Leicester City and Aston Villa will look to take a step towards reaching the Carabao Cup final when they lock horns in the semi-final first leg on Wednesday.
The penultimate stage of the Carabao Cup has kicked off, with Manchester City cruising to a 3-1 win over Manchester United on Tuesday night. The second semi-final will see Leicester City and Aston Villa clashing, with the first leg taking place at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
Leicester City reached the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup by beating Everton on penalties in the Last 8 stage, following a thrilling 2-2 draw in regulation time. Since that result, the Foxes saw a slight dip in form, losing back-to-back games to Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League, but have recovered with wins in each of their last three games.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, progressed to the latest round by handing a 5-0 mauling to a young Liverpool side in the quarter-finals. The Villans have blown hot and cold since then, winning two of their last five fixtures, with their latest result seeing them bow out of the FA Cup at the hands of Fulham.
Leicester and Aston Villa have already faced each other once this season, with the Foxes coasting to a 4-1 win at Villa Park in the Premier League last month. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Brendan Rodgers has greeted a mix of good and bad news on the team news front ahead of the visit of Aston Villa. On Wednesday, the Leicester City boss will be without four first-team players, with club captain Wes Morgan the latest to be sidelined, having picked up a groin injury in the Foxes’ 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup.
Apart from Morgan, Rodgers will also be without the services of Filip Benkovic, Matty James and Daniel Amartey. However, the good news is that Jamie Vardy is fit and available after missing the last three games due to a minor calf complaint.
Vardy should slot straight back into the starting lineup, spearheading the Leicester attack against Aston Villa. Rodgers should opt for a 4-1-4-1 formation, with James Maddison and Youri Tielemans providing the supply through the central areas to Vardy. Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes ought to be the two wide men for the hosts, while Wilfred Ndidi will hold the fort in the middle of the park.
Morgan and Benkovic’s absence means Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans pick themselves in the central defensive partnership, with Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell forming the full-back pairing. Kasper Schmeichel will start in goal and don the captain’s armband for Leicester, with Morgan unavailable.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Ndidi; Perez, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy
Unlike his counterpart in the Leicester City dugout, Dean Smith has a spate of injury concerns hampering his preparations, with multiple regulars unavailable. For their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, the Aston Villa manager will be without six first-team players.
The major absentees for Villa are Wesley (ACL rupture), Tom Heaton (knee) and John McGinn (ankle), with Wesley and Heaton seeing their season being brought to a premature end, while McGinn is unavailable for at least a couple of months. Jed Steer (foot), Keinan Davis (thigh) and Matt Targett (thigh) are also sidelined.
With Heaton and Steer sidelined, Orjan Nyland, who also starred in the 5-0 win over Liverpool in the quarter-final, becomes an automatic pick in goal. Smith experimented with a 3-4-3 formation in the 2-1 win over Burnley last week and the success of the system could see him revert to it when Villa take on Leicester.
Ezri Konsa, Kortney Hause and Tyrone Mings will form the back three, looking to use the numbers to their advantage to snuff out the danger posed by the Leicester attack. Frederic Guilbert and Neil Taylor will be the two wing-backs.
Danny Drinkwater could be an option in midfield after joining on loan from Chelsea on Tuesday, but Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane should partner up in the middle of the park. Upfront, with Wesley unavailable, Jonathan Kodjia picks himself as the central striker. Jack Grealish, who will be the Villa skipper, will start on the left flank, with Trezeguet likely to be deployed on the right wing.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Nyland; Konsa, Mings, Hause; Guilbert, Luiz, Hourihane, Taylor; Trezeguet, Kodjia, Grealish
- Leicester City and Aston Villa met in the League Cup semi-final the last time the Foxes reached this stage in 1999-00, with Leicester winning 1-0 on aggregate and going on to lift the trophy.
- Leicester have gone on to reach the final of the League Cup on each of the five occasions they’ve played at the semi-final stage (1963-64, 1964-65, 1996-97, 1998-99 and 1999-00).
- This is Aston Villa’s 15th League Cup semi-final tie and their first since 2012-13, when they lost 4-3 on aggregate to Bradford City. They have only won the first leg in two of their previous 14 League Cup semi-finals (D7 L5).
- Brendan Rodgers has progressed from his last 30 domestic cup ties with Liverpool, Celtic and Leicester. Interestingly, the last team to beat Rodgers was Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final in 2014-15, when he was Liverpool manager.
- James Maddison has scored four goals and assisted five in his last eight League Cup appearances, scoring in each of his three games this season.
Player to Watch
If Jack Grealish was not already shouldering a lot of the burden in attack for Aston Villa, the injury crisis that has engulfed the team has only added more impetus on him to perform. The midfielder has been the clear standout for the Villans this season, with the responsibility of leading the side bringing the best out of him.
If Aston Villa are to progress to the Carabao Cup final after the two legs this month, it is only likely to happen if Grealish produces something extraordinary. The onus is now on the 24-year-old to continue leading by example.
Leicester City 3-0 Aston Villa
The match pits one of the best sides in the Premier League up against one the worst teams in the English top-flight. However, the beauty of cup games is that league positions go out of the window, and an upset can never be ruled out.
Having said that, with Aston Villa missing three key players, it is hard to see how they can topple Leicester City over two legs. As for the first leg at the King Power Stadium, Leicester have only become stronger with the return of Jamie Vardy and the gulf in quality between the two sides should be telling.
Expect a comfortable evening for Brendan Rodgers’s men, with Aston Villa struggling to pose much of a threat. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Leicester, who will then have one foot in the Carabao Cup final.