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Men's Football Foxes solidify top-four spot with stubborn win over Villa

Goalscorers Maddison and Barnes 'are only going to get better', Leicester boss believes

LEICESTER strengthened their grip on a Champions League spot today with a stubborn 2-1 win at Aston Villa.

Quick-fire first-half goals from James Maddison and Harvey Barnes moved the Foxes back into second in the Premier League — at least temporarily — ahead of Manchester United’s evening game with Newcastle.

Bertrand Traore pulled a goal back for the hosts but Leicester held on, and have now lost just once in their last 12 league games.

While leaders Manchester City remain untroubled at the top, Leicester look increasingly likely to return to the Champions League for the first time in four years after their heartbreaking final-day miss last season.

And Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers backed goalscorers Barnes and Maddison to keep on firing the Foxes to great things.

He said: “Both players are super talented, and the beauty is that they are only going to get better. They are both pretty new to the Premier League.

“Harvey looks like he’s going to score in every game — he was sensational today.”

Villa were punished for an awful first half and without Jack Grealish — missing with a shin problem — lacked the quality, initiative and drive to recover.

Their problems ran deeper than their absent skipper, though, with Ross Barkley again underwhelming, and Dean Smith’s side have now won just three of their last 10 top-flight games to further dent their European hopes.

Aside from brief spells in the second half, Villa never got going and Leicester quickly took advantage with Ricardo Pereira’s tame effort collected by Emi Martinez after 33 seconds.

The only minor scare the Foxes faced came when Luke Thomas and Youri Tielemans blocked Traore’s path after Anwar El Ghazi latched on to Ollie Watkins’ cute flick.

But Villa’s threat failed to materialise and the Foxes took complete control with two goals in four minutes.

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