Aston Villa v Leicester
Sunday February 21, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports
Villa exceeding expectations
Having only avoided an immediate return to the Championship on the final day of last season with a 1-1 draw at West Ham, Aston Villa began this campaign as one of the teams considered most likely to get relegated and they were matched at a low of just 2.546/4 for the drop but they’ve exceeded the expectations of even the most ardent Villa fans.
Sitting in eighth place in the Premier League, with one or two games in hand on every other club, Villa are odds-on in the Premier League handicap market and they’ve already enjoyed some unbelievable success.
Having kicked off the season with a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Sheffield United, Villa sandwiched away wins at Fulham (3-0) and Leicester (1-0) with an incredible 7-2 home win against the champions, Liverpool, and there are even faint hopes of Champions League football for the 1982 European Cup winners but since being unbeaten throughout December, Villa’s form has been a little patchy of late.
Since readily beating Crystal Palace 3-0 on Boxing Day, Villa have won just three of their last nine in the Premier League and manager, Dean Smith, described their performance at Brighton last time out, where they had goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, to thank for the 0-0 result, as “bang average”.
Flying Foxes travelling well
Villa’s form might be a bit patchy of late but Leicester’s certainly isn’t. The Foxes have lost just one of their last 14 in all competitions and they’re even better away from home than they are at the King Power Stadium. They’re unbeaten on the road in their last 10 away games in all competitions.
Their 5-2 win at the champions-elect, Manchester City, is the highlight of the season so far but there’s been a string of solid results on the road and the only team to beat them in 12 Premier League away games are the current champions, Liverpool, way back in November.
Following Thursday night’s 0-0 draw away at Slava Prague, they’re looking in a fairly strong position to progress in the Europa League, they face Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the F.A Cup next month, and they currently sit third in the Premier League, behind Man United in second on goal difference only.
It’s been a fabulous season for the Foxes so far and there’s no reason to think they’ll fall away anywhere near as badly as they did last term. Leicester are odds-on to finish inside the top-four and to qualify for the Champions League again and at odds in excess of 3/1, they look viable alternatives to United in the W/out Man City & Liverpool market.
Omens look good for the Foxes
Villa beat Leicester 1-0 at the King Power back in October but they haven’t done the double over them since the 2003/04 season and they lost this fixture 4-1 last season.
Villa’s thrashing of Liverpool was a bizarre result and very much a one-off as it’s their only victory in their last 20 Premier League matches against opponents starting the day of the game in the top three of the table.
That’s a good omen for the Foxes and so too is the fact that their manger, Brendon Rodgers, has won all five of his away Premier League games against Aston Villa as a manager and that star striker, Jamie Vardy, has scored five goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Aston Villa.
Playing away in the Czech Republic as recently as Thursday could be a construed as a concern for Leicester given Villa haven’t played since their Martinez-inspired draw at Brighton last weekend but it didn’t hamper them earlier in the season…
On the six occasions Leicester played in the group stages on a Thursday night, they returned to the Premier League with five victories and one defeat. They beat Arsenal, Leeds and Sheffield United away, as well as Wolves and Brighton at home and their sole loss was at home to Fulham and that game was staged on the Monday night anyway.
Looking at the side markets, given there have been less than three goals scored in five of Leicester’s last six away games in the Premier League, and that there have been two or less goals in five of Villa’s last seven in the Premier League, odds-against for Under in the Under/Over 2.5 Goals market looks more than fair but I’m going to keep things simple and back Leicester to win again on the road. Odds of around 6/4 look decent.