A place at Wembley in London is on the line when Aston Villa host Leicester City in the second leg of their Carabao Cup (formerly EFL League Cup) soccer semi-final at Villa Park on Tuesday (2.45pm ET).
This tie is finely poised following a 1-1 draw in the first leg earlier this month. Frederic Guilbert gave Villa a first-half lead only for Kelechi Iheanacho to come off the bench and grab an equalizer for Leicester with just over a quarter-hour to play.
The final score more or less fairly captured what was very much a game of two halves. In addition to their goal, Villa also struck the crossbar with an Ezri Konsa shot during an opening 45 minutes in which Leicester struggled to get going. A half-time change in midfield altered the complexion, and Leicester did plenty of pushing either side of their levelling goal.
It also left things nicely situated for the return on Tuesday. The away goals will not be applied in this year’s competition and so the two teams will essentially step out onto the pitch for a one-and-done contest for a place in the final. There will be no extra time. The match will go straight to the penalties if the teams are tied at the end of 90 minutes.
It is the sort of occasion where it only takes a couple of things to go a side’s way for them to emerge victorious. Even in that context, Villa are deserving of their position as underdogs, despite enjoying home advantage for the second leg.
The Premier League table doesn’t lie. Villa are 16th, just a couple of points above the relegation zone. Leicester are up in third, eight points ahead of fourth and a full 14 clear of fifth. Leicester have nearly double the number of points of their hosts on Tuesday and are a whole 42 goals better off in terms of goal difference.
Villa are a somewhat chaotic side. They have scored a pretty decent 31 goals across their 24 league matches to date. They have also conceded 45, the second worst record in the division. Unsurprisingly, their record against teams towards the top of the table is dire. In their 11 matches against top 10 sides, they have lost 10 times and secured just a single draw. They conceded twice or more in all of those matches.
Indeed, Leicester ended up giving Villa a hiding when they met in the league at Villa Park in December. Jamie Vardy twice got on the scoresheet in a 4-1 victory in which they repeatedly created good-quality chances. It is likely Vardy will be back from injury for this match on Tuesday.
Leicester have been very impressive in general this season. They have both the Premier League’s third best scoring and defensive records and are now all but guaranteed to secure a place in next season’s Champions League. The impressive young squad that they have been steadily building has now crystallized into a very good side under Brendan Rodgers.
Victory on Tuesday would provide Leicester with the opportunity to top off their superb league campaign with the concrete success of some silverware. Like Villa, whose tally of five trophies makes them the fourth most successful team in the history of the EFL Cup, they have a good historical record in this competition, having won it on three occasions. Prior to their surprise league title triumph in 2015-16, it was the only major trophy they have lifted.
If the match goes to a shootout, Leicester are certainly the more well-practiced of the two teams. Their triumphs over Newcastle in the second round and Everton in the quarter-finals were both achieved on penalties.
It shouldn’t really get that far. Leicester are clearly the better team, and with the tireless ball-winner Wilfred Ndidi back in action, Rodgers is unlikely to get the balance of his midfield as wrong as he did in the first half of the first leg. Villa will probably get on the scoresheet, but it is Leicester who should be fancied to advance to the final with victory during the 90 minutes.