On each of the four occasions Leicester met Aston Villa last season, the tiresome narrative of Jack Grealish vs James Maddison dominated proceedings.
Whether it be in their goals, creativity or haircut, these two very modern footballing stars were constantly compared and when they did finally meet, the frenzied media had a field day.
This time around, Maddison’s injury woes means that particular storyline has taken a back seat. In its place, I’d like to humbly suggest that this fixture has the potential to bring about a changing of the guard in Midlands football.
Those who predicted Villa to be scrabbling about in the relegation zone this season have been made to look rather silly by Dean Smith’s side’s incredible start.
They go into this Sunday’s meeting with Leicester fresh off of the best result in their recent history. Putting seven goals past a seemingly invincible Liverpool was incredible and it also maintained their 100% winning run to start to the season.
If they carry on like this, they will not only finish well safe of the drop, they are also in with a real chance of surpassing Wolves and Leicester in the Midlands’ footballing hierarchy.
Beating the Foxes this weekend would be a good start on this journey and they could not be meeting them at a better time. In their last game against West Ham, Rodgers’ side were woeful. It was a genuinely embarrassing display, akin to the sort of hapless performances they put in during the second half of last season.
Furthemore, the least necessary international break of all time has been particularly unkind to the Foxes. Starting pair Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans both reported back with knocks, while Wes Morgan continues to struggle with a back problem. Daniel Amartey – who’s not even a proper centre-back anyway – is also set to miss out.
Things could have been even worse for the Foxes as well. Reports during the week suggested that new arrival Wesley Fofana had fallen foul of a coronavirus outbreak in the France Under-21 camp. This has since been dismissed with the 19-year-old set to be thrown in at the deep end against the Villans.
The injury crisis leaves Brendan Rodgers in a tricky position. The back three he opted for in his side’s last two games seems out of the question due to a sheer lack of numbers. Then again, playing a back four is likely to leave an the inexperienced Fofana exposed.
It’s not just at the back Leicester look weak either. Dennis Praet – who has started the season very well – and talisman Jamie Vardy are also doubts, while Cengiz Under and the aforementioned Maddison are only fit enough for the bench.
Amid this selection chaos, Villa could thrive. Smith’s side are no longer the one trick pony of old. Last season, the Foxes beat their Midlands rivals 8-1 on aggregate in the league – largely by successfully marking Grealish out of the game.
This time around, it is not just the Villa captain that they will need to contend with. Hat-trick hero Ollie Watkins, Chelsea loanee Ross Barkley and tricky Trézéguet all has stormers against Liverpool, which finally relieved some of the creative burden from Grealish.
Smith will be hoping for more of the same during Sunday’s game. Everything is set up for it to be an intriguing contest, which could have significant implication on the footballing makeup of the Midlands.
Saying that, is quite intriguing enough for anyone to have to pay £14.95 for it? I’ll let you decide that one.