How Aston Villa fared without Grealish ahead of Double Gameweek 26 |

Aston Villa 1-2 Leicester

  • Goals: Bertrand Traore (£5.9m) | James Maddison (£7.3m), Harvey Barnes (£6.8m)
  • Assists: John McGinn (£5.5m) | Barnes, Jamie Vardy (£10.1m)
  • Bonus points: Barnes x3, Maddison x2, Traore x1

Double Gameweek 26 messages, both good and bad, abounded as Leicester City impressed in their win over Aston Villa.

Two high-flying teams with a brace of fixtures to come next week meant a lot of Fantasy interest in the game at Villa Park.

And while it was the Foxes who won the match, it was not all doom and gloom for the home side. Mostly, but not all.

A Lack Of Jack

The build-up was dominated by rumours of a shin injury sustained by the 36.9%-owned Jack Grealish (£7.7m), with a tweet from FPL Insider detailing the number of Villa players and staff apparently transferring the midfielder out of their Fantasy teams proving prescient.

Manager Dean Smith was optimistic after the game, contradicting BBC reports his talisman will be out for a month.

“We will assess it as we go. It is certainly not a recurrence of an old injury and certainly not long term. I expect him to be pushing, if not for Leeds, then the week after. But I’ll be guided by the medical staff. They haven’t told me how long he’ll be out for yet, so the speculation is great. We’ll just see how it goes.” – Dean Smith

Smith was rather less positive about the news of Grealish’s injury leaking out.

“I was made aware on social media there were rumours he was not going to play. If that is coming out of our training ground, I will find out where it is coming from and reprimand whoever it is coming from. It is something I would not be happy with.” – Dean Smith

Should the leak end up being linked to FPL transfer activity, it would be a curious case of Fantasy affecting reality – and one which might lead to a clampdown by clubs on their players’ and staff’s involvement in the game. Could that afford Fantasy managers less information from the likes of FPL Insider moving forward?

Ross No Boss

Grealish’s absence certainly blunted Villa’s attacking threat, hardly surprising when the midfielder had been directly involved in half of the side’s goals (six goals, 12 assists) before Sunday’s match.

His obvious understudy, Ross Barkley (£5.9m), had an entirely forgettable game, with zero chances created or shots attempted.

Nor was it a good afternoon for FPL’s most popular keeper, Emiliano Martínez (£5.3m), who got a touch on James Maddison’s (£7.3m) opener and could probably have done better when his parry of Jamie Vardy‘s (£10.1m) shot fell to Barnes for what turned out to be the winner.

Things did pick up for the home side after a dreadful first half, however, and even if Grealish is missing for more than the one match, Villa’s next two opponents, Leeds and Sheffield United, are unlikely to offer the same balance of attacking threat and defensive resolve as Leicester had in abundance.

But there is no denying Grealish’s absence is keenly felt by Villa. They’ve lost all three Premier League matches without him since the start of last season. 

Leicester Fiesta

Goals from Maddison and Harvey Barnes (£6.8m) kept the pair in the top 10 for points scored by FPL midfielders, with the latter adding an assist for a second straight double-digit return.

Maximum bonus meant Barnes finished with 13 points on the day – his joint-best haul of the season – as he led the way, with Maddison, for attempts and by himself for chances created (both four).

Despite nine goals, five assists and a points total now one ahead of the 31.2%-owned Ilkay Gundogan (£6.1m), Barnes is still only found in 9.0% of FPL squads.

Goals against the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and now Villa suggest he could be fixture-proof, which might up his appeal for Double Gameweek 26’s games against Arsenal and Burnley, two teams who have put in improved defensive performances over recent weeks.

Maddison, meanwhile, is owned by 16.4%, although they wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing their man taken off just after the hour mark at Villa Park, a move Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers explained post-match.

“James Maddison had an issue with his hip last season so we’ll assess that. He felt some pain so as a precaution we took him off.” – Brendan Rodgers

Fatigue Factor

Gundogan fit to start as De Bruyne returns to City XI and Foden drops to bench 1

Leicester played with a speed and intensity that Villa could not cope with in the first half, but that dropped after the interval – perhaps as a result of their Europa League exertions away to Slavia Prague on Thursday.

They will be in continental action again in midweek and although next Sunday’s opponents, Arsenal, will be in the same Euro boat, the Foxes’ fine current run – they’ve lost only once since Gameweek 13 – will be harder to sustain as the fixtures continue to come so thick and fast.

Luke Thomas (£4.2m) was excellent at left-back on Sunday and would be a bargain basement way into a side with nine clean sheets this season – only three teams have managed more – if he can nail down a starting berth that has so far eluded him.

On the opposite flank, Rodgers picked both Timothy Castagne (£5.7m) and Ricardo Pereira (£5.9m), presumably to counter the threat of Grealish.

When that failed to materialise, Pereira played essentially as a right winger, although he’s unlikely to be handed further out-of-position roles in the coming weeks.

Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martínez; El Mohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz (Sanson 81), McGinn; Traoré, Barkley (Ramsey 76), El Ghazi (Trezeguet 67); Watkins.

Leicester City XI (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Castagne, Soyuncu, Evans, Thomas; Ndidi, Tielemans (Choudhury 88); Maddison (Mendy 64), Pereira (Amartey 76), Barnes; Vardy.

Double Gameweek 25 so far…

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