Leicester City beat Aston Villa 2 – 1 to keep top 4 finish hopes high. The Foxes went six points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea as James Maddison and Harvey Barnes scored in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League win against an Aston Villa side without the injured Jack Grealish. Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers said his squad have a “greater calmness” in chasing a Champions League place this season.
Leicester missed out on a Champions League spot on the final day of last season after a 2-0 defeat against Manchester United, despite spending much of that campaign in the top four.
“We were able to go in and reflect on last season and go through it in pre-season,” Rodgers told Sky Sports after his side’s win at Villa Park. “There’s a greater calmness. We’re playing some great football, but at times you have to dig in and have spirit, and we are able to do that.”
Villa were given a lifeline when Bertrand Traore volleyed home a loose ball, but Leicester controlled the game and held on to all three points. With England manager Gareth Southgate watching on, English duo Maddison and Barnes starred for Leicester in the first half.
Maddison, 24, had been involved in eight goals in his past nine league appearances coming into this fixture, and it took him just 19 minutes to curl Leicester in front after a lay-off from Barnes.
And Barnes was then in the right place moments later, tapping in after Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez parried a close-range Jamie Vardy effort. Maddison was substituted midway through the second half after a knock to his hip.
But Rodgers told BBC Sport that the change was merely a preventative measure. “James had an issue with his hip last season so we’ll assess that. He felt some pain, so as a precaution we took him off.”
He added: “I thought some of our football and the speed of our game was really, really good. We didn’t have too many concerns defensively. “I was so pleased and very proud of the team.”
‘We’ll assess Grealish as we go’
A leg injury sustained during training meant that for the first time since November 2019, club captain Jack Grealish was not in the Aston Villa squad for a Premier League match.
“We will assess it as we go. It is certainly not a recurrence of an old injury and certainly not long term,” Aston Villa boss Dean Smith told BBC Sport. “I expect him to be pushing, if not for [our next game against] Leeds, then the week after; but I’ll be guided by the medical staff.
“They haven’t told me how long he’ll be out for yet, so the speculation is great. We’ll just see how it goes.” Nobody has been involved in more Villa goals than Grealish this season, and without their captain, Smith’s side looked a shadow of their usual selves in the first half as they went 2-0 down.
Forward Traore halved the deficit three minutes after the restart, pouncing on a loose ball after Matt Targett’s cross was flicked on by John McGinn.
But Leicester easily wrestled back control, with a late Tyrone Mings header the only other chance of note for the hosts. Grealish had started Villa’s previous 48 league fixtures – but they must learn to adapt to life without him if he does not return quickly.
More Villa Park joy for Rodgers – the stats
- Leicester City have won back-to-back away top-flight matches against Aston Villa for the first time since October 1960.
- Aston Villa have won just one of their past 21 Premier League games against sides starting the day in the top three (D4 L16), losing 11 of their past 12 such fixtures (W1).
- Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has won all six of his away Premier League games against Aston Villa as a manager, his best such 100% record versus an opponent in the competition.
- Under Dean Smith, Aston Villa have averaged 1.5 points per game in league competition when Jack Grealish has featured (P80 W36 D14 L30) compared with 0.9 points per game without him (P18 W3 D7 L8), losing all three Premier League matches without the Englishman since the start of last season.
- Since his Premier League debut in August 2018, Leicester’s James Maddison has scored more goals from outside the area than any other player (11). This was his eighth league goal of the season, his best scoring campaign in the top flight.
- Only Jamie Vardy (14) has scored more goals for Leicester this season than Harvey Barnes (13), who has now had a direct hand in nine goals in his past 11 Premier League matches (six goals, three assists).
Aston Villa travel to Leeds in the Premier League on Saturday, 27 February (17:30 GMT), while Leicester take on Slavia Prague in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday, 25 February (20:00 GMT).