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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Leicester City

Sports Mole looks ahead to matchday 22's Saturday-night Premier League contest as Aston Villa go for back-to-back wins against high-flying Leicester City.

After finally ending their club-record winless run on Tuesday night, lowly Aston Villa next welcome high-flying Leicester City to Villa Park on Saturday evening.

The visitors are the Premier League's best away team and know that victory will take them top of the table for a day at least with Arsenal not playing until Sunday.


Remi Garde looks on prior to the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 © Getty Images

Villa had a great chance to win for the first time under Remi Garde at the weekend, but they could not overcome League Two side Wycombe Wanderers and will have to beat them in a replay later this month if they are to progress in the FA Cup.

However, at the 11th attempt, the Frenchman finally got that winning feeling as Villa edged out Crystal Palace to stop their Premier League winless streak at 19 games.

Results in midweek largely went their way as well, so the gap to safety has been cut to eight points and a run of good form could see them climb the table in the next month or so.

Villa are now looking to win back-to-back league games for the first time since May, and both of those triumphs over Everton and West Ham United were also at home.

The winning goal on Tuesday was certainly a lucky one as Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey fumbled Joleon Lescott's header over the line.

It came in the 58th minute and Villa have scored just five first-half goals this season, a league low. The Birmingham side have also not scored earlier than the 40th minute in a Premier League game since September and even that was a 39th-minute effort from Jack Grealish against Saturday's opponents Leicester.

At home in the league this season, Villa have managed only seven goals in 10 games, which is four fewer than any other team in front of their own fans.

Recent Premier League form: LDDLLW
Recent form (all competitions): DDLLDW


Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri celebrates his teams third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle and Leicester City at St James Park on November 21, 2015© Getty Images

Just when people were saying that the wheels were coming off for Leicester, they recorded arguably their best win of the season on Wednesday night by defeating Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

In the second of three meetings in 10 days against the North London side, Robert Huth thundered home a late header to steal the points for the Foxes, who had ridden their luck at times at White Hart Lane.

With Arsenal conceding a late leveller at Liverpool, Leicester are level on points with the Gunners at the top of the table and eight clear of West Ham United outside the top four.

Huth's header ended a 374-minute wait for a Premier League goal for the Foxes, who had failed to score in their previous three games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Bournemouth after netting at least one in their first 17 games of the season.

Jamie Vardy is still the joint-top scorer in the league with 15, but he has now managed just one goal and six shots on target in his last seven games after breaking the Premier League record by netting in 11 straight games.

Just one goal in four games since Christmas then, but defensively Leicester have improved with three straight clean sheets. Another shutout on Saturday would be the first time that they have managed four in a row in the Premier League.

With 43 points from 21 games, Claudio Ranieri's side have already claimed two more points this season than they managed throughout the entirety of last season.

Recent Premier League form: WWLDDW
Recent form (all competitions): WLDDDW

Team News

Jamie Vardy attempts auto-fellatio during the game between Leicester City and Manchester City on December 29, 2015© Getty Images

Ranieri is managing Vardy's injury in training so that he can play in matches, and the striker is expected to again play from the start despite looking a little out of sorts against Spurs.

Apart from Vardy, Ranieri has no new injury concerns, although Matty James is close to a return after eight months out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Garde could stick with the same XI that started Tuesday's win, but he only made one substitution and that was in added time, so changes could be made to freshen things up.

Regulars Brad Guzan and Micah Richards were dropped for Palace's visit and may return in place of Mark Bunn and Jores Okore.

Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Bacuna, Richards, Lescott, Cissokho; Gueye, Westwood, Veretout; Gil, Ayew; Kozak

Leicester possible starting lineup:
Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Kante, Drinkwater, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy

Head To Head

Leicester came from two goals down to win for only the second time in their Premier League history in the reverse fixture earlier this season as three goals arrived after the 70-minute mark at the King Power Stadium.

Villa have won only four of their 19 Premier League meetings against Leicester (D8 L7), but they have won three of the last four at Villa Park (W3 L1).

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We say: Villa 0-2 Leicester

Leicester defended well to keep out Spurs on Wednesday night and it is hard to see Villa making it back-to-back wins against the high-flying Foxes, who are due a good performance from the likes of Mahrez and Vardy.

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Aston Villa's French manager Remi Garde watches his players during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on December 13, 2015.
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