Aston Villa v Leicester City: Expect goals galore in Midlands battle
Leicester City have shown remarkable consistency in the last couple of months, but Kevin Hatchard believes they'll be tested by Aston Villa this weekend.
Aston Villa v Leicester City Sunday December 8, 14:00 Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Villa on track to achieve main target
Despite fears at the start of the season that Aston Villa might "do a Fulham" and fall well short of the Premier League standard required despite significant summer investment, Dean Smith's team is keeping its head above water. Admittedly, the West Midlands giants are only a point above the bottom three after 15 matches of a 38-game marathon, but they are still in that position at the end of the campaign, they'll be delighted.
Like most newly-promoted sides, Villa are relying upon their home form for survival. Three of their four top-flight wins this term have come at Villa Park, although encouragingly they have been able to ruffle some feathers on the road. They gave Chelsea a scare in a 2-1 defeat, and recently drew 2-2 at Old Trafford.
As expected, mercurial midfielder Jack Grealish has played a key role. Opta tell us that including playoff games, he has been involved in 11 goals in his last 14 appearances at Villa Park. Scottish international John McGinn has also been excellent, with three goals and two assists in the league this term.
Frederic Guilbert is pushing for a return after his suspension concluded, and there are no fresh injury concerns.
Rodgers deal a sign of Foxes' progress
Leicester City have become used to redefining the boundaries of what is possible in Premier League football. After pulling off the most extraordinary of title wins in 2016, the Foxes understandably slipped slightly out of the limelight, but under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers they are back in a title race. With the team winning games, scoring goals and playing with style and swagger, it's no wonder that Rodgers has been given a bumper new contract that takes him through to 2025.
There is a lot of talk these days about teams rebuilding over multiple transfer windows, as if they are footballing super-tankers that need an age to be turned around. Rodgers has dispelled that myth. He has quickly bedded in his attractive style of play, and the former Liverpool boss has been backed up by smart recruitment. Last term, LCFC finished ninth after a poor start to the campaign under Claude Puel, and now they are pushing Liverpool at the Premier League summit. Going into this weekend, Leicester were eight points off top spot, and looking down on the rest of the league.
Rodgers has helped to deliver a run of seven straight Premier League wins, and another success at Villa Park would break the club record for a top-flight winning streak. They haven't won four straight away games in the Premier League since their title-winning season.
England left-back Ben Chilwell missed the midweek win over Watford with a hip injury, and faces a late fitness test. Demarai Gray is also hoping to feature, but isn't fully fit.
Leicester fair favourites, but unattractive at odds-on
Given their winning streak, you can see why Leicester City are the 1.84 favourites here, but Villa's home record should give us pause for thought. They have won three of their last four home games in all competitions, and their only loss on home soil in the last seven outings was a dramatic defeat to league leaders Liverpool.
At [1.84], I can't get excited about backing the visitors.
Goals on the cards as east meets west
This Midlands derby should be entertaining. Villa have scored in all but one of their home matches this term, and have scored twice in five of the last seven. Leicester have rattled in at least two goals in their last eight matches, and although they have been keeping plenty of clean sheets, I'd be surprised if they managed to keep Villa at bay for the entire 90 minutes.
I'll back a BTTS/Over 2.5 Goals double on the Sportsbook at 1.82.
Vardy the only show in town
Given that Leicester striker Jamie Vardy has scored in his last seven games, and that we expect goals in this match, he has to be considered in the To Score market at 5/6. He's banged in 14 goals in 15 Premier League matches, and even at odds-on he seems attractively priced.