A resurgent Leicester City side travel to Villa Park looking to make it eight wins on the bounce in the Premier League, and reaffirm their credentials as title challenges. Goals from Jamie Vardy handed them a 2-0 win over strugglers Watford in midweek, and Brendan Rodgers will be hoping for a similarly dominant performance against Dean Smith’s Aston Villa on Sunday.
Aston Villa went down 2-1 in London to Chelsea in midweek, and defeat dropped them down to 16th in the league, hovering just one point above the drop. Goals haven’t been an issue for Smith’s side, however they have been leaking goals at the other end, with 24 conceded, and coming up against the free-scoring Foxes, solidity will be needed at the back if they are to pick up a positive result.
Leicester continued their fine winning form with another comprehensive victory over Watford on Wednesday, as they racked up an xG of 2.29, but had to be patient for long periods to break down the Hornets. The game could take a similar shape to that of Wednesday night, as Aston Villa will look to sit deep and utilise the break, much like they did at Stamford Bridge in defeat against Chelsea.
The pace of Jamie Vardy in behind means that Aston Villa will opt for a deep line, much like they did in midweek due to the threat of Tammy Abraham, and this has been a plan Smith has opted for in many games this season. Averaging 46.1% possession, it dropped to 35.5% against Chelsea, and it is typical of Aston Villa’s play this season to look to soak up pressure before hitting sides on the break, and they will look to target Leicester by doing this once again.
Lining up 4-3-3, Villa tend to pack the central areas, relying upon the defensive energy of Marvelous Nakamba and one of Douglas Luiz and Connor Hourihane to frustrate sides and protect the defence, whilst box to box midfielder John McGinn is asked to run beyond and provide a link from midfield to attack in central areas, trying to link up with target man Wesley. Often inviting on the attacking full backs of opposition sides, it further reinforces their counter attacking ability, and the influence of Jack Grealish and Trezeguet from wide areas can be then used to exploit spaces left in behind, and is certainly an area Villa will target on Sunday, particularly with the attacking nature of Ricardo Pereira down the right.
Villa’s goal at Stamford Bridge came courtesy of this counter attacking play, allowing Ahmed El-Mohamady’s cross to be finished by Trezeguet, and following Richarlison’s opener against Leicester on Sunday, it highlights a potential area of vulnerability in Leicester’s armour.
Any chance Villa have of getting something from the game will see a big role for Brazilian striker Wesley, and the target man will have to hold up the ball to bring the likes of McGinn and Grealish into the game effectively. Up against Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans, Leicester tend to operate with a high line, and it does leave space for the onrushing midfielders to exploit, something they did well in defeat at Manchester City for the first half earlier in the season, and this similar approach will be their best chance at Villa Park. Soyuncu has shown vulnerability at times in this high line as he can make rash decisions and jump into tackles, and with Evans lacking in pace, it further reinforces an area Villa can target, and could mean the Leicester backline are worth keeping a keen eye on in the booking markets.
With Villa expected to sit deep, it means that the creativity in midfield will fall to the likes of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, as well as the aforementioned reliance upon the full backs pressing on to provide width, allowing Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez to drift inside. Whether Ben Chilwell is passed fit will have a large bearing upon the shape of Leicester’s defence and attack, as Christian Fuchs started at left back on Wednesday, and this led to Watford targeting that flank through Ismail Sarr, as well as seeing Leicester preferring to attack down the right with the more energetic Pereira. Frederic Guilbert should return at right back for Villa after suspension, and as a result it would be no surprise to see Leicester look to focus their attacks down the right, looking to force Grealish back and attack Matt Targett. Pereira’s willingness to drive on the ball, highlighted by his 2.4 attempted dribbles per game, alongside that of midfielders Perez (1.4) and Maddison (2.3), opens up the first market of fancy for the game, which comes from the tackles market.
Grealish was forced into a defensive role by Chelsea in midweek, and coming up against the similar threat of Reece James and Willian, he made three tackles, helping to warn against their attacking threat. A look into the tackles market appeals once again as a result, and available at 2.10, Grealish to win 2+ tackles stands out, given the probable focus down his flank of Leicester’s attacks, especially given a willingness from Villa to pack central areas of the midfield.
With Leicester best priced at 1.85 (Betfair) to win, it is worth adding in the Foxes to score over 1.5 goals to eak out that extra value. Rodgers’ side look unstoppable in front of goal, and showcased their threat on the break when leading against Watford in midweek, as well as against Brighton the previous weekend. Villa will be left exposed if forced to chase the game, and as a result, available at 2.10 (Bet365), Leicester to win and score over 1.5 goals stands out as a second option.