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Will Samatta be successful against Leicester City the second time around?

7:46 AM GMT+8 09/03/2020
Mbwana Samatta Aston Villa 2019-20
The Tanzania star had an underwhelming January debut against the Foxes, but former Genk forward can prove he’s a different player on Monday

Aston Villa picked up a dramatic 2-1 win over Leicester City in the League Cup semi-final in January, but the encounter wasn't the best for a certain Mbwana Samatta, who endured an underwhelming debut.

Given he was the first Tanzanian to play in the English top flight, his first appearance generated a lot of buzz, but he had been below-par against the Foxes.

Despite completing his transfer days before the meeting with Brendan Rodgers’ troops, he was thrown into the line-up for the second-leg with the tie still in the balance.

An injury to Wesley and the sale of Jonathan Kodjia meant Smith had no alternative up front.

Samatta gave an average showing on his home debut; the ex-Genk star was a peripheral figure for 67 minutes and barely got involved. He had 18 touches, completed just six passes and won none of his ground duels.

The new signing didn’t fare better in his aerial duels either, winning just one of five battles in the air was unusual and the forward’s first appearance in English football was a baptism of fire.

It was Trezeguet’s goal and the dramatic nature of it that prevented a criticism-filled post-mortem from critics for Samatta, but there’s been a bit of improvement since then.

He netted in Aston Villa’s next game at Bournemouth, a 2-1 defeat at the Vitality Stadium, a header which was oddly Villa’s first of the campaign.

Unfortunately, Villa’s awfully leaky rearguard has prevented any sort of consistent run of results in the Premier League.

The Villans have conceded 52 goals this season, the joint-worst in the top flight with Southampton and Norwich City, and they've been sucked into the bottom three.

Their last win in the league was an equally drama-filled win over Watford in late January, but with 10 games to play, Smith needs his team to plug holes at the back and thrive in the final third.

For that to happen, the Englishman will need more goal contributions from players besides Jack Grealish, who accounts for nearly 40 percent of their goals.

It’s for that reason that Samatta’s header in last week’s League Cup final loss was important.

Even though they ended on the losing side on their first game at Wembley since the Championship playoff final, the Tanzanian forward’s strike, which halved the deficit, gave the outsiders belief for the rest of the game.

While that didn’t materialise into an equaliser, the 2-1 score at the end was an improvement on the 6-1 hammering Smith’s side suffered in the same fixture in early-January. 

Building on that showing in Monday night’s game at the King Power Stadium will certainly boost survival hopes on a weekend where all five of the clubs around them failed to win – Norwich, Bournemouth Watford, West Ham United all lost, while Brighton & Hove Albion picked up a point at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The side from the West Midlands will fancy themselves against a side that’s suffering a crisis of confidence owing to a recent run of results in which they've won just three times in their last 12, which has thrown doubts on Champions League qualification for next season.

With Chelsea, Manchester United, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers now picking up a bit of form, the East Midlanders are in danger of ruining all their good work in the first-half of the campaign by finishing outside the top four, or five if Man City’s appeal is unsuccessful.

Three of the aforementioned trio won at the weekend, and the gap between Rodgers’ side and the Blades in seventh is seven points. Failure to beat Samatta and co. on Monday will increase the Foxes’ unbeaten league run to five, which puts them in a tricky position with games against Arsenal, Sheffield, Tottenham Hotspur and the Red Devils to come in the final five gameweeks of the campaign.

Samatta’s debut against Leicester in January may have come too early for the Tanzanian frontman but with more games under his belt since, and a recent cup final goal against City, the former Genk star can prove how far he’s come by coming up trumps against the wobbling Foxes.