It only feels like it was yesterday since Trezuget bundled the ball in the back of the net to send us to Wembley – unfortunately we’ve had to deal with the disappointing reality check of losing to Manchester City in the final. Though, beating Leicester recently could well play a big part in how tonight’s clash plays out.
Leicester are coming into this game off the back of a shocking loss to Norwich, after only managing one win in their previous five Premier League outings, the Foxes will certainly be hunting for revenge at the King Power.
Despite losing the final, I feel that Villa played well in parts – If Villa put in a performance as they did at Wembley, we stand a chance of taking all three points on the road. A key component in our cup final performance, which I feel has been overlooked – is the change in formation to 4-2-3-1.
As a famous man once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, which is why in my opinion – we must ditch Deans three at the back experiment. We showed the defensive discipline which we’ve lacked truly since the first emergence of “Mingles” early on in the season.
Playing with two holding midfielder in the form of Luiz and Nakamba was a strong foundation to set the midfield up with – having Nakamba there to break up the play and Luiz to spring a counter attack from deep, playing balls up to Tanzinia’s finest – Samatta.
This is defiantly a formation which will ensure the best out of someone like Samatta, who’s willing to run the channels, chase long balls, and even pop in the box to meet a cross from El Ghazi, Grealish and co.
As I mentioned in the latest edition of the Villa Filler Podcast, I feel that there is a strong case for the exact starting XI from Wembley, to start again tonight. Conor Hourihane may feel hard done by for this, but I do however see him playing a big part in tonight’s game.
View Across the Dugout:
To aid me in this preview, I spoke with James Sharpe, of the Mail on Sunday, to find out more about Leicester and find out how he see’s this clash playing out. Thank you for your time, James.
With only one win in your previous five outings in the league, do you fear that 2nd place is out of reach now?
Leicester fans stopped looking at second place a long time ago. The only concern now is staying in the top four. And concern is the key word, especially with Chelsea and Man Utd winning yesterday. Leicester’s form since Christmas has been dreadful. The zip and intensity that was so impressive at the start of the season has disappeared, their passing has been slow and laboured, making too many errors defensively, key players completely out of form and lacking confidence. They even made hard work of getting past Birmingham in the FA Cup. Leicester need to win tonight. Offer me fourth place on goal difference now and I’ll snap your hand off.
Jamie Vardy should be fit for the encounter, being the top scorer in the league – how important is this man to how Leicester play?
He’s a huge part of it. He sets the tone from the front with his pressing and there are few more ruthless finishers in the division, even if he is on his longest goal drought in over three years. Leicester struggle for consistent goal scorers without him.
The concern, with Vardy now 33, is that he’s been picking up a few injuries recently. Rodgers has admitted the club are a little worried by it. That’s hindered his current form, too.
Even more importantly though is the return of Wilfred Ndidi. He’s the one they’ve missed the most. They failed to win all four of the games he missed through having surgery on his knee. He’s crucial in front of the back four. Rodgers has basically said he’s irreplaceable. He’s the one who holds the key to keeping Leicester in the top four.
Do you feel with the late kick off, under the floodlights at the KP, does this further enhance the home field advantage?
It could be. Depends on who starts the game better. If Leicester start well, the atmosphere in the KP can be exceptional. However. There’s a lot of anxiety around the place at the minute, there’s worry that the Champions League could be slipping. If Villa get on top early, the fans could start to get frustrated and they aren’t shy in letting their feelings be known. That could make for a difficult evening.
Despite the recent result against Villa, which saw them advance to the League Cup Final. Do you feel playing us so recently can only be a good thing for Brendan and the team?
Do we have to mention that?! There was some real, bitter disappointment at failing to reach Wembley. It’s been 20 years since Leicester last reached a cup final and, when you consider the two sides’ league positions, that was as big an opportunity as they could have hoped for. But you guys were excellent and deserved it. (We just won’t mention VAR!) Maybe it will help get some sort of revenge, but that will be something for the fans to get their teeth into more than Rodgers or the players.
Finally, can I get an expected XI and score prediction?
Vardy will come back in and Chilwell is injured so Fuchs will probably start at left-back.
(4-1-4-1) Schmeichel; Periera, Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs; Ndidi; Perez, Praet, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy.
Erm, I’m going with 2-1 to Leicester. And I say that from behind the sofa and peeping through my fingers.
I’d like to thank James again for giving his time to answer my questions. As to how I think this game will pan out? I’m trying to remain optimistic, if Villa are to stay up, this is the kind of game we need to be taking points from. With teams like Bournemouth and West Ham showing they’re capable of causing upsets against the “big six”, we’ve got to remain competitive and start getting points on the board.
Leicester will be gunning for revenge, but I’ve got a funny feeling that Villa will sneak this, 2-1. Samatta and Grealish to score. Big games require big players to step up – so it couldn’t be anyone else really, could it?
If you’d like a more in-depth preview from a Villa perspective, check out our latest edition of The Villa Filler Podcast. If we reach 2000 subscribers before West Ham (A) Dan and myself will be giving away a Samatta shirt. Linked below!