Aston Villa host Leicester on Sunday afternoon, as Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers rekindle an old flame in the Premier League.
Gerrard suffered his first defeat as Villa boss last time out, but there were plenty of positives to take from the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City – the loss following wins in his first two games in charge against Brighton and Crystal Palace.
The mood is a little more subdued in Rodgers’ Leicester camp as the club continue to lack consistency. The Foxes are only just in the top half of the Premier League table, and the midweek 2-2 draw with Southampton highlighted their ongoing deficiencies at the back.
That said, performances do seem to have improved after being dismantled by Chelsea at King Power Stadium, with subsequent wins against Legia Warsaw and Watford – alongside the Southampton draw – making it three unbeaten for Rodgers’ charges.
Here’s 90min’s preview of the clash at Villa Park.
When is kick off? Sunday 5 December, 16:30 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Villa Park, Birmingham
What TV channel is it on? Sky Sports Premier League (UK), fuboTV (US)
Highlights? Sky Sports Football YouTube channel, BBC Match of the Day (UK)
Who’s the referee? Michael Oliver
Who’s the VAR? Paul Tierney
Gerrard’s injury woes had looked to be diminishing heading into the festive period, although he was given two fresh concerns following the clash with City.
Leon Bailey was forced off in the first half of that game, visibly distraught and holding his hamstring, so his inclusion this Sunday is highly unlikely. Matt Targett’s availability is also in question, though he should have recovered from a blow to the head to feature.
Bertrand Traore, Trezeguet and Danny Ings remain sidelined.
You can read Aston Villa’s predicted lineup here.
Youri Tielemans is edging closer to a first team return as he continues his rehabilitation from injury, although this weekend may come too quickly for him.
Ricardo Pereira, James Justin and Wesley Fofana are ruled out through injury, but Rodgers has confirmed that in-form James Maddison – who was a minor doubt – should be ready for the trip to Villa Park.
You can read Leicester’s predicted lineup here.
The Foxes boast the better record in the two sides’ head to head record, winning 44 times compared to Villa’s 35 victories. The two have shared the spoils 25 times.
Leicester have also held the upper hand in recent years, which is hardly surprising given the two club’s varying fortunes since 2015. Since the beginning of that year, the Villans have beaten Leicester just three times in 10 meetings, losing to the Foxes on five occasions.
In terms of Premier League matters, Rodgers has beaten Saturday’s hosts twice in the past three encounters, including a 4-0 thumping in March 2020 – the last Premier League game played in front of a capacity crowd before Covid-19 hit hard.
Gerrard and Rodgers know each other incredibly well – courtesy of their shared time at Liverpool and a subsequent inseparable record against each other as managers of Rangers and Celtic – and, in truth, there isn’t all that much to separate the two teams.
Leicester have lacked consistency, by their usual high standards, and are lagging behind in the race for European qualification. Villa have been equally as disappointing, with faint pre-season hopes of challenging for a European place quickly put on the back burner.
Dean Smith’s dismissal and Gerrard’s subsequent arrival appears to have given Villa a lift, though, and the clamour to impress the new manager could be enough to see off Leicester. Jamie Vardy will have something to say about that, but the home side, roared on by a capacity crowd, could bag another narrow victory.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Leicester