If you believe everything you read, this would be billed as the match between two manager-less teams. Nigel Pearson was recently sacked, then hastily reinstated despite the media telling us otherwise. Paul Lambert of course wasn’t awarded the same leniency, and bizarre rumours are now speculating that he actually asked to be sacked twice before finally being given the boot this week.
If this were a Premier League tie, the stakes would be huge in the wake of the multi-billion pound deal that has recently been negotiated between Sky and the Premier League. Avoiding the Championship for as long as possible could provide a healthy bounty for the club’s accountants. As it stands, (only) the prestige and honour of the FA Cup is at stake, and this could create a much more open, and less tense affair.
Aston Villa have no new injury worries, and Ron Vlaar could return for them at the heart of the defence. Libor Kozak (broken leg) and Phillipe Senderos (thigh) remain as Villa’s long term absentees. Christian Benteke is expected to lead the attack for Sunday’s match.
Leicester too have an almost fully fit squad to choose from. Kasper Schmeichel and Chris Wood are still sidelined, while there are doubts over Matthew Upson’s fitness. Ben Hamer could replace Mark Schwarzer in goal. Andrej Kramaric is also expected to start after breaking his duck against Arsenal.
- Leicester have been reduced to ten men in both matches against Villa this season. The referee could be busy once again.
- Villa have won four of the previous six meetings between the sides, though both teams have recorded three points against the other this season.
- Scott and Andy Marshall will manage Villa if Paul Lambert’s replacement is still undecided.
- Jores Okore’s goal against Chelsea was Villa’s first in almost 11 (eleven) hours of Premier League football.
Possible Line Ups
Aston Villa (4-3-3)
Given, Hutton, Vlaar, Clark, Cissokho, Sanchez, Westwood, Delph, Gil, Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Leicester City (4-4-2)
Hamer, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Konchesky, Mahrez, Cambiasso, James, Schlupp, Ulloa, Kramaric.
Gil, pronounced ‘hill’, has provided a much needed boost to Villa’s attacking options after signing for £3.2 million in January. Although he has only started three games in the Premier League so far, Gil provided the assist for Okore’s goal against Chelsea. At just 22, Gil’s best years are ahead of him and he could turn out to be a very important player if Villa can keep hold of him. Playing on the right of midfield, or the right of a front three, Gil’s composure on the ball and eye for a pass could be the key to unlocking Leicester’s defence. In 2 starts for Valencia he provided one goal and one assist before his move to The Midlands, and his passing accuracy in a Villa team low on confidence is up at 89%. Impressive.
Mahrez has arguably been Leicester’s stand-out performer so far this season, and was sorely missed when away on international duty with Algeria. The pacy winger, who can play left or right, has scored two, and assisted three goals in 17 starts so far this season. With both Ulloa and Kramaric valuable assets in the air, Mahrez will provide quality service, as well as a turn of pace that can get him into dangerous positions. The slick surface of Villa Park could be an ideal playground for Mahrez to demonstrate his full repetoire on Sunday.
The FA Cup has been a nightmare for predictions this year, so I’m going to go for 3-2 to Villa, just because I can.