Leicester City v Leeds United
Sunday 31 January, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Lazarus-like Leicester have had to dig deep
Having endured the crushing disappointment of being kicked out of the top four just before the end of last season, Leicester have shown admirable fortitude to haul themselves off the canvas and put their gloves back up. They are still in the Europa League and the FA Cup, and boss Brendan Rodgers has marshalled his resources superbly. Going into this weekend, the Foxes are third, and have crafted a four-point cushion in the race for Champions League qualification. They are trading at evens on the Exchange in the Top 4 Finish market.
Like pretty much every club in this chaotic and unprecedented campaign, Leicester have hit some bumps in the road. They lost four of their first seven home games in the league, including a fully-deserved reverse against relegation-threatened Fulham. However, a run of four wins and three draws has repaired much of the damage, and Rodgers’ side is chasing a third straight home win, having dismissed both Southampton and Chelsea 2-0.
James Maddison and Youri Tielemans continue to impress in midfield, with 11 goals and four assists between them in the league, and Harvey Barnes is a consistent threat either out wide or through the middle. 20-year-old defensive recruit Wesley Fofana has adapted superbly to life in the Premier League, and ultra-reliable striker Jamie Vardy has racked up 11 goals and five assists. Vardy is of course a vital cog in the machine, but the impressive midweek draw at Everton showed the Foxes can cope without him.
Vardy is still out, as is influential midfielder Wilfrid Ndidi. Rodgers must choose between sticking with Ayoze Perez as Vardy’s deputy, or giving Kelechi Iheanacho the chance to shine. Jonny Evans had a case of blurred vision in midweek, but should be fine.
Whites on course for primary target
There are many different ways to cobble together the 40 points you often need to avoid Premier League relegation, and although Leeds United have come up significantly short against the division’s elite sides, they have made hay against the rest. Six of their eight Premier League victories were against sides who are currently in the bottom half, and the Yorkshire giants have fashioned a 13-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone. Realistically, Marcelo Bielsa’s team only needs four more wins to secure survival, and they might not even need that many. History tells us there may be a physical and mental drop-off towards the end of the campaign, but it might not matter.
Bielsa is steadfast in his approach, and while that refusal to adjust or adapt is laudable in some ways, it has yielded some brutal punishment. They lost 3-0 to Spurs, 6-2 to Manchester United, 3-1 to Chelsea, 4-1 to Leicester and 4-3 at Anfield against the champions Liverpool. Those five games alone account for 20 of the 35 goals they have conceded in the league.
Bielsa’s cavalier, all-or-nothing approach is reflected in the paucity of draws – just two of their 19 PL games have ended level.
Spanish defender Diego Llorente continues to struggle with injury, and will be absent here. Robin Koch is still sidelined, but there are no fresh concerns.
Leicester win too good a price to ignore
Given Leeds’ difficulties against top sides this term, Leicester look a great bet in the Match Odds market at 1.910/11, even without the talismanic Vardy. The Foxes have played really well in their last two home matches, and they have lots of ways they can hurt the visitors.
Leeds have lost four of their last seven on the road, and have leaked at least three goals in all of those defeats. I can’t see them digging in or changing their approach, and I think they’ll come unstuck.
If you want to boost that price by using the Same Game Multi (see offer below), you could double up a Leicester win with Over 2.5 Goals at 2.43, as 11 of Leeds’ last 15 competitive games have featured three goals or more. Leicester have scored at least twice in seven of their last ten league games, so another angle would be to back a Leicester win and Over 1.5 Home Goals at 2.03.
Leicester to rack up the shots
Given that we expect Leicester to create plenty of chances here, it’s worth backing them to have at least six shots on target here at 13/10 on the Sportsbook. Leicester are eighth when it comes to overall shots on target this term – with an average of 4.3. Now that average is obviously well below what we need, but in the reverse fixture they had eight shots on target, and they’ve had six in each of their last two PL games. Leeds have allowed 107 shots on target in 19 league games, and only West Brom have a higher tally.