformed from a plucky minnow snatching wins with counter-attacking play, into a genuine force in the league. This can be reflected in how they’ve adapted their playing style; defensive solidity and counter attacking has been mostly replaced with a ball-playing philosophy, seeing them average 55.2% possession and complete 83.4% of their passes.
The top teams in the league play the game how they want and force their opponents to figure out how to cope with it. Leicester can now do this, but they haven’t forgotten how to change things up when they need to. In their 5-2 win over Man City, they only saw 28.3% of the ball and heatmaps show they spent almost all of the game deep in their own half.
Leicester have so far managed 12 goals from 7.30 xG this season, although it should be noted that five of those have been penalties. That does not diminish their attacking prowess much however – seven goals from open play with 4.23 xG still shows they are deadly in front of goal.
Defensively they have so far conceded seven goals from 5.35 xGA. This is a slight underperformance, but it is somewhat skewed by the three goals conceded from 2.03 xGA they experienced against West Ham in their last game. If they can limit performances like that, then they will have a reasonably solid defense, although it is clear they have shifted their focus to a more attacking game over the years.
Leicester are a strong unit who are capable of putting in some devastating performances, but they can equally leave themselves vulnerable at times. Which Leicester will Villa find themselves up against?
One to Watch
Their current injury nightmare makes this difficult to judge, but so far new signing Timothy Castagne has made a promising start to life in the Premier League. An attacking full back who has contributed two assists and a goal already, with an 80% pass success rate and averaging one key pass per game, he is certainly someone to keep an eye on.
He is pretty good defensively too, averaging 1.5 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 1.3 clearances per game.
Leicester City 0-5 Aston Villa – 31-01-2004
Braces from Darius Vassell and Peter Crouch along with one from Dion Dublin saw Villa record an emphatic win.
How it could play out
A 100% win record, 11 goals scored, only two conceded and the most substantial victory over the champions in Premier League history – it has been a dream start to the season for Villa after a transfer window that looks more successful with each passing minute.
Add onto that the rotten luck Leicester are having with injuries at the moment, and it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to say Villa are coming into this game as the overdogs for once. Leicester will be without Çaglar Söyüncü, Ricardo Pereira, Daniel Amartey and Wilfred Ndidi for sure, with the likes of Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Jonny Evans, Wes Morgan and Dennis Praet all doubtful.
This is not to say that Villa will find this game easy, of course; teams who have established themselves at the top need strength in depth to do so, and Leicester will be able to field a strong team no matter what. Also, facing such a depleted side comes with its own unique pressure, as they will be expected to put in a strong showing.
Villa’s strong start to the season means they would be coming into this game with every chance of winning regardless of what’s going on at Leicester though. A team that is capable of dismantling the Premier League champions as efficiently as they did last time out should never be underestimated. If they can keep the momentum up, it will be hard for anyone to write them off this season.
Leicester City 0-1 Aston Villa
The stage is well and truly set for a Villa win here. It would be easy to get carried away with things after the Liverpool result, but they look strong, in good spirits and ready to take on anyone.