The month of December shapes the Premier League table and both of these teams could find themselves deep in the relegation zone if they have a bad few weeks. This fixture provides both with an excellent opportunity to pick up three points. Neither have been clinical in recent weeks, therefore this weekend’s match won’t be filled with goals, but it will still be an intriguing match to watch as both sides need to start picking up points on a consistent basis. They are both expected to be fighting for survival come May, which makes getting points this weekend even more important as if they are going to survive – they need to be beating teams around them.
Aston Villa climbed up to 12th with a win over Crystal Palace, which made it four matches without a defeat as they slowly creep up the league table. They remain only four points above the relegation zone, but as only eight points separate the bottom ten clubs, a four point cushion is substantial, and a win on Sunday could see them overtake Everton in the standings. Villa have had a strange season so far, having only managed to find the net eight times, and are the only side in the division with single digits in the goals for column. The return of Christian Benteke from his ban will be a boost as he scored the winner at Palace. If he can recapture his form from his first season in England, Paul Lambert’s side will steer clear of the drop zone.
Meanwhile, the visitors on Sunday are going through a really poor run of form, having only picked up 2 points from a possible 27. Many observers were impressed by Leiceter in their opening run of games and the way they beat Manchester United convincingly made everyone think that they had firepower in the team. However since that match, they have only found the net in three matches out of nine, which highlights that their attack has a lot to learn at this level. In the Premier League, the quality of every side means that you need to be consistent, otherwise you will start to be cut adrift at the bottom. Only three points separate the bottom six, therefore there will be an opportunity for Leicester to climb the league if they start to get results, but that is a big if at the moment. Their run of fixtures in December is tough, with matches against Manchester City and Tottenham on the horizon, which makes getting three points at Villa Park even more important this weekend.
These two sides haven’t met in the league since the 2003/4 season, in which Aston Villa triumphed in both games. At home, they won 3-1, while away from home, they ran out 5-0 winners in a very one sided match. In their most recent meeting in the Carling Cup, Leicester won 1-0 at Villa Park thanks to a goal from Matty Fryatt. From the two sides that day, only Gabriel Agbonlahor will be playing this weekend.
- Aston Villa have only scored more than once in two of their last 24 league fixtures, and both times were against Hull. This weekend provides them with a chance to put that right.
- Leicester have lost their last five league matches away from home, they need to stop that run sooner rather than later, otherwise players will start to go into away matches to beaten mindsets.
Christian Benteke has failed to live up to the heights he hit in his first season, but there is no doubt that he is a top class talent who could still become a top striker in England. This remainder of this season is going to be very important to the Belgian. If he starts to score with regularity, there will be a great chance for him to get a move to a bigger club and you have to feel that is what Benteke wants. He hasn’t looked happy at Villa since signing his new contract at the beginning of last season. There was a lot of interest in him that summer and he must have felt that he would have been set for a move this summer, but an injury prevented him from going to the World Cup and he became a forgotten man in the summer. Last season, he only managed ten goals and after breaking his duck for the season on Tuesday, he will be keen to surpass that number this season. If he manages to do that, then a move to a club like Tottenham or a similar side abroad could be on the cards and it looks like he needs a move to a team playing in European competition if he is to secure his place in the national side. He will be a threat on Sunday as he is dominant in the air and he will be more confident after getting a goal against Crystal Palace in the week.
Jeffrey Schlupp has been a bright spark for Leicester this season, his pace and direct approach make him a handful for defenders to deal with and he has the ability to contribute defensively too. He has always had a lot of potential, he nearly joined Manchester United a few years ago after an impressive trial period at the club and it is expected that this season could see him earn a move if Leicester are relegated. Although his main aim will be keeping Leicester in the top flight, as he is getting regular football in the Premier League and that is something he would like for a number of seasons to come. This season has seen the return of the direct pacy winger. Newcastle saw themselves rise up the table after employing two out and out wingers, while Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha have been impressive for Crystal Palace. Leicester could employ a similar system as they have a few good wingers at their disposal and the likes of Leonard Ulloa and David Nugent are very capable of scoring goals if the right service is forthcoming.
Villa have a lengthy injury list with Joe Cole and Ron Vlaar missing out this weekend, but they will be returning in the next couple of weeks. Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker are likely to be missing for a number of weeks yet. Villa will be boosted by the return of Fabian Delph later this month, which is a huge positive as they have missed him massively over the recent weeks.
Dean Hammond and David Nugent are both facing late fitness tests ahead of this huge match for Leicester, while Matt Upson is a couple of weeks away from a return. Ulloa is likely to lead the line this weekend and he desperately needs to return to the scoresheet as he has faded after an impressive start, his form has mirrored that of his club. Therefore if he returns to form, Leicester may return to winning ways.
It’s going to be a very close match as both sides have struggled to score goals in recent weeks. The main difference that could be defining on Sunday is that Villa have a lot more experience in the top flight and that could be telling. Also the return of Christian Benteke is a huge boost for Villa as he they have missed his goal threat this season. He has the ability to turn poor balls into great ones and his strength and power could be too much for Leicester. Last season’s Championship winners will have learned a lot from their recent run, but their confidence will be drained and I think it will be a very tight home win, with Benteke scoring his second winner in a week.
Aston Villa 1-0 Leicester City