Aston Villa will be hoping to kick on from just their second Premier League win of the season when they host high-flying Leicester City, who have just ended a run of four games without success.
The relief was tangible in the West Midlands on Tuesday as Villa a long last secured a first three-point haul since opening day after a much improved performance against Crystal Palace. They played with real fluency at times and although the only goal came via a goalkeeping blunder, the result was richly deserved and will have inspired some much-needed confidence within the squad, although any hopes of making an unlikely bid for survival still appear far-fetched.
Having come under heavy scrutiny due their lack of top level experience, midfield pair Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout do look to be making progress, with the latter in particular showing considerable determination and a strong attitude. The challenge for them here is to match the unrelenting energy of Foxes star N’Golo Kante; if they can do that, Villa certainly stand a chance of taking something from the game, and they will want revenge on the visitors following their agonising defeat in the reverse fixture in September.
There has been talk since Christmas that Leicester would begin to slip away from the very top of the Premier League, but yet another notable victory – this time achieved away at Tottenham – only served to put such assumptions on hold and lift them to 42 points and behind leaders Arsenal only on goal difference. For once it was not Riyad Mahrez or Jamie Vardy to score the winner, instead it was Robert Huth with an almost old fashioned header from a corner.
The standout performer however was goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who made a succession of fine saves to keep out the hosts in what was another incident packed encounter. There will be more expectation on Claudio Ranieri’s team here, but they have already proved this season that they can go away and win handsomely, so victory here as well as a return to the scoresheet for Mahrez and/or Vardy would make it the latest in a long line of fabulous weekends for the club.
Alan Hutton is out for Aston Villa, but they are significantly boosted by the return of Micah Richards, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carlos Sanchez and Jack Grealish.
Leicester are unable to call upon Matt James and Jeffrey Schlupp, but are likely to name an unchanged starting XI.