Complete Preview returns as Aston Villa host Leicester City at Villa Park today.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa host the closest contenders to Liverpool’s league dominance this afternoon as Leicester City travel to Villa Park.
Leicester look rejuvenated under Brendan Rodgers – and will look to keep the distance between themselves and the league leaders as short as possible.
The arrival of Brendan Rodgers to the King Power Stadium has to be heralded as one of the strongest managerial appointments of recent time.
The Northern Irish manager has his Leicester City squad eating out of the palm of his hand right now – and it’s doing wonders for the Foxes on the pitch.
Since his crowning as their manager, Rodgers has taken charge of 28 games and won 18 of them, a strong record that sees him close to surpassing Claude Puel’s 23 wins across two years in charge.
Rodgers currently boasts a win percentage of 64%, the highest of all modern-day managers at Leicester, but you have to take into account the amount of games he has managed in. To put things into perspective, Claudio Ranieri – who lead the Foxes to their 2015/16 title, boasted a win percentage of 44% during his time in charge.
Don’t sing about… Rebekah Vardy
Please, if you’re reading this and attending the game at Villa Park today – whatever you do – don’t sing about Rebekah Vardy.
Crystal Palace found out the hard way as Jamie Vardy scored and shithoused his way out of the box, celebrating like a soaring Eagle in a middle finger to the fans who had been singing about his wife’s Coleen Rooney drama.
The former England international does not need an excuse to score at the moment, sitting comfortably at the top of the league’s top scorer charts with 14 goals and three assists. Impressively, he’s scored at least in seven out of seven of his last games and is on track to break his own record – one that he stole from Ruud van Nistelrooy.
He averages the highest accuracy of shots on target out of the top five top scorers in the Premier League, hitting 23 shots out of 34 on goal – a 68% accuracy.
Currently boasting an xG of 8.9 due to a number of penalty goals, the forward is certainly someone for Aston Villa to fear. If you’re a gambler, it might be worth throwing a few pennies on Vardy to grab a goal.
Mad for it
This game sees two of the Premier League’s most compared players, and two of its closest friends face each-other in the form of James Maddison and Jack Grealish.
Generally, statistically Jack is the better overall player but Maddison has some stand-out statistics himself.
Jack involves himself more defensively, making 1.2 more interceptions of the ball every 30 minutes, as well as trumping Maddison in the number of key passes, his forward passing accuracy and ball recoveries.
Maddison, however, makes nearly 3 more passes in the final third than Grealish, despite hosting a slightly worse assists per 90 minute quota. This means that the Leicester City midfielder is often attempting that killer ball to a forward – something to look out for.
They both have the same amount of assists, but Maddison boasts a better xG than Grealish – likely due to the increased quality of striker at Leicester. The Foxes midfielder also has two more goals compared to Jack in all competitions.
Grealish will be looking to prove himself against a backdrop of one of the big cruxes in his International aspirations – and hopefully, he’ll be the better player today.
Aston Villa have enjoyed relatively good form at home this season – losing two games – Bournemouth and Liverpool.
The Bournemouth game should have had a different scoreline with two costly mistakes as the club tried to find their footing back in the Premier League, and the Liverpool score is an unfair show of what was one of Aston Villa’s strongest displays this season.
Leicester have been strong home and away, however. They have, though, picked up their two losses this season away from home – against Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as drawing to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
It’s been the case where nine times out of ten, Aston Villa have looked a strong side against top-six opposition this season but often not come away with points.
The Foxes are in exquisite form and it will be a true test for Aston Villa to keep them quiet – but at Villa Park, who knows what could happen.
All eyes on the Saints
Aston Villa have had a pretty tough run of fixtures leading up to Christmas which relaxes a little after the game following the Foxes against shock Premier League strollers Sheffield United.
At the same time as tomorrow’s game kicks off, Southampton will kick-off at St. James’ Park against Newcastle.
Should the Saints pick up anything from the game tomorrow and Aston Villa pick up nothing, Aston Villa will find themselves in the relegation zone either one point or three points adrift – a position that isn’t the end of the world at this stage of the season – but an ideal one nonetheless.