Aston Villa

The Lowdown: Dean Smith's In-Form Aston Villa

Leicester City's return to Premier League action begins with a home clash against Aston Villa at King Power Stadium on Sunday (7:15pm kick-off).

The Foxes will welcome an in-form Aston Villa side to King Power Stadium this weekend, with the Midlanders yet to drop points in the Premier League this campaign. 

Ahead of the game, assesses the opposition, including Villa's current first team squad, manager and recent results, as well as a look back at their history. 

The squad

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Ollie Watkins
Ollie Watkins

Summer signing Ollie Watkins celebrates completing his hat-trick against Liverpool last time out.

Following a narrow escape from relegation last season, Villa moved to strengthen in the summer transfer window.

The forward line has been bolstered by the arrival of Ollie Watkins from Sky Bet Championship Play-Off finalists Brentford for a reported fee of £27M, and with former Chelsea winger Bertrand Traoré from Lyon.

At the back, defender Matty Cash was signed from Nottingham Forest, while Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez joined as their new No.1.

England midfielder Ross Barkley also became a Villa player, joining on loan from Chelsea.

Villa’s squad includes England international Tyrone Mings, while the backline is protected by the likes of Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba.

Further forward, captain Jack Grealish is the side's top scorer, netting three times in the Premier League this season, alongside Ollie Watkins, who also has three goals to his name.

Grealish, along with Scotland midfielder John McGinn, has also contributed the most assists (3). 

There have been several departures from Villa Park, including Tanzanian forward Mbwana Samatta, who joined Turkish giants Fenerbache on loan and fellow striker Borja Baston, who made the move to Spanish second tier outfit CD Leganés on a free transfer.

Three players signed for Championship teams following successful loan spells, with Scott Hogan making his Birmingham City move a permanent one, as did James Chester at Stoke City and James Bree at Luton Town.

Andre Green and Örjan Nyland were released, while then-AC Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater returned to their parent clubs at the end of loan spells.

The manager

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Dean Smith
Dean Smith

Manager Dean Smith has turned around Villa's fortunes in recent seasons.

During a career that spanned across three decades, Dean Smith made over 500 appearances as a centre-back, representing five clubs in the process.

Smith made his debut for Walsall in 1989, before going on to play for Hereford United, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale, where he retired in 2005.

He then returned to Walsall in 2011 to take charge of the Saddlers, who he managed for four years and won two League 1 Manager of the Month accolades.

In November, 2015, he was appointed manager of Championship outfit Brentford, who he guided to two ninth and one 10th-placed finish before moving to Aston Villa.

Smith took over at Villa Park in October 2018, and in the same season gained promotion after winning the Championship Play-Offs thanks to a 2-1 victory over Derby County in the final.

Smith masterminded some memorable Premier League results in 2019/20 to help Villa survive relegation on the final day, including a 5-1 win over Norwich City and a 2-2 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Villains finished in 17th, one place and one point above the drop zone, beating West Ham United 2-1 to remain in the top flight.

Form guide

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Ross Barkley
Ross Barkley

Ross Barkley netted his first Villa goal since joining on loan from Chelsea, against Liverpool.

In one of the most remarkable Premier League games in history, Villa's last league fixture before the international break was a 7-2 thrashing of Premier League champions Liverpool.

It included a hat-trick from new signing Ollie Watkins, as well as two goals for Jack Grealish, ahead of his maiden England international call-up, as well as a hat-trick of assists for the Villa skipper. John McGinn and Ross Barkley completed the scoring on a memorable night for Aston Villa.

Dean Smith's outfit also defeated Fulham 3-0 and Sheffield United 1-0 in their opening games to remain unbeaten and sit second in the Premier League table.

Previous encounters

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Ayoze Pérez
Ayoze Pérez

Leicester and Aston Villa met four times last season, with City coming out on top in both league fixtures.

In the final Premier League game played before the pause in English football, City defeated Villa 4-0 at King Power Stadium in March 2020. A brace apiece for Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy settled the match, which got the Foxes back to winning ways, but left Villa in the relegation zone.

That result also completed a league double over the Midlands club, who were beaten 4-1 at Villa Park in December 2019, thanks to Leicester goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Jonny Evans and Vardy (2).

However, Villa did get the better of City in the Carabao Cup semi-final a month later, with Mahmoud Trézéguet's injury-time winner in the second leg sealing progression into the final, via a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

The Foxes have the better overall record against Sunday's opponents, winning 43 of the 102 competitive fixtures between the two sides, with Villa triumphing on 34 occasions and a draw being played out 25 times, since the first meeting in 1905.

Trophy cabinet

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Aston Villa
Aston Villa

Villa defeated Leeds United 3-0 to lift the League Cup trophy in 1996.

Aston Villa have enjoyed a successful history in the game, having won seven top-flight titles and as many FA Cups.

They have also won five League Cups, two more than Leicester, with their 1996 title proving to be their most recent major honour.

Away from domestic achievements, they lifted the European Cup in 1981 after a famous 1-0 win over Bayern Munich thanks to Peter Withe's solitary effort in Rotterdam, before going on to beat Barcelona to claim the European Super Cup.

The stadium

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Villa Park
Villa Park

Aston Villa's home ground is steeped in domestic and European cup history.

With a capacity of just over 42,000, Villa Park is the 11th-largest stadium in England and has been the home of Aston Villa since 1897.

Villa Park has hosted an incredible 55 FA Cup Semi-Finals, the most of any stadium, and has also seen England play there on 16 occasions.

In addition, the last ever UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final was played out there in 1999, when Lazio beat Mallorca 2-1 after goals from Christian Vieri and Pavel Nedvěd.

Upcoming fixtures

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Aston Villa
Aston Villa

Dean Smith's side return to Villa Park for three consecutive home games after facing Leicester City.

After Sunday's clash, Dean Smith's side host newly-promoted Leeds United at Villa Park on Friday 23 October, (8pm kick-off).

Two more home games follow against Southampton, on Sunday 1 November (12pm kick-off) and Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday 21 November (3pm kick-off).

Villa complete their November schedule with an away trip to London Stadium to meet West Ham United on Saturday 28 November (3pm kick-off).

All times BST.

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