Dean Smith has stated that every game between now and the end of the season is a Cup Final for Aston Villa, starting with tonight’s game against Leicester City in the Premier League.
The manager has also spoken about how his teams generally perform better in the second half of the season. Based on last season, it is hard to argue this statement but so far this season, there is lots of work to be done.
I spoke earlier in the week that consistency has been Villa’s biggest problem this season. On our day, I strongly believe we can at least give anyone in the Premier League a game. The problem is, you never know what Aston Villa you are going to get. The even bigger problem is, I don’t think the manager knows either.
This will be the fourth time we come up against Leicester City this season. Both sides have won one game each with the other ending in a draw. We all know what Leicester are capable of, we saw it first hand at Villa Park back in December.
Both sides are out of form at the moment. In fact, Villa have won just once in the last 6 games and sit bottom of the form table. Leicester have only won one themselves but their two draws see them sit fifteenth.
TEAM NEWS & INJURY UPDATES
Aston Villa will be boosted by the return to first-team training for Scotland international John McGinn. The game against Leicester has come too soon for the dynamic midfielder with Chelsea next week looking like his likely return.
Jack Grealish also had a cramp in his calf against Manchester City but it is thought that he will be OK.
Tom Heaton, Jed Steer and Wesley remain long term casualties although the latter has stepped up his return by returning to Bodymoor Heath this week for physio work.
Leicester will give late fitness tests to both Jamie Vardy and Ben Chilwell. Vardy has had a calf injury and Brendon Rodgers is hopeful that his star striker will be involved in some way. Chilwell has a hamstring injury and will be accessed just before the game.
Nampalys Mendy (knee) and Daniel Amartey (ankle) are both long term casualties.
LEICESTER KEY PLAYER
Kelechi Iheanacho loves to score against Villa. The former Manchester City striker has scored seven goals against us, more than any other team in his professional career.
The Villa backline will have to be at their best to keep him quiet.
THOUGHTS ON LEICESTER
Leicester fans have experienced the dream that would all love to have lived – winning the Premier League. Despite doing the impossible they have continued to grow and look very likely to make the Champions League next season.
I always remember the days of Robbie Savage and Muzzy Izzet and they were always our bogey side. I just hope we can see a repeat of our last meeting and come away with all three points.
I fully expect the manager to stick with the side that lost to Manchester City in the League Cup Final. The only change will probably see Pepe Reina return for Orjan Nyland.
(4-2-3-1): Reina; Guilbert, Mings, Engels, Targett; Nakamba, Luiz; Elmohammady, Grealish, El Ghazi; Samatta.
The particular highlight for me was Elmohammady, who I believe is the best crosser of the ball at the club. He added something we haven’t had all season and gave Samatta another option although I am unsure if it will be as effective as Leicester are strong in the air defensively.
I think former Leicester player, Danny Drinkwater will have to settle for a place on the bench.