Both Leicester and Manchester City are feeling the pressure before Saturday’s clash. The Foxes are suffering the ultimate title hangover and now stare relegation in the face, while Manchester City have lost their way in the title race and are dealing with suspensions. Which team will get their season back on track at the King Power Stadium?
Nobody was tipping Leicester to retain their title this season. But at the same time, nobody expected them to be quiet as bad as they have been since August.
Ranieri's side are now just two points above the relegation zone and haven’t won in five Premier League matches. Most of the damage has been done away from home, where they’ve picked up just one point all season.
What’s remarkable is how footballers who could do no wrong a few months ago now look so ordinary. The explanation may be even more worrying than just a loss of form.
One of their most productive relationships last year was the Vardy-Mahrez axis. But this season you could almost count on two hands the amount of passes completed by Mahrez to his teammate. Up to the end of November it was just nine all season .
This makes you wonder if the two players have fallen out off the pitch.
Many tipsters had Vardy as their favourite for the golden boot. We hope nobody put big money on him this season, because as of last weekend, Vardy has now gone 697 minutes without registering a single shot on target.
As we saw above, service has been limited for the English striker. But maybe there’s more to his troubles than that. Vardy wouldn’t be the first journeyman footballer to lose some of that drive once he got his first big contract.
Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have played almost every match at the back this season, and they’ve been pretty ordinary throughout. Both look like the competent but limited footballers they were before 2015-16.
It makes signing a centre-half a priority in the transfer window. Luis Hernández clearly isn’t trusted, and Ranieri will be shooting himself in his own foot by basing a defensive philosophy on unreliable defenders.
Champions League Respite
But if there’s a silver lining it’s Leicester’s progress in the Champions League. With first place in Group G wrapped up, and, hopefully an easier draw in the knockouts, the Foxes can now focus on a domestic campaign that is getting out of hand.
OK, the likes of Copenhagen and FC Bruges may not be the toughest opposition, but there’s been a clear difference between Leicester’s performance in Europe and the Premier League. So if Ranieri’s men have found it difficult to refocus for domestic matches, they can put European football out of their minds until February now.
Bet on a Revival
If there’s one good thing about facing Manchester City in the middle of a slump, it’s that Guardiola’s side play the sort of football that Leicester had so much joy exploiting last season.
The Foxes are happier playing deep without the ball, and will be heartened by Chelsea’s final two goals on the counter on Saturday. And if it’s true these Leicester players now need glamorous fixtures to get motivated, it doesn't get more continental than Guardiola and his unpredictable systems.
Leicester Predicted Lineup:
Zieler; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Amartey, King, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy
With an hour gone on Saturday Man City had Chelsea right where they wanted them and had created enough chances to be out of sight. Then, after de Bruyne hit the crossbar from five yards, everything went sour.
Half an hour later and City had been comfortably beaten, and two key players in Fernandinho and Agüero are now set to miss several matches. We expected Chelsea to hurt City on the counter, but we didn’t think City would be so naive.
This could well do a lot of harm to City’s title chances. Guardiola has learned this season how competitive every fixture can be in the Premier League.
With ten goals to his name, it’s a given that Agüero’s absence will hurt City. But Fernandinho’s suspension for assaulting Fàbregas could be more damaging.
The Brazilian midfielder is possibly the only player in the squad to match defensive qualities with a deft passing range, and has started every league match this season.
It Gets Worse
On top of that, Otamendi is suspended for Leicester, and he’s been Man City’s most reliable central defender this season. With Kompany also still out we’ll most likely see a Stones-Kolarov partnership, which is far from first choice.
John Stones had a rough time against Chelsea, and Kolarov wasn’t much better. Both are still learning the ropes at centre-half and represent the kind of defence that Leicester City dismantled regularly last season.
Touré Tipped to Return
When the Citizens travelled to Burnley recently Guardiola picked a midfield with a couple of physically imposing players in Fernando and Yaya Touré. It worked fine that day, with Touré doing enough to earn more game-time after falling out with his boss at the start of the season.
Leicester are similar to Burnley in many ways, particularly their intense running and counter-attacking style. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Touré back in the side, and the Ivorian may feel he has a point to prove, having been left out on Saturday against Chelsea.
Last season you’d have made young Kelechi Iheanacho favourite to fill in for Agüero up front. But with Guardiola in charge you never know what could happen. We’ve already seen de Bruyne play as a false nine, and both Sterling and Nolito can also start there if needed.
But it’s obvious that goals are a major concern without Agüero, who has ten to his name from 11 games. The next-highest scorer is Sterling on just four.
We know that Agüero’s suspension will hurt City, but perhaps some faith in their young Nigerian hotshot could see them through the next three matches.
Manchester City Predicted Teamsheet:
Bravo; Zabaleta, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy; de Bruyne, Gündoğan; David Silva, Touré, Sterling; Iheanacho
When Will Leicester vs Manchester City Take Place?
17:30 GMT on 10 December at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester vs Manchester City Match Prediction
Form tells us that City should be favourites for this one. But with the entire spine of Guardiola’s team missing there will never be a better time for Leicester to take on Manchester City. It could be the ideal opportunity for Ranieri’s side to break out of their rut and gain some confidence.
For the Citizens it’s going to take all of Guardiola’s ingenuity to negotiate the next few matches without key players. He’s done it in the past, but the Premier League is known to punish teams that are less than full strength.
That being said, we’re betting on a 1-2 away win: Man City are seriously under-strength, but Leicester look nothing like the side that won the title last season.
In the meantime, check out how to watch both sides’ midweek Champions League matches for free.