Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Leicester City

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  • Aston Villa has won 3 of the last 4 vs Leicester at home
  • Leicester has a Premier League-best 24 points on the road
  • Claudio Raneri beat Remi Garde twice in 2013/14 in Ligue 1

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Neither of these teams were supposed to be here. Aston Villa, a big club struggling to stay afloat, is suddenly bottom of the table. Leicester City, a newly-promoted side just three years ago, is suddenly contending for the Champions League.

Yet here we are, in mid-January, and we know exactly where these teams fit into the table. No more talk about if Leicester is a contender – they’re clearly of that caliber. No more talk about if Aston Villa is truly a relegation candidate – they’re fighting for their lives.

The two will face off on Saturday at Villa Park(Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) with entirely different goals in mind.

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Leicester City has lost one Premier League game since mid-September, a 1-0 stumble on the road at Liverpool. That record, thanks largely to a stunningly secure back line that got little to no credit behind the new-found stardom of Jamie Vardy and Riyed Mahrez, is an absurd number for the club that is rocketing to new heights every week. Now, in the face of adversity, that back line has dug in even more. With Vardy’s goals drying up – he hasn’t scored since December 13, partly due to injuries – and the entire team struggling to produce in front of net, the club hasn’t allowed a single goal since that Liverpool loss, a string of 297 minutes. The defenders are even picking up the slack up front, with Robert Huth scoring the winner midweek against Tottenham.

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That doesn’t bode well for a Villa side that has struggled to produce creative opportunities for the better part of two years. They broke a 19-match unbeaten streak on Wednesday, but still sit seven points shy of pulling themselves out of the Premier League basement. The win, 1-0 over injury-plagued Crystal Palace, will certainly give supporters a glimmer of hope moving forward, but didn’t exactly inspire confidence of greater things to come.

What they’re saying

Leicester City manager Claudio Raneri“I think slowly, slowly [the players] believe they can do something special. It’s not easy of course, but it is important to try.”

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde“I would like to have my touch – my personal touch on the team. It takes time. At the moment, let’s say we are at half-time in the [transfer] window – still two weeks to go. Sometimes it’s like in the game – in the last minute you will score a very important goal. Let’s say that the first two weeks I have worked very hard on that. It’s very clear in my mind what I need. Then hopefully I will have it.”

Prediction

Aston Villa has scored 17 goals this season, worst in the Premier League. Leicester City has conceded eight goals in its last 11 matches. Tack on the fact that Remi Garde’s Lyon side was beaten twice by Claudio Raneri’s Monaco in the 2013/14 Ligue 1 season, and things don’t look too promising for Aston Villa. Leicester takes them down with relative ease, a 3-0 scoreline which keeps the Foxes’ defensive streak alive.