ASTON VILLA host Leicester in Tuesday night's EFL Cup semi-final second leg. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Aston Villa v Leicester | Tuesday 28th January 2020, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Aston Villa and Leicester will fight it out for a place in the EFL Cup final at Wembley with the tie finely poised following a 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium in leg one.
Nobody could really argue that Aston Villa didn’t deserve the result that they earned in that first match as, despite being under the cosh for the majority of the match after bagging an early goal, they defended resolutely and will now be confident of progressing past their Midlands rivals even if they are considered outsiders.
Leicester won 4-1 on at Villa Park back in a December league fixture which was Brendan Rodgers’ men at their clinical best but the atmosphere is likely to be very different this time around given that draw in leg one and Villa’s last gasp victory over Watford just a week ago.
The Claret and Blue side’s record under the lights in evening kick-offs this season at Villa Park is an impressive five wins out of six and boyhood Villa fan Dean Smith has talked up the atmosphere in the build-up to encourage the home faithful to push his team on to the final on 1st March.
Villa won this competition in its inaugural year (1961) so winning it again, even if it is a distraction to the Premier League form, would be a great moment for the supporters and give them increased bragging rights over city rivals Birmingham who won the League Cup themselves in 2011.
Leicester looked back to their best in the 4-1 win over West Ham last week, benefitting from their opponents’ rather generous defending in the final 20 minutes to win in comfortable fashion. The return of Wilfred Ndidi was a massive boost to give the back four the necessary protection it sometimes needs.
West Ham were not able to hurt the Hammers anywhere near as much as previous opposition Burnley and Southampton had done and a lot of that was down to the re-introduction of the Nigerian who came on as a first half substitute.
Like Villa’s number 10 Jack Grealish, James Maddison is integral to the Foxes’ attacking success and linking up play to the front man – often Jamie Vardy but in the case that striker does not shake off a glute injury, in-form Kelechi Iheanacho will provide a stern test for Aston Villa’s defence instead should the 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 be adopted.
Maddison to play key role
Maddison managed eight shots in the first leg as Leicester peppered the Villa goal with attempts, twice as many as any other Leicester player and with the England man being accustomed to an effort from range and often the preferred free-kick taker, I’m happy to back him to have at least three shots in the game with Betfair, priced at 5/6 which is much more generous than other bookies with these markets available.
Of course the bet could be dependent on how the game plays out but even if Leicester score early, I can see them having chances on the counter-attack where they are often at their most lethal as Villa will be forced to push forward in search of a route back into the tie.
However, even if an early goal doesn’t arrive or Villa break the deadlock, Leicester should be in control and create opportunities that, more often or not, will either be created by or finished by Maddison in the form of a shot.
In games that he has started this season on the road, Maddison has got at least two shots away in eight of these 11 matches with two of the three where it didn’t land coming against Liverpool and Manchester City so I’m confident in backing the attacking midfielder to have at least one more shot than the two marker in a match City should control, no matter the outcome.
Tenacious display expected from Douglas Luiz
A man for the home XI that will be responsible for keeping Maddison quiet will be Douglas Luiz. The Brazilian made a mistake in leg one which led to Leicester’s equaliser so you would assume he will be fired up to make amends in this fixture and therefore, in the different prop markets, the midfielder to be booked appeals at 5/2 with Betfair.
The man from Rio has committed seven fouls in two games against Leicester this season which, at an average of 3.5 per-game, is significantly higher than his season-long foul count of 1.2 per-match – highlighting that he could get the attention of the man-in-the-middle Mike Dean (which doesn’t take much!) here if he’s equally as aggressive.
No fit player in the Villa squad has committed more fouls in home games than the youngster and if you look at the matches he has also picked up a yellow card at home this season, they have been huge spectacles with lots riding on them – namely Norwich and Watford – the latter game where he picked up a card for jumping into the adoring crowd after scoring at the Holte End.
Luiz will almost certainly start here with Danny Drinkwater cup-tied and if he’s dispossessed as easily as he was at the King Power Stadium, he may be forced into a tactical foul if it means preventing a Leicester goal. Factor in that there could be a card or two flying around from the prolific Mr Dean for time wasting should Villa be in a positive position towards the end of the game, then I’m happy to back Luiz at the odds on offer.
Leicester should have enough quality to progress past Dean Smith’s troops but they’ll have to negotiate 40 odd thousand Villans to reach a final that their season probably deserves.