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EFL Cup: Midlands Battle for EFL Final Place

Aston Villa vs Leicester City

Aston Villa and Leicester City renew hostilities on Tuesday night in the Carabao Cup semi-final at Villa Park, and there is everything to play for.

This is the more intriguing of the two EFL Cup semi-finals, nicely poised at 1-1 after the first leg and with the underdogs, Aston Villa, at home. In the other semi-final, City have taken control of the Manchester Derby and the latest EFL Cup 2020 place Pep Guardiola’s team as the clear odd-on favourites, with the Foxes the most likely to pick up the trophy if the Sky Blues slip up.

Despite playing away, Leicester are at 1.38 to progress to the final, with Villa at 3.38. It promises to be a ding dong battle as the East Midlands’ best club travels 40 miles west.

 

Talking Points

Heaton injury is a big blow to Villa

Despite Villa storming back to win a crucial bottom of the table clash with Watford last week, the latest SBOTOP point to a nerve-jangling end to the season for the Villains, at 2.00 to drop through the trapdoor, with only Norwich City and Bournemouth on.

An injury to keeper Tom Heaton, during a recent win over Burnley, has put the England stopper out of action until the end of the season and head coach Dean Smith has moved to bring in Pepe Reina to replace him. The loss of Heaton is a problem for Smith because, as well as being an excellent shot-stopper, the former Burnley captain organises his defence with real authority. His understudy, Jed Steer, is also struggling with injury so Smith had little option but to call on the 37-year-old Reina.

Currently, at AC Milan, he has arrived at Villa Park on loan until the end of the season and he brings a wealth of experience, as a World Cup winner who made 394 appearances for Liverpool between 2005 and 2013.

His Premier League nous might be crucial in the run-in, as will the form of skipper Jack Grealish, who has been sensational in the first half of the season. The Villa fan is the main reason his beloved side isn’t in much deeper trouble and he holds the key to their cup hopes on Tuesday.

EFL Cup: Jack Jack Grealish is expected to lead Aston Villa against Leicester City
Jack Grealish in action for Aston Villa during their match against Watford

Plenty of Claret for the Foxes

After losing to Burnley last Sunday Brendan Rodgers’ team was back to its best in midweek, hammering the Hammers 4-1. Ayoze Perez added to goals from Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira to dump West Ham in serious relegation trouble. Now they face the Premier League’s other Claret and Blues when they come up against Villa this week.

Rodgers’ side were certainly blue as Burnley roared back to beat them last week, but the claret was flowing as they destroyed West Ham. Which way will it go this time?

Vardy in fitness race

The big pre-match EFL Cup 2020 news is the discussion over Leicester’s striking options. Jamie Vardy has been in scintillating form this season but his place is in a little doubt after he was withdrawn during the victory over the Hammers. Rodgers says the injury is not as bad as first feared and he is hopeful of playing a part against Villa.

I suspect he may start on the bench with Kelechi Iheanacho likely to start in the hope of continuing a rich vein of form himself. He scored the equaliser in the first leg and was on target again on Saturday, scoring the only goal in the Foxes’ FA Cup fourth-round win over Brentford.

Leicester will be without midfield star Nampalys Mendy, who picked up a knee injury in the first half against West Ham.

 

History

These Midlands clashes are always worth watching. There have been ten draws in the 26 meetings over the past 26 years with Villa winning seven to Leicester’s nine.

Both teams will come into the game in confident mood. The Foxes have recovered from back-to-back defeats with two wins, while Aston Villa’s victory over Watford was a first in five games.

 

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