Leicester’s campaign may have unravelled last season because they got too excited about the prospect of playing Champions League football, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.
The Foxes fell from second place in the Premier League table to fifth during the second half of the campaign, winning only four of their last 17 matches.
Rodgers’ side are firmly in the race for a top-four finish again this season and sit third in the standings with a four-point cushion to fifth spot heading into this weekend’s round of games.
Leicester travel to midlands rivals Aston Villa on Sunday and Rodgers believes his team have learned to stay calm and not get carried away this time around.
“There’s been natural growth. The (Covid-enforced) break hindered us after the game against Aston Villa (a 4-0 home win) last season, the rhythm of our game was broken and when we came back we had key players injured,” said Rodgers.
“People look for lots of reasons but you don’t have to look too far. We had a number of key players missing and that was too much for us.
“We have a lot of young players and they’re growing at the level. Maybe a little bit of excitement gathered last season. This season everything is much calmer, knowing that you’ve got to keep going and you can’t get excited too early.
“You’ve got to play the game with emotion, you’ve got to play with energy, but you’ve always got to stay focused and I’ve seen a growth in the maturity over the past year.”
Villa also have designs on European football next season. They head into the weekend eighth in the table but with two games in hand on the top six, which if they won both would see Dean Smith’s men move level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea.
Villa won the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium in October 1-0 and Rodgers has been impressed with them this season.
“They have been fantastic,” he said. “Because of the nature of how they came up, you’re always chasing it a little bit after the play-offs, getting new players in and things like that.
“There was a lot that Dean had to deal with last season, but they got over the line and stayed up and that gave them the summer to really invest in the squad and stabilise everything, and they brought in some good players.
“In the main Villa have played really, really well and shown they are a team of real quality.”
Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira are set to return to the Leicester squad for Sunday’s clash.
The Foxes travelled to Slavia Prague in the Europa League in midweek – a game which ended in a goalless draw – without the two full-backs.
Castagne was ruled out with a hamstring problem and Pereira was left at home due to his game time being managed following his return from long-term injury.
Both are expected to be involved at Villa Park, but Ayoze Perez (knock), Wesley Fofana (hamstring), Dennis Praet (hamstring) and Wes Morgan (back) are all still out. James Justin (knee) will not play again this season.