Leicester City host Aston Villa in the second quarter final of the League Cup on Wednesday night as Brendan Rodgers side look to make the most of an Aston Villa side missing key men, and secure a Wembley place over the two legs.
Aston Villa come into the game on the box of two league wins in three, but a rotated side did fall to Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup on Saturday. However, despite wins over Norwich and Burnley, they have been heavily reliant upon Jack Grealish, as well as wasteful finishing from both sides, and up against a clinical Leicester side, any lapses in concentration are more than likely to be punished.
A 4-1 win for Leicester in the league a few weeks ago will worry Dean Smith even more without his star striker, and it could be a long evening at the King Power for the Villains.
Adding to John McGinn’s injury picked up previous to Christmas, key men Tom Heaton and Wesley have suffered season ending injuries, and as a result it will force Smith into further tactical tweaks in charge of the Midlands side.
For the win over Burnley, Smith adopted a 3-4-3 formation, which helped to guard against the direct play from Sean Dyche’s side, as well as allow greater resilience in the middle and more support for target man Wesley up top. Importantly however, it did allow Jack Grealish a free role on the left wing, and the Englishman put in a man of the match performance, netting the second goal and creating three chances for Villa throughout.
Stopping Grealish will be key for Leicester, much like they did in the league encounter, and this task will more than likely fall to Ricardo Pereira at right back once again, who kept the Villa man quiet in the league fixture. Managing eight tackles as Rodgers opted for a narrower formation than normal, he, and the covering Dennis Praet, kept the midfielder at bay, as Villa’s 4-3-3 themselves left them extremely open down the flanks and in behind to the long ball, as Leicester capitalised with ease.
Wesley’s injury is a blow, and Jonathan Kodja is expected to replace him. Whilst he will battle with the two Leicester centre backs, both Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu will be confident of dealing with his threat, and lack of subsequent movement into the channels, and as a result Villa may struggle to find an out ball through out.
The change in system to three at the back is expected to continue, and as a result I’d expect to see Villa try and sit deep for long periods of the game, and this would see Leicester dominate the ball and need to be patient for long periods, a different approach to their original meeting back in December. As aforementioned, Villa came out on the offensive, looking to press the Leicester side and play a high line, and they did so at their peril, as Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy ran riot with their movement in behind, although Villa’s tactical plans were hampered by Tyrone Mings’ injury, leaving them short of pace at the back.
James Maddison put in a fantastic performance at Villa Park, and keeping the Englishman quiet, in the same vain Leicester will need to for Grealish, is a must if Dean Smith’s side are going to remain competitive heading into the second leg. The two man midfield and three man backline opted for at Burnley may help to crowd Leicester out in the central areas, but the midfielder of Leicester is so fluid, and with Aston Villa’s lack of pace in behind, a high line and the high positioning of Leicester’s full backs will cause an array of problems for Smith’s side, as overloads on the wings and even in central areas if allowed to drift in side will certainly cause Villa problems.
Aston Villa’s wingers can often leave their defence exposed, and its worth noting that against Burnley on the weekend, they conceded an xGa of 2.33, and showed a weakness to crosses into the box, although Leicester don’t have the same aerial presence in attacking areas, unless factoring in set pieces. However, when factoring these in, the presence of Evans and Soyuncu, coupled with the delivery that Maddison is capable of, does make this an added threat to an already diverse range of options Rodgers’ side have at their disposal, and is certainly worth factoring in on Wednesday.
Villa’s best hopes do lie on the counter attack against a high Leicester City defensive line, however the pace on the break is lacking, with only one of Anwar El-Ghazi or Trezeguet expected to start. The midfielders will be wary of pushing on the link the play at times, particularly without the influential McGinn to add further cover, with Marvelous Nakamba and Conor Hourihane more suited to a defensive role. This as a result becomes easier to defend against, and will contribute further to Aston Villa’s worries and see them look to sit deep.
It is very hard to see past Leicester dominating the game against Aston Villa once again, although both the win and goal markets feel tight on Rodgers’ side. However, given the lack of options up top, and reliance upon one player in Jack Grealish, a Leicester win to nil does appeal. Their defence is well suited against Aston Villa’s threat, even on the break, and if leading early, will look to control the game ahead of the second leg. Priced at 2.30 (VBet), it takes a fancy.
With Vardy such a short price to score anytime, it is worth looking elsewhere, and the low defensive line for Villa means that the late runs from midfield from the
Leicester defence looking to meet crosses from the byline could be an angle worth exploring. Youri Tielemans ability to do so stands out from the options, and he is available at 5.50 (Betfred) to score anytime. With individual player markets not priced at time of writing, it does means that the shot markets for midfielder for Leicester are worth keeping an eye on, especially if Leicester are to be frustrated by the deep Villa backline.