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Key matchups to watch for: Aston Villa vs Leicester City

Plenty of midfielders on display

Leicester City v Watford FC - Premier League Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Leicester City look to keep their winning run going against an Aston Villa team that put up good resistance against Chelsea midweek. Here are some areas the game could be decided.

1. Ndidi vs Grealish

As we all know, the main reason to watch this game is to once and for all answer the age old question of James Maddison or Jack Grealish. The only slight problem being that the two might never meet on the pitch.

Villa’s best attacks come from players like Grealish carrying the ball forward and running at defenders. It makes for an interesting match up with a defence based on Wilfred Ndidi cutting out exactly those runs, although I’d give the advantage to the Premier League leader in tackles and interceptions.

I think he’s the best in the Premier League at tackling and winning the ball back, bar none. I know Kante is a brilliant player and there are players like that. But actually winning the ball back and taking the ball off the opposition, I don’t think there is anyone better than Wilfred - James Maddison is a big fan of Wilf’s

Still, Grealish is a very talented player and the Nigerian will have to be careful with his telescopic legs against comfortably the most fouled player in the league.

He will also get some help from players like John McGinn alongside him. The Foxes can’t focus purely on one creative threat like they could against Watford, but should still have the defenders to shut them down.

2. Maddison vs whoever tries to stop him

Maddison, on the other hand, will be matched up against a fairly weak group of defensive midfielders. Villa have tried a few players in that role and have struggled to take back the ball in those areas.

The newly promoted side have struggled to get out of their own territory all season, playing more in their own third than any team but Norwich. That’s too much time to give a player of Maddison’s quality to find a way through, particularly if Tielemans is alongside him.

Villa have given up more shots per game than any team in the league so far, predominantly good chances inside the area. If Maddison can resist his urges to shoot from range (we’re down to 40%), he should be able to pick out plenty of dangerous passes.

If the ball makes it through to Jamie Vardy, we all know what that means. The comfortable league leader in goals is finishing chances like no one else. This should be a great chance to close in on his own record.

3. Keeping up the intensity

The Foxes consistent speed of play has been a huge part of their current run. The opening 30 minutes of most games has looked very frustrating, but teams can’t keep up over 90 and are eventually worn down.

While that certainly was the pattern against Watford - two more added to the league leading tally of 2nd half goals - there were some signs of slowing down. A very hard-fought game against Everton possibly caught up with some players, with Tielemans and Perez in particular looking a little off the pace.

It would be nice to get ahead early and not have work so hard for the full 90 minutes for once, but the numbers don’t look great for that. Villa are up on aggregate through the first hour this season, but have dropped off badly late.

My prediction is for another discouraging first half, where the Foxes struggle to turn high possession into good chances, while their opponents look dangerous on the break. If it’s level at half time, put Leicester down as heavy favourites.