Premier League Preview: Leicester v Aston Villa

Nigel Pearson has acknowledged a sense of confidence in the Leicester City camp ahead of Aston Villa's visit to the King Power Stadium.

Pearson's men return to Premier League action on Saturday off the back of a three-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, having taken four points from Hull City and Liverpool and sealed a fourth-round place in the FA Cup. 

That 1-0 third-round win over Newcastle United last weekend may have come at a cost - with Esteban Cambiasso injuring a thigh - but Pearson feels the recent run has boosted morale in the dressing room.

Leicester, who are bottom, endured a 13-match winless sequence in all competitions prior to beating Hull, but, with their improved form and the likes of Mark Schwarzer and Andrej Kramaric joining the club this week, Pearson's side host Villa in high spirits.

Pearson has welcomed the long-term competition for places, although striker Kramaric will not face Villa as his deal is dependent on gaining a work permit.

"There is an air of confidence and self-belief, which I think is important," he told a news conference on Thursday. 

"There's a bit of relief in there but it's not as if all of a sudden the season has changed hugely.

"We've got an awful lot of work to do and have been able to keep in touch over the last few weeks. The FA Cup win underlines some of the positive aspects of the previous league performances. 

"I don't mind being lucky winners but we've got to be in a winning position more often. Hopefully, the additions to the squad will give us more chance of fulfilling those sorts of aspirations."

Pearson will also be without Algeria's Riyad Mahrez due to Africa Cup of Nations duties as well as Jeffrey Schlupp (knee), with doubts lingering over Danny Drinkwater (groin).

Opposite number Paul Lambert has to contend without captain Ron Vlaar (knee) for around a month as he seeks to end Villa's five-match winless run in the top flight - their last Premier League victory coming against Leicester last month. 

Villa's prospects of halting a three-game goalless streak are improved by the likely return of Gabriel Agbonlahor following a hamstring problem. 

Lambert also hopes to be able to select Joe Cole, Nathan Baker, Kieran Richardson and Ashley Westwood after various fitness and injury issues.

"Ron is injured at the moment. There's a little bit of meniscus damage there but it's not as bad as we thought," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"Everyone else is fine. Nathan Baker trained [on Thursday]. Kieran Richardson will hopefully train [on Friday]. Gabby Agbonlahor is coming back from his hamstring problem. We have a few lads coming back.

"Westy will be all the better for the [FA Cup] game against Blackpool and Joe Cole too. We are starting to get one or two back now."