Aston Villa and Leicester City Carabao Cup Semi-Final Preview
Dean Smith is bidding to get to a cup final in his first full season as Aston Villa manager whilst Brendan Rodgers looks to continue his charge towards a first piece of silverware as Leicester City boss.
With the tie finely posed at 1-1 after the first leg at the King Power, Villa will be full of optimism heading into tonight having home advantage.
Smith stressed the importance of playing at home but the last time these two faced each other at Villa Park was last month with the Foxes running out 4-1 winners. Smith will be keen to avoid a repeat of that tonight.
However going into this fixture, both sides are in fairly good form following some poor results and will be full of confidence.
A 95th minute winner last time out against Watford in the league put smiles back on fans' faces at Villa Park and eased the pressure on the manager.
Leicester have stuttered of late, losing twice in their last three league games however a 4-1 win over West Ham and a battling 1-0 away win over Brentford in the FA Cup has restored normality at Rodgers' firing Foxes.
Both sides have a near full squad to choose from however there will be some selection headaches for both managers.
Aston Villa are missing several key players in the form of 'keeper Tom Heaton, midfielder John McGinn and striker Wesley.
All three have long-term injuries so Smith has been busy in this transfer window. Ex-Liverpool and AC Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina has joined the club and stared in last week's crucial 2-1 win over relegation rivals Watford.
Villa's forward woes have been seemingly dealt with following the arrival of Genk's Mbwana Samatta. The 27-year-old Tanzanian had 10 goals already this season for the Belgium side, with three of those coming in the Champions League including a strike at Anfield.
Dean Smith gave an update on the likelihood of Samatta starting and any other injury news in his pre-match presser: "We’ve got a pretty much fully fit squad – and it’s very rare I can say that.
"Ally Samatta’s trained all week so he’s available".
Vardy is in contention for tonight's fixture as he's back in the matchday squad after recovering from a glute issue he picked up during the 4-1 win over West Ham.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Rodgers said: "He’s in the squad. He’s worked very hard since his injury last midweek. He’s in the squad and then we’ll give it another full day."
Kelechi Iheanacho was selected in Vardy's absence for the Brentford win at the weekend and the Nigerian has good form in this cup; Having already bagged twice in the Carabao Cup, he scored Leicester's sole goal in the one-all draw at the King Power which makes his the joint 5th highest goalscorer in the competition. Rodgers has a selection dilemma on who will start upfront now.
Papy Mendy and Wes Morgan sustained injuries in the victories against West Ham and Birmingham respectively which rules them out of this crunch tie, along with Bartosz Kapustka who has been a long-term absentee.