Aston Villa are away against Leicester City on Sunday, so it's only right that we look back to the last time that the two sides met. That's right folks, it's my favourite preview series, Don't look back in anger.
The last time we met
Picture the scene, Aston Villa are in 19th place in the Premier League and playing pretty dismally. Paul Lambert had just been sacked for being a bit rubbish. Things were looking pretty glum and no one was really looking forward to the FA Cup fifth round tie against Leicester City, particularly after City had beaten Villa the previous month. Scott Marshall was managing the side that day, but all eyes were on the guy sitting beside Tom Fox in the stands. A handsome, yet mysterious stranger. This guy:
The game itself was a chance for newly appointed manager Tim Sherwood to see his side in action before taking the helm. Inspired by his magnificent presence at Villa Park, the side actually looked good in the second half, with goals from Leandro Bacuna and Scott Sinclair helping Villa to a 2-1 win. Shay Given was particularly impressive, making a truly world class save to deny Matt James. Highlights of the game can be seen below, thanks to the magic of the FA Cup.
What happened next?
After Villa saw off Leicester, their Premier League form improved under Sherwood's masterful gaze, and the club safely avoided relegation. As for the FA Cup, the win against Leicester spurred the side on to defeat West Brom, Liverpool,
and finally Arsenal to lift the trophy. Almost, at least.
By all accounts, Leicester City should have been relegated last season. They were an average side, playing average football, and in a competitive division such as the Premier League, such mediocrity should have seen them drop to the Championship. But thanks to some Jamie Vardy and Nigel Pearson voodoo magic, they started playing some great football, winning 7 of their last 9 games. Ultimately, this was enough for Leicester to not only avoid relegation, but finish in 14th place, which almost looks good, until you realise that they were placed in the relegation zone for 21 weeks of the season.
Leicester this season
Leicester this season are a completely different side. They are almost likable. Okay, not quite, but the fact is, Leicester are far less detestable than they were last season.
For all us journalists, the fear of being called an ostrich is over, because Nigel Pearson was sacked at the end of the season! As Leicester manager, most of us thought that Pearson was a d**k, and he was sacked for disagreeing with the owner's decision to sack Nigel Pearson's son for being a racist sex fiend, so, calling the family Pearson D**k's is kinda justified. After his dismissal, Leicester appointed Claudio Ranieri as manager, a well respected journeyman in football management.
Aside from looking like a guy that got lost on a stadium tour, Ranieri is a huge step up from the previous regime. His squad is a step up from last season too, out goes noted enemy of Villa, Paul Konchesky, and in came a host of talented players such as Shinji Okazaki and Gokhan Inler. So whilst they are now for likable, they are also far more dangerous than last season.
It isn't Leicester's new signings, or even the new manager that is the biggest threat to Villa come Sunday. That distinction goes to Leicester's Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez, with former Villa man Marc Albrighton as an honorary mention. Last season, Mahrez netted four times for the Foxes in 30 games. Four games into this season, he has already matched that. His form is absolutely lethal at present, to the extent that Barcelona are apparently interested in signing him. Now, that's probably just a rumour, but there is no denying that he will be a real threat to Villa's left side. Leandro Bacuna/Alan Hutton won't have it much easier however, Marc Albrighton is playing just as well on the opposite flank. On the bright side, I have Mahrez in my fantasy football team, so there is that...
Don't panic just yet folks! Just reading this so far, it's painting a pretty good picture of Leicester's season so far. To a certain extent, this is true, but although they are sitting pretty in 3rd place, they have failed to win the last two and have conceded in every game so far. This could play into Villa's hands, because if any manager follows the philosophy of scoring more than the opposition, at the expense of defence, it's our man Tim.
Finally, a quick look at Leicester's backline compared to Aston Villa's frontline. Wes Morgan, slow. Jordan Ayew, quick. Robert Huth, slow. Scott Sinclair, quick. Marcin Wasilewski, the very slowest. Adama Traore, lightening quick. Obviously there's more to it than that, but it's worth noting for sure. One of the slowest defences in the division, against one of the quickest attacks.
Now, some of Leicester's fans still suck, and they haven't totally redeemed themselves from the horrible team of old. But Aston Villa play both Birmingham City and West Brom next week, so save up your hate folks. Until next week. Thanks for reading!