Certainly a dramatic title, but accurate nevertheless. Tonight at 11:45PM AEST, Manchester City will host Leicester City at Etihad Stadium. It’s a classic 1 v 2 matchup; if by that you mean a starting XI that was acquired with £308.8m will have the chance to go level with team that was pieced together from £24.4m. We assess the major talking points and what we can expect in the match to come.
We’ve seen 24 of 38 matches completed and Leicester City are still defying the critics and naysayers. We had released an article on the 28th of August stating that Leicester can expect a top-4 finish this season and I think it’s fair to say they’ve even exceed these expectations – we were correct in our predictions of a mutiny at Stamford Bridge. Recent discussions have been regarding how the foxes are going to fare with their upcoming schedule, namely facing Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal in as many weeks, and after a convincing 2-0 victory over the reds, the task already seems less daunting.
Bookmakers are still predicting a victory for Pellegrini’s men – not that they’re his for much longer with Guardiola already announced to be taking the job at season’s end. This can hardly be doing wonders for the harmony of the playing group – I mean it surely must be playing on their minds as to whether they will be part of Pep’s plans upon his arrival as well as an influx of signings at his command. This is the biggest contrast we see in the two sides. Leading up to the match, Ranieri has done an incredible job of deflecting pressure and speculation away from his players in press conferences and it’s obvious that their performances on the pitch are reflective of the environment the players are enjoying off it.
Going through some relevant statistics it has all the makings to be an incredible clash.
- Man City has won 16/19 of their last home matches.
- Leicester are undefeated in 14/15 of their last away matches.
- There have been at least 3 goals in 9 of Man City’s last 10 home matches.
- Leicester have kept 5 clean sheets in the last 6 matches.
I’ve been involved in numerous discussions regarding the foxes. Many have been quick to bring up the fact that they have one of the highest goals/shot ratio in the Premier League which goes to suggest that they’re playing above their level and as weeks go by should see this run of “luck” end in which they should fall to a more realistic standard. As numbers on a sheet are considered that is correct and there is no denying that. What it does not take into account is that Leicester has only scored 2 goals outside the penalty that is including Jamie Vardy’s wonder goal v Liverpool – the lowest of any team this season, which speaks volumes in terms of the quality of chances that the team is creating, thus their high-ratio of goals to shots.
Pellegrini has recently hinted that captain, Vincent Kompany, is training with the squad and may be in the starting XI as they face Leicester. To us, this raises more questions than it answers. The big man has never been blessed with exceptional pace, and for a guy that size to have not seen consistent game time since early November, his sharpness is certainly going to be an issue up against the likes of Vardy, Mahrez and Okazaki. As a side note, Okazaki is a player who does enjoying drawing fouls in dangerous areas and we can expect that to play a key factory in tonight’s match. The fact that Pellegrini is actually entertaining the idea of fielding Kompany does anything but indicate that he has total faith in Otamedi and Demichelis, but should they in any case?
That isn’t their only injury concerns; other players on the list include Samir Nasri, Eliaquim Mangala, Wilfried Bony, Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas and Fabian Delph. The fact is if this were a “normal” Premier League season, from the injuries sustained we’d all be dismissing Manchester’s chances of silverware. Arsenal have even fallen below Tottenham in the race for top; so why not Leicester as champions?
Leicester would be very satistfied with as much as a draw as they would have fended off a great chance for City to draw level at the top just as their UCL fixtures approach – it will be season defining match here for sure and at this stage there is certainly a lot more riding on this match for Manchester City than there is for Leicester, which is the drviving indicator in our predication of a narrow victory of the foxes in a close fought match.