It’s a big’n alright - not one that will ultimately decide the title but if I had to 'slap a label on' this fixture then I might go for a ‘mustn’t lose’.
Bit late typing-up this one and with the early KO also (12:45pm GMT) I’m goin’ straight into a predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
4-2-3-1 / 4-5-1:
My ‘player of the season’ so far by a good way, Joe, to-hopefully continue his very fine form in net.
The Foxes, of course, carry many threats and are, in general, a counter attacking team built from a solid and effective base. Therefore, I can see our manager going, for only a second time this season, with a central defensive pairing of Bacary & Nicholas. Either side of that should be Gael & Pablo in a back-line that’s probably about the strongest we can muster at the moment.
With Fabian over his ‘little knock’ and, therefore, “rested” in midweek; that should see him return today. At home I would imagine both the slightly more attack-minded central pairing of Fernandinho & Yaya will join the England man. Further out wide is highly likely to be Raheem & David.
Sergio likely to plough a lonely furrow in the striking department but with, hopefully, plenty of support from the wide men in particular; backed-up by overlapping runs from Gael & Pablo and supporting cameos from Fernandinho & Yaya.
A bench of two-halves in many ways - the first 3 (in my order of line-up) have a combined age of 99 and the last 4 a mere 74...with a strong EDS influence / flavour. All make up a back-up keeper, an attacking left-back, a central defender, another central defender come defensive midfield, a left-winger, an attacking forward midfielder [who can play right across the middle] and a striker.
Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (on his way back from injury / back in light training), Eliaquim Mangala (injured), Samir Nasri (injured), Kevin De Bruyne (injured), Jesus Navas (injured) and Wilfried Bony (injured).
Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up (this is a new feature I might continue for the rest of the season)?
Almost. The only change I would make is ‘Kolarov for Yaya’. Regular readers will know that I’m not the biggest fan of Aleks but for this game I think it makes sense in many different ways.
Playing left wing, Kolarov would ‘double-up’ also for a bit more defensive stability on that side; overlapping with Clichy ‘as & when’. He can also whip a decent ball in and provide excellent diagonal passes too from that side. I’d then give Raheem a run on the right-hand-side for this one and this then, crucially, brings David right into the middle where he’s far, FAR more effective & dangerous to the oppo.
Other than that I’d be happy with that line-up – particularly the defence with what we have available – and we’d still have Yaya available from the side as an ‘impact player’; a role I agree with many he perhaps needs to fill more for the remainder of the season.
Result? I just look at Leicester’s away form, which is almost identical to their home form, and it just SCREAMS a consistent and very confident side indeed. I note our home form, of course and which is very good in itself, but although we still boast the 4th best defensive record in the Premier League; a lot of that has been down to the sheer brilliance of England’s ‘number 1’ goalkeeper. And so I look at Mahrez, Vardy & Co. and do so with some concern. All things being equal, I just can’t look past us continuing our pretty, 8-game league pattern (this game included) of W D W D W D W D.
Hope, in the right way of course, that I’m wrong…and that we finish the day ‘top of the league’!