2018-19 EPL Match Day 23 Preview — Wolverhampton (8-5-9) vs. Leicester City (9-4-9)

For just the second time in league play, Wolverhampton will have a change in personnel in their three-man back line Saturday when they host Leicester City at Molineux.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

For the first 22 league matches, Willy Boly, Connor Coady, and Ryan Bennett have been fixtures in Nuno Espirito Santo’s starting XI for all but one contest – Bennett was dropped in Wolves’ 2-1 loss to Cardiff City on Nov. 30. While Wolverhampton (8-5-9) have recorded just one clean sheet in their last 14 league contests, they are a competent trio in front of Rui Patricio and a key reason the side are well on their way to staying in the top flight for a second straight season.

Boly, though, will begin serving a three-match suspension in this contest, the result of a straight red card received in Wolves’ 3-0 loss to reigning champions Manchester City last weekend. Boly won the ball on a challenge against Bernardo Silva, but his studs-up follow through caught the City midfielder on the ankle, and Craig Pawson did not hesitate in sending Boly off.

Nuno had no complaints post-match, having conferred with the fourth official during the contest. The scoreline was somewhat harsh to Wolves, who also conceded a first-half penalty after Bennett felled David Silva before Coady had an own goal 11 minutes from time following cross from Kevin De Bruyne.

“We have to have desire,” midfielder Jonny told Wolves’ official website. “We come from two losses in Premier League, but now we have two consecutive home games against two direct opponents. It is important to give a very good performance to our supporters and give them back that love they give to us. Hopefully first with three points against Leicester and then again three points against West Ham.

“Hopefully everything goes well, and we can get six points out of six and keep fighting, because we are having a good campaign.”

Kevin Hause started in Boly’s spot in two Carabao Cup matches for Wolves, but he was loaned out to Aston Villa for the second half of the season. That leaves Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Vinagre and possibly Romain Saiss as options for Nuno at left back.

Dendoncker started at right back in the Carabao Cup and has started three of Wolverhampton’s last four matches in all competitions.

Wolves’ first-season success could be so much better had they done a better job turning Molineux into a fortress. Wolverhampton have dropped back-to-back home league matches and are just 4-2-5 this term after taking 53 of a possible 63 points (16-5-2) in the Championship while earning promotion.

Leicester City (9-4-9) also are in no danger of the drop as they enter this match eighth in the table, but the grumbling that came with their crashing out of the FA Cup grew louder with last weekend’s 2-1 loss at home to Southampton.

The Foxes conceded twice in the first half before Wilfred Ndidi gave the Midlands side a lifeline just before the hour, but an equaliser was not to be found. With rumours swirling that current Celtic and ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is being vetted as a potential replacement for Claude Puel, Leicester begin a daunting four-match gauntlet that includes contests with the table-topping Reds, resurgent Manchester United and top-three Tottenham Hotspur.

Puel has guided Leicester City to wins over Manchester City and Chelsea, but a poor run of results could lead to the ouster of the Frenchman, who has never truly won over supporters and had his run-ins with players, most notably striker Jamie Vardy.

“They are four easy games for us,” centre back Harry Maguire joked to The Times. “But we need to start improving at home. Wolves away will be tough and then we have three good fixtures but very tough ones. Hopefully we can rise to the occasion and get some more points on the board and set us up for an exciting end to the season.”

One reason for Leicester’s inability to kick onto the next level has been a paucity of goals. The Foxes have struck for two or more goals just once in their last 10 matches across all competitions. Leicester City’s 26 league goals are the fewest of any side in the top half of the table as every other club have racked up at least 30.

Vardy has a team-best seven goals, but young playmaker James Maddison, who has five goals and shares the team led with three assists, has not factored on a goal in Leicester’s last five contests.

Leicester City were somewhat fortunate to come away with a 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture in August. Wolves hit the woodwork three times during the match and conceded an own goal through Matt Doherty to open the scoring. Maddison provided the other goal with a finish off a cross from Ricardo Pereira right on the stroke of halftime, and the Foxes saw out the win down a man after Vardy scythed down Doherty in the 66th minute.

Leicester also dumped Wolves out of the Carabao Cup on penalties in the third round on penalties after a scoreless 90 minutes. The Foxes have not done the double over Wolverhampton since the 1995-96 season in the First Division.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Wolves are 11/8 favourites to claim all three points, while Leicester City are 12/5 underdogs to complete the league double. The odds of the teams splitting the points are slightly in between at 11/5.

Oddsmakers are expecting a tight defensive contest, with the under 2.5 goals a heavy favourite at 4/7 odds compared to 11/8 for clearing that bar. There are also 3/4 odds there will be at least one clean sheet for the third time in as many matches between the sides this term compared to even money they both score.

Each team has a striker at 5/1 odds to score first, but for the Foxes, that choice is Kelechi Iheanacho as opposed to Vardy at 6/1. Jimenez joins Iheanacho at 5/1, with Leo Bonatini in the middle at 11/2. Wolves’ Diogo Jota is a 13/2 pick, while Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro are both 15/2 options. Adama Traore checks in at 17/2, while Leicester teammates Maddison and Demarai Gray are both 9/1 to make a 0-1 scoreline.

Iheanacho and Jimenez are both 15/8 picks to score during the course of the match, with Vardy at 9/4, again behind Bonatini (2/1). Jota is a 12/5 choice, with Costa and Cavaleiro both 11/4 options. Traore again edges out Maddison and Gray as a 10/3 option over the Foxes’ duo at 7/2. Wolves starlet Morgan Gibbs-White also is a 7/2 pick during the match and 9/1 to bag the first marker.

PREDICTION

It may be a longshot, but given the gauntlet the Foxes have after this contest, there is a possibility Puel could get the axe here after a loss to consolidate and regroup. Both of these clubs have been maddeningly inconsistent all term — Leicester City overall and Wolverhampton curiously at home — but the grousing in the Midlands picked up steam after the FA Cup loss and could reach a crescendo with another empty result.

Both of these teams are top-half capable, and with no one picking up the banner to claim seventh — three points separate seventh through 11th in the table — a potential Europa League qualifying round spot is there for the taking since the Carabao Cup final will be contested by a pair of top-four sides. A win streak among any of the clubs in that pack could create separation and an inside lane for that spot.

Leicester have the feel of a team with no galvanising force to rally behind, yet have impressive pieces at each level in Kasper Schmeichel, Maguire, Maddison, and Vardy. The parts are better than the sum of the whole at the moment. Wolves have been the opposite for most of their season since promotion, but there will be much to learn about them in these next three matches without Boly.

Leicester City are not an overly physical side, something that should help Wolverhampton given their struggles against teams that like a little bit of blood and thunder with their football. That said, both teams need a win for a different reasons, but it also looks like the kind of match where the sides frustratingly split the points.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Wolverhampton 1, Leicester City 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 23 PREVIEWS:

Liverpool (18-3-1) vs. Crystal Palace (6-4-12)
Manchester United (12-5-5) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10)
Southampton (4-7-11) vs. Everton (8-6-8)
Arsenal (12-5-5) vs. Chelsea (14-5-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 22 — Leicester City (9-4-8) vs. Southampton (3-7-11)

For a man who has two of the biggest league victories of the season over Big Six sides, Leicester City manager Claude Puel appears to be treading on thin ice.

The embattled Foxes boss looks to keep the Midlands side atop the pack for seventh on Saturday when they host Puel’s former club Southampton at King Power Stadium.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Leicester City (9-4-8) are currently “the best of the rest” in the Premier League on 31 points, seven behind resurgent Manchester United. Seventh place carries the potential of a Europa League qualifying berth based on Carabao Cup and FA Cup results, but supporters were hoping for a deep run in the FA Cup after a respectable quarterfinal exit on penalties in the Carabao Cup versus current holders Manchester City.

Those hopes, however, were dashed with a shocking 2-1 loss at League Two side Newport County on Sunday, a side 74 places below the Foxes in the English football pyramid. Marc Albrighton handled a cross on 85 minutes that allowed Newport’s Under-16 coach, Padraig Amond, to slot home the winning penalty.

“A lot of disappointment and frustration,” Puel told The Times after making seven changes to the first XI that powered a 1-0 win over Everton to ring in 2019. “But it’s a cup game and we didn’t find the solution to score more goals. We have had a good team with eight who had played winning the title with Leicester. I don’t want to look for excuses.”

Puel’s man management has left him open to criticism that has canceled out the goodwill that should have been fostered with wins over Manchester City and Chelsea on top of the way he kept the side together following the tragic death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in October.

Puel and top striker Jamie Vardy – who did not even make the trip to Wales – have not seen eye to eye on multiple occasions this term, and leaving midfielder James Maddison on the bench until after intermission was another talking point in the Midlands.

“The good thing about football is that you get the chance to put it right as quickly as possible,” Albrighton told Leicester City’s official website. “We’ll aim to do that. We’re at home, so it makes it even better for us, we’ve got the crowd behind us and we’ll look to start well in the game and put last week to bed.

“We’ve had two close games against Southampton (this season). I know they’re probably a different task now with a new manager. They play differently and they seem to be playing with a lot more confidence.”

Southampton (3-7-11) are now three managers removed from Puel, who guided them to an eighth-place finish and a League Cup final in his lone season in charge in 2016-17. Mark Hughes was barely successful in keeping the Saints above the drop last term after replacing Mauricio Pellegrino, and now Ralph Hasenhuttl is trying to do the same after a miserable start this season led to Hughes’ sacking.

Southampton have improved since the German took over, but they did themselves no favours in the FA Cup on Saturday, having been held to a 2-2 draw at Derby County that will result in a third-round replay at St Mary’s. Nathan Redmond continued his purple patch of scoring with a brace on either side of halftime, but Tom Lawrence set up a goal and scored a second for Frank Lampard’s side in a three-minute span of the second half.

The match did allow Hasenhuttl a chance to observe more of Southampton’s younger players, with midfielder Callum Slattery making his senior team debut.

“I think he won a lot of balls from this position and also has the technique to look in front and give the last pass. I was happy with his performance and he showed he is always an alternative for me,” Hasenhuttl noted to the club’s official website about the 19-year-old.

Keeper Angus Gunn could be in line for a third consecutive start in all competitions after turning in a clean sheet in his first league start – a 0-0 draw versus Chelsea in which the 22-year-old made a pair of quality saves to deny Eden Hazard.

Up front, Hasenhuttl will be without top-choice striker Danny Ings through injury and Charlie Austin through suspension, with the forward being given a two-match ban by the FA for making an insulting gesture in Southampton’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City on Dec. 30. Midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will serve the last of his three-match ban for a straight red card given late in that contest.

Austin will miss this match and the replay against Derby County next Wednesday. The absence of Ings and Austin puts more pressure on Redmond to continue producing. He has four goals and two assists in his last six matches across all competitions.

Leicester City ran out 2-1 winners in the reverse fixture at St Mary’s in August, with Harry Maguire’s strike in stoppage time cruelly denying 10-man Southampton a point. Demarai Gray and Ryan Bertrand traded goals four minutes apart early in the second half, and the Saints played a man down after 77 minutes after Hojbjerg received a second booking for diving.

The teams also played to a scoreless draw in the round of 16 in the Carabao Cup before Leicester advanced on penalties after an 85th-minute goal by Southampton’s Steven Davis was overturned by VAR for a handball on Redmond in the buildup.

The Foxes have not done the double over Southampton in the Premier League since 1999-2000.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Leicester City are 19/20 favourites to bounce back from their embarrassing FA Cup exit and claim all three points, while Southampton are 10/3 underdogs to claim a road win and heap further pressure on Puel. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 5/2.

Oddsmakers are predicting a low-scoring contest, with 8/11 odds offered for under the 2.5-goal threshold compared to 11/10 over it. It’s a toss-up as to whether both teams will score or a shutout will be recorded in either direction with 10/11 odds for both.

In a bit of a surprise, the Foxes striker leading the list for first goal-scorers is Kelechi Iheanacho at 15/4, nudging out Vardy (4/1). A trio of Leicester players — Maddison, Demarai Gray, and Shinjo Okazaki are all 13/2. Long was originally among that group, but with his suspension, the top Saints to make it 0-1 are Shane Long (9/1) and Redmond (10/1).

Iheanacho is a 6/5 pick to score during the course of the match, with Vardy in close pursuit at 13/10. The aforementioned Foxes threesome are each 11/5 picks to score a goal while Long is a 10/3 pick. Redmond and Stuart Armstrong both check in at 7/2.

PREDICTION

This space finds nothing wrong with the Leicester supporters being aggrieved about a potential FA Cup run scuppered with poor man management by Puel in terms of the in-match moves. It’s questionable to not bring Vardy, sure, but Puel has been consistent in that regards with the striker — even at considerable angst to gaffer, player and fan base.

A must-win sounds harsh, but a not-lose sounds more accurate. The good news is there appears to be such a margin of error regarding this chase for seventh with a rotating cast of characters among Leicester, Wolves, Everton, and West Ham United that one loss — even to a relegation-threatened side in Southampton — does not sound a death knell for those hopes. But a loss definitely adds to the irritability of those in the Midlands.

With Hasenhuttl not naming a starter between the sticks at his Friday news conference, the hedge is Gunn is going to be the one on the top of the team sheet when it is handed over. He looked calm and composed against Chelsea, and while it was smart to give him his Premier League debut at home, at some point, Gunn has to start on the road.

Why not here against an opponent playing in front of edgy home supporters? Why not now, because Southampton have played better as Hasenhuttl has blooded the kiddie corps. The Saints’ lack of offence up front and from anyone other than Redmond will probably be their undoing in this match, and not having Maya Yoshida (Asian Cup) in the back is going to be a problem against the irrepressible and tireless Vardy.

This is a game where his graft plus Maddison’s creativity separate the sides, who have already played two very close matches this season.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Leicester City 1, Southampton 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 22 PREVIEWS

West Ham United (8-4-9) vs. Arsenal (12-5-4)
Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-9) vs. Liverpool (17-3-1)
Chelsea (13-5-3) vs. Newcastle United (4-6-11)
Tottenham Hotspur (16-0-5) vs. Manchester United (11-5-5)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 19 Preview — Leicester City (7-4-7) vs. Manchester City (14-2-2)

There are many ways to view Manchester City’s shocking home loss to Crystal Palace, but regardless of how one chooses to do so, one thing is clear.

There is genuine pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side as they head to the Midlands for the second time in barely more than a week to face Leicester City on Boxing Day.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The combination of questionable personnel decisions in terms of position, poor play, and a wonder strike from an opponent all contributed to City’s second league defeat in three matches. It also dropped the Citizens (14-2-2) four points behind table-toppers Liverpool as the two sides steam towards a titanic clash at the Etihad on Jan. 3.

The defeat ended a staggering 52-match unbeaten run (45-7-0) against non-Big Six sides since a 4-0 loss at Everton nearly two years ago and marked the first time in Guardiola’s tenure there is an external pressure on his side since his much-heralded arrival in 2016.

In terms of personnel and tactics, Guardiola’s ill-fated decision to let centre back John Stones play the role of defensive midfielder – a spot normally occupied by the injured Fernandinho – proved fatal as City had trouble linking from its back third to its attacking five. That was most evident on the disastrous clearance that led to Andros Townsend’s thunderous volley from 30 yards that could stand as the Premier League goal of the season come May.

“Obviously the result is a setback. We have lost but we are only looking at ourselves game to game,” left back Fabian Delph told City’s official website. “We had a few chances which we have put away in the past, but fair play to Crystal Palace – they were stubborn and organised.

“It’s hard to analyse and we will go back to the drawing board and look at it. We started slowly and the ball wasn’t zipping about.”

If Fernandinho is unavailable again, it sees more likely Guardiola would use Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne as a defensive midfield pairing rather than try Stones as a sole holding option for a third straight match.

If there was a bright spot, it is that De Bruyne looks more and more ready to play a full 90 minutes as he scored for the second time in as many matches following a lengthy absence due to a knee injury. The Belgium international started in City’s shootout win last week in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals.

Striker Sergio Aguero could also be in line for his first league start since late November as he had a 40-minute runout versus Palace after being part of the first XI in the Midlands.

Though they lost to City in a shootout, Leicester City (7-4-7) took plenty of confidence from having played City level for 90 minutes and followed it up with their best result of the season, a 1-0 victory at Chelsea on Saturday. Jamie Vardy looked like the Vardy from the club’s championship-winning run in 2015-16, nipping at defenders’ heels and using his industry to score the lone goal of the match on 51 minutes.

“It was a great collective performance today,” midfielder James Maddison, who set up Vardy’s goal, told the club’s official website. “We can’t single out individuals because it was a great team performance, it was one of them where we had to dig in.

“It wasn’t the prettiest, but you have games like that but you come away with three points and that’s what we came for.”

Vardy, who leads Leicester with six goals in all competitions, has dealt with a niggling groin injury in recent weeks that has occasionally forced manager Claude Puel to be cautious with his feisty veteran striker. The gaffer, though, also thinks that conservative approach could pay dividends during this busy holiday stretch for the former England international.

“Jamie showed it was behind him, this injury,” Puel said at his Monday news conference. “We managed to keep him fit with all his possibilities and his attributes. He can play in his best way and that’s the most important thing.

“I’ve said before how important it is to manage our players. We have a busy period with tough games to prepare, an exciting game now, but it’s important to take the right decisions. Jamie has showed his quality and he came back at a fantastic level.”

It will be interesting to see if Puel sticks with the 4-3-3 formation he used to counteract Chelsea’s 4-3-3 or whether he reverts back to his customary 4-2-3-1 set-up.

City are unbeaten in their last five (3-2-0) in all competitions versus Leicester City and won three on the trot in league play. De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus scored four minutes apart bridging halftime in last season’s corresponding fixture.

This will also be Riyad Mahrez’s first league match against his former team after his move to Manchester City over the summer. The Algeria international, who had a January move to City fall apart, started last week’s shootout win but was not one of the four penalty takers for the Citizens.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, City are solid 4/11 favourites to regroup and keep the pressure on Liverpool with three points, while hosts Leicester City are distant 17/2 underdogs to pull off a second consecutive shock scoreline. There are 17/4 odds for the Foxes to hold out for another draw against City, one that would this time earn them a point.

Though the teams struck for only two goals last week, oddsmakers continue to believe there are goals to be had between the sides. There are 8/13 odds to clear 2.5 goals this time compared to 13/10 odds for a second match under that threshold. The odds of one team recording a clean sheet are 4/5, just better than both teams scoring at 19/20.

The expectation Aguero will be in the first XI has vaulted him to the top choice for the first goal-scorer of the match at 5/2, followed by Gabriel Jesus (10/3). Raheem Sterling rounds out the top three at 9/2, with former Foxes winger Mahrez an 11/2 option to score against his former team. De Bruyne is an 8/1 pick to run his goal-scoring streak to three matches while making it 0-1.

Vardy is the top pick for the hosts at 9/1, with Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho further down the pecking order at 14/1.

Aguero is an 8/13 selection to score over the course of 90 minutes, and Jesus (5/6) is the only other selection better than even money. Sterling is a 6/5 pick, followed by Mahrez (6/4), and Leroy Sane is a 13/8 selection to avoid going a fourth consecutive contest without a goal. Vardy has 13/5 odds on scoring a goal for the second straight match, with Maddison and Iheanacho again paired together — this time at 4/1 — and Demarai Gray another notch back at 5/1.

PREDICTION

At some point during the last week, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp mentioned that he believed it may take 105 points to win the Premier League this season — a staggering figure when you consider if the Reds beat Newcastle as expected on Boxing Day they will have 51 points at the halfway pole and also mans Liverpool can only afford one non-victory in the final 19 league matches.

That is what makes City’s loss to Palace all the more damaging. It’s not the actual loss, though it was completely out of the blue. It was a loss that did not have to take place — there was no need for Guardiola not to further his Stones experiment in league play. That’s not to take anything away from Stones, who is still evolving into a top-drawer centre back and could form a devastating partnership with Laporte for the next decade once he realises his ceiling of vast potential.

But he looked uncomfortable on the ball, and to Roy Hodgson and Crystal Palace’s credit, they seized on it right away, took the match to the City. The rub of the green with Townsend’s thunderbolt was as much deserved as it was luck.

Last week was on Guardiola, which means he needs to take these next two matches before hosting Liverpool as an all hands on deck approach to win all six points with the hope Liverpool drop either contest to reduce the four-point deficit by the time Jan. 3 rolls around. Inching closer to full strength via Aguero and De Bruyne obviously helps, but this is the time where City have to be ruthless at every position and Guardiola has to go above and beyond demanding it.

Leicester City have played their best 180 minutes of the season in their last two contests, and it will be curious to see how much belief is carried over from the weekend into this contest. The Foxes proved City can be caught from behind — as did Palace last week — and conceding first is not a death sentence to defeat.

It remains to be seen of Puel can run out a 4-3-3 for the second straight match, though it takes more the form of a 4-3-2-1 set up with Vardy harrying defenders. He is the kind of nuisance Stones probably does not want to see this weekend given his performance versus Palace, but he will at least have support on the back line.

It may take a while for City to shake off their hangover, and Leicester will be dogged opponents, but in the end, there is too much class and too much firepower for the Foxes to hold off.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Leicester City 0, Manchester City 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 19 PREVIEWS:

Burnley (3-3-12) vs. Everton (6-6-6)
Liverpool (15-3-0) vs. Newcastle United (4-5-9)
Tottenham Hotspur (14-0-4) vs. Bournemouth (8-2-8)
Southampton (3-6-9) vs. West Ham United (7-3-8)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 18 Preview — Chelsea (11-4-2) vs. Leicester City (6-4-7)

After avoiding the same fate that befell Leicester City in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals midweek, Chelsea look to strengthen their hold on their top-four status Saturday when they host the Foxes at Stamford Bridge.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

First-year coach Maurizio Sarri moved a step closer to winning his first trophy at any level as Chelsea (11-4-2) scraped out a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth to earn a date with derby rival Tottenham next month in the two-legged semifinals. Eden Hazard came off the bench to find the match-winner six minutes from time for the Pensioners, who are unbeaten in four in all competitions (2-2-0) since their surprising loss at Wolverhampton.

Upon completion of the semifinal draw, Chelsea assistant Gianfranco Zola immediately seized on the theme of revenge for Chelsea, who were thoroughly outclassed by Spurs in a 3-1 loss last month. That defeat also was Sarri’s first loss in any competition since taking over in the summer.

“We are happy because some time ago they gave us a good football lesson, and we are looking forward to challenging them again,” Zola told the club’s official website. “I’m sure it’s going to be a different type of game, and I think everybody is very excited to face them again.

“We were hurting (after the league defeat). Too many players underplayed in that game. There are a lot of proud players in our team, and of course they will want to play this game. I am really pleased we are playing against them and I can’t wait.”

Sarri made six changes to the side that won 2-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion, with Hazard making all the difference after his introduction just after the hour. It was his team-leading 10th goal in all competitions for Chelsea, and the Belgium international has a two goals and five assists in his last five appearances while factoring in all but one of the Blues’ eight goals in those contests.

“He is certainly one of the players who has given this club a lot of satisfaction,” Zola said of Hazard, who could be eyeing a move come season’s end. “Considering he is only 27, hopefully he will stay longer with us and become even bigger. I am really looking forward to seeing Eden achieving great things with the club, and to help us coaches achieve something important.”

It will be interesting to see if Sarri sticks with Hazard in a false No. 9 role for a third straight league match after restoring Olivier Giroud to the first XI for the first time in five matches. The France international was thwarted twice trying to add an insurance goal in stoppage time and has not scored in league play since a consolation strike in the loss to Spurs.

Leicester City’s dreams of a semifinal appearance in the Carabao Cup were dashed with a loss to current cup holders Manchester City on Tuesday after playing the reigning league champions to a 1-1 draw. Marc Albrighton pulled the Foxes (6-4-7) level on 73 minutes, but their luck on penalties in this competition finally ran dry as only Harry Maguire beat City goalkeeper Aro Muric from the spot.

Danny Ward, who was between the sticks in shootout victories over Wolves and Southampton in the previous two rounds, was unable to stop any of the four City attempts, though Raheem Sterling missed his try from the spot.

“For us to put on a second half performance like we did, we’ve got to take encouragement and confidence from that and take it to Stamford Bridge,” Albrighton told LCFC TV at full-time. “We’ll go there and put up a good fight and get a result. We’re disappointment because we came so far and took (Manchester City) all the way. We said before if we can get them to penalties we need to make sure we finish them off. We did half of that but didn’t do the full job.”

If Leicester are to get that result Albrighton feels is possible, an improved performance from midfielder James Maddison is vital to the cause. Manager Claude Puel pulled him at halftime in last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace as both the England international and the rest of the team failed to show any aggression in playing a Palace side without top striker Wilfried Zaha.

Maddison, who shares the team lead with Jamie Vardy with five goals in all competitions, had scored the last two goals in the run of play for Leicester City – a span that covered the previous seven matches in all competitions – before Albrighton’s equaliser.

Chelsea took four points from the two meetings last term, with the sides playing out a scoreless draw in the corresponding fixture. The Blues also had a 2-1 victory after extra time in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup as Pedro’s goal on 105 minutes proved decisive.

The Pensioners are unbeaten in their last seven (5-2-0) in all competitions versus Leicester City and 12-2-1 in the last 15 matchups. That lone Foxes victory in London in December 2015, though, was the catalyst that sparked Claudio Ranieri and the Midlands’ side stunning run to the 2016 Premier League title and ended Jose Mourinho’s second stint at Stamford Bridge.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Chelsea are heavy 1/3 favourites to pick up a second victory this week and maintain their top-four status. Leicester City are 10/1 underdogs to pick up just their second win in the last 16 versus the Pensioners. There are also 9/2 odds on the sides splitting the points.

There are 8/11 odds for the clubs to combine for more than 2.5 goals compared to 11/10 odds to finish under the threshold. There is an expectation for at least one clean sheet, with 7/10 odds of one team not scoring compared to 21/20 odds for both teams putting one goal through.

The seemingly irrepressible Hazard leads the goal-scoring options, including an 11/4 status for first-goal honours. Giroud is a 7/2 selection, while fellow striker Alvaro Morata and Callum Hudson-Odoi are both 9/2 options. Willian is 11/2 followed by Pedro and Ruben Loftus-Cheek at 6/1. For the visitors, Jamie Vardy is the top option at 10/1 to provide a 0-1 scoreline, with Kelechi Iheanacho further back at 14/1.

To score over the course of 90 minutes, Hazard and Giroud are both better than even money at 8/11 and 20/21, respectively, to bag a goal, and Morata and Hudson-Odoi are both 13/10. Willian checks in at 13/8, with Pedro and Loftus-Cheek paired together again, this time at 7/4. Vardy leads the line for Leicester at 3/1, with Iheanacho 9/2 and Maddison 5/1.

PREDICTION

While there are undoubtedly some English purists who would love a sumo wrestling-like tussle in the penalty area between Giroud and “Slabhead” Harry Maguire, we all know Sarri has no time for such banalities. Therefore, the expectation is this new-look front three of Pedro, Hazard and Willian will continue until someone figures out how to shut them down.

Bournemouth did show some ability to do so with a five-man back, but Leicester manager Claude Puel has used a back four for all but one match this season in all competitions and is not expected to suddenly vary here ahead of the busy holiday fixtures.

This is a straightforward match to a degree, with the X-factor being whether Leicester City can raise their play in this match. Puel’s benching of Maddison last weekend was probably a good wake-up call to the precocious midfielder, and if the Foxes can stay on the ball, the England international has the pace to find the pockets of space to create threatening chances.

Leicester also always have the fallback option of Route One soccer and sending Vardy on the hunt against Chelsea’s centre back pairing of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger, though that may not be an optimal route for success.

On the Chelsea side, watch for where Hazard makes his runs with the ball, whether he challenges Maguire or Wes Morgan when he goes forward. Those are the interplay decisions that make Hazard and Sarri such a dynamic tandem — the manager and the player understand each other very well, and it adds to the connectivity between the Belgium international and Jorginho.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Chelsea 2, Leicester City 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 18 PREVIEWS:

Wolverhampton (7-4-6) vs. Liverpool (14-3-0)
Arsenal (10-4-3) vs. Burnley (3-3-11)
West Ham United (7-3-7) vs. Watford (7-3-7)
Everton (6-6-5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (13-0-4)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 16 Preview — Leicester City (6-4-5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (11-0-4)

Easily shaking off their north London derby loss, Tottenham Hotspur seek back-to-back wins as they face Leicester City on Saturday at King Power Stadium.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

 

The Spurs (11-0-4), though, must also resist the temptation to peek beyond this match to their crunch Champions League encounter at Barcelona midweek. Tottenham must at least match the result of Inter Milan, who host group-bottom PSV Eindhoven, for a second consecutive appearance in the knockout round.

But first things first, and that means building on a 3-1 victory over Southampton on Wednesday in which the Lilywhites barely had to get beyond second gear. Harry Kane scored his 13th goal in all competitions and assisted on Heung-Min Son’s marker on 55 minutes that lifted Spurs to third in the table on 33 points, two better than London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.

It was also Son’s 100th goal in European competitions in a career that included stops at Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen before joining Spurs in 2015, and all four of his goals this term have come in Tottenham’s last eight matches in all competitions after helping South Korea beat Japan in the Asian Games final.

“We are so happy in the way he has started to perform in the last few games, after the international break,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said post-match about Son. “It’s difficult to guess because he’s still so young, a great character, he’s so professional and he’s enjoys playing football a lot, but enjoys training the same in the same level.

“If you want to go further as a player you must love your job. You must love training and spending time with your team-mates on the training ground. If you are capable of that and feel like he feels, it’s possible to do everything.”

All told, Pochettino made five changes to his starting XI from the north London derby, including three at the back. In all likelihood, Juan Foyth will retain his centre back spot for this contest since he is not on the Champions League roster, while Toby Alderweireld may be given a rest in this contest.

Fellow central defender Jan Vertonghen still needs more match fitness after missing 10 matches with a hamstring injury before returning last week and then served a one-match ban Wednesday after his two yellow cards versus Arsenal. Kieran Trippier may also sit this one out as Pochettino is still annoyed at the groin injury he believes the right back picked up due to overuse by England.

“I think it’s the same problem, the same problem that started in the World Cup. If you remember the semi-final against Croatia, when he left the pitch,” Pochettino said. “Then I think to play after three days against Belgium, I think maybe it affected a little bit. Now he’s suffering in that situation. In situations like today when the pitch is not in a good condition, this area, the groin, suffers more when the pitch is different.

“It’s a thing that we need to care a lot for him, protect him, he needs to work a lot to protect and sort that problem.”

Pochettino will also have to ponder resting Kane, who is in both a purple patch in terms of scoring and an absolute terror to Leicester City. The Three Lions talisman has six goals in his last seven matches in all competitions and 11 in seven career matchups with Leicester City. Kane had a brace and the winner in the most recent matchup, a wild 5-4 Spurs win to cap last season, and had a four-goal effort at King Power to cap the 2016-17 term.

Dele Alli will likely be restored to the starting XI for this contest, though fellow attacking midfielder Erik Lamela could be held out of a third straight match due to a thigh injury suffered in Spurs’ win over Inter Milan on Nov. 28.

Leicester City (6-4-5) are unbeaten in their last six in league play (2-4-0) after playing Fulham and former manager Claudio Ranieri to a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage on Wednesday. James Maddison scored the equaliser on 74 minutes, with substitute Shinjo Okazaki providing the assist two minutes after his insertion by Claude Puel.

“I think in the first half we missed a lot of chances and they scored,” midfielder Vicente Iborra told Leicester City’s official website. “In the first half we tried to combat the game, we had a lot of chances and at the end we could’ve scored, but I think the point is fair.”

The draw left the Foxes ninth in the table on 22 points, but they are also just one back of sixth-place Everton. Leicester have not conceded at home in 330 minutes in all competitions dating to Fabian Balbuena’s 30th-minute goal for West Ham in a 1-1 draw Oct. 27.

Puel has injury concerns to his two best players as centre back Harry Maguire only returned to training this week following a lower-body injury and is uncertain to feature in this match, but Jamie Vardy has been definitely ruled out of thie contest. The striker picked up a groin injury in training ahead of Wednesday’s match, and Puel hinted surgery could be an option for Vardy – Leicester’s joint-top scorer with Maddison with five goals in league play.

Vardy was as much a thorn in Tottenham’s side as Kane was to the Foxes last term, scoring in both matches and bagging the winner in Leicester’s 2-1 victory at King Power. That ended a five-match unbeaten run (4-1-0) in the Midlands for the Lilywhites, who are 5-3-2 in their last 10 league meetings.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Spurs are even-money favourites to claim all three points from the Midlands, and a draw at 11/4 rates slightly above Leicester City pulling off a surprise victory at 14/5. There are 4/5 odds for the teams to combine for more than 2.5 goals, and it is even money to stay under that threshold.

Even with the likely absence of Vardy, oddsmakers rate Leicester’s offense, as there are 4/6 odds for both teams to score compared to 11/10 for at least one clean sheet.

As would be expected given his prolific track record versus the Foxes, Kane leads the way for first-goal scoring honours at 3/1, while his understudy Fernando Llorente is second at 5/1. Vardy has 11/2 odds along with Lucas Moura, while Son is a step back at 13/2 and Lamela at 15/2. Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho is an 8/1 pick to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, with Maddison and Demarai Gray both 9/1.

Kane is a 5/6 pick to score over the course of the 90 minutes, with Llorente a 6/4 selection. Vardy and Moura are again paired together, this time at 13/8, while Son is 2/1. Lamela checks in at 12/5, Iheanacho is 5/2, and both Eriksen and Alli are 11/4 picks to put one past Schmeichel.

PREDICTION

This is a tough ask for Leicester, even if Maguire does find his way into the starting XI for the first time since Nov. 3. Kane has been an unholy menace to the Midlands side, and even with Maguire back, he will be a handful for Leicester’s central defence.

But this match does put Pochettino in a tough spot considering he will need all hands on deck for Tuesday at the Nou Camp. In an ideal world, Kane buries a brace in the first hour of the match and Pochettino pulls him for the final quarter-hour with the match done and dusted. It also would not be surprising to see Lamela get a late runout for Eriksen just to make sure he could be available to face Barcelona.

Pochettino has almost every player available for Saturday and Tuesday, but it also comes down to man management for the Argentine. Each of the three substitutions are going to be scruitinised, and the primary goal beyond the three points is to get out of this match with no injuries, no knocks and able to choose the best 25 players.

Spurs have almost always taken care of business before a Champions League match — they are 4-0-1 in the league contests ahead of such a contest, and the lone loss came to Liverpool. It will require some graft, but for all the talk about the lack of Tottenham’s squad depth throughout the season after a dormant summer, this will be the match where it will make a difference.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Leicester City 0, Tottenham Hotspur 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 16 PREVIEWS

Manchester United (6-5-4) vs. Fulham (2-3-10)
Chelsea (9-4-2) vs. Manchester City (13-2-0)
Newcastle United (3-4-8) vs. Wolverhampton (5-4-6)
Everton (6-5-4) vs. Watford (6-2-7)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 12 Preview — Leicester City (5-1-5) vs. Burnley (2-2-7)

The pain is still raw and apparent in the Midlands, where the tears still flow over the tragic death of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash as he was leaving King Power Stadium a fortnight ago.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Saturday’s match against Burnley marks the first at King Power Stadium since the Foxes lost their owner, and emotions for players, staff and supporters will again be running high as the club prepares for the difficult task of honouring one of their own.

The tributes of flowers, scarves, cards and shirts have overwhelmed Filbert Way both physically – they wrap around the entire length of the stadium – and emotionally as the players and staff were often seen walking around the area in the days immediately following the crash that claimed four lives in addition to the Leicester City owner. The players also flew to Srivaddhanaprabha’s native Thailand during the week to pay their respects.

The club announced Wednesday they will begin relocating the tributes to a designated area near the southeast corner of King Power Stadium, close to the actual site of the crash which has been cleared to be used by investigators.

There will be other tributes ahead of the match, with a large number of supporters expected to walk from Jubilee Square to King Power Stadium. There will be a two-minute silence observed, with supporters requested to raise the scarves during that observance to honour the lives lost. There will also be what the team has called a “Tribute to Khun Vichai” video that will be played pre-match as the club and their supporters come to grips with all that has transpired in the past fortnight.

“It’s not easy to prepare this game, but the togetherness between us all, it’s a good feeling, a good energy, a fantastic strength,” said manager Claude Puel to the club’s official website. “Our strength, spirit and positive attitude, as well as the support of our fans, will be very important. We know our fans, they are fantastic… there were 3,000 of them at our last game in Cardiff, it was a fantastic reunion with the fans After the game, there was a lot of emotion that we shared with them and we can imagine what it will be like at home with 30,000 people in the stadium.”

“We have lost what feels like a family member and we wouldn’t have been here without him,” added keeper Kasper Schmeichel, who witnessed the crash, to The Times. “When he took over, this club was in a pretty precarious situation and to build what he built is amazing. It is one thing building a club and a team who can perform on the pitch but we are all a lot more proud of being part of the club he has created and the feeling he has instilled in everyone being welcomed.”

Some of the club’s catharsis was found last weekend in Wales, where Leicester City recorded a 1-0 victory over Cardiff City. Demarai Gray side-footed a cross from Ben Chilwell in the 55th minute for the match-winner, helping overcome the loss of standout centre back Harry Maguire.

The England international could be facing a lengthy spell out of action with a leg injury suffered in the first half-hour. Midfielder and top playmaker James Maddison will also miss this match and the England fixtures, though it is believed he will be able to return straightaway following the international break.

Jonny Evans is expected to take Maguire’s spot in central defence alongside Wes Morgan, while Marc Albrighton is the most likely replacement for Maddison in the middle of the park.

All the goings-on surrounding Leicester City could simply be pretext to an additional heaping of misery onto Burnley (2-2-7), who arrive in the Midlands having dropped three on the trot while shipping 13 goals. Though there is no shame in being overrun by reigning champions Manchester City and Chelsea, alarm bells were undoubtedly ringing after last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at West Ham United.

The Clarets pulled level twice at London Stadium, first through Jon Berg Gudmundsson at the end of the first half and through Chris Wood on 77 minutes, but a breakdown seven minutes later resulted in a go-ahead goal by the Hammers, who then put Burnley out of their misery with a fourth in stoppage time.

Burnley gaffer Sean Dyche, who was at King Power Stadium to scout Leicester City and West Ham the day of the helicopter crash, has been walking a delicate line between training his side for this match and being properly respectful of all that will take place around them.

“We will approach it in the best, most respectful way we can. That means letting the players know that the feeling of the day, predominantly, is going to be all about Leicester – and rightly so,” Dyche told the club’s official website. “I know their Director of Football, Jon Rudkin, who is someone I class as a friend, and I sent him a couple of texts saying that we will play any part we can, if needed.

“It is a horrible loss to the football club because I know all about that club. Being from Kettering, I’ve seen the changes, from when I was a kid to what it is now, and since the owners have been there as a family they have built a real connection with people there.”

That fine line has been difficult considering Burnley’s struggles, which have dropped them to 15th in the table and two points clear of the drop. The Clarets have yet to find their footing following a season that ended so positively with a Europa League berth, and Steven Defour knows his side has to kick on at some point to avoid being caught up in the relegation scrap.

“Each year we’ve had a bad spell at some point. The last two years we had a bad spell more in January and February,” the midfielder said. “We’re having it now and I hope we can close it as soon as possible and we can look up and kick on the season. Get back in our rhythm, get back to basics and the quality we had last year and everything will sort itself out.”

Burnley’s defence, which has already taken hits this year with the absences of Ben Gibson and Stephen Ward, could be further thinned without centre back James Tarkowski, who has been dealing with a groin issue nearly the entire season. Right back Phil Bardsley could be in line for a return, along with midfielder Jack Cork, as the latter missed his first league match last week with an ankle injury.

The home team won both matches last term, with Leicester City claiming a 1-0 victory on Gray’s sixth-minute goal. Burnley, though, have won two of the last three meetings after a 10-match winless stretch (0-3-7).

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Leicester City are firm favourites to claim all three points with 1/2 odds, while the Clarets are 6/1 underdogs to stop the rot and pull out a victory. The odds of the teams sharing the points are 16/5.

The Foxes have 13/10 odds to win with more than 2.5 goals scored in this contest, and offer a 13/5 return for 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline. There are 4/1 odds for a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, while Burnley have 11/1 odds for a victory over the 2.5 goals threshold and 12/1 under it.

As expected, Jamie Vardy is the top choice among oddsmakers to score the first goal of the contest, fetching 11/4 odds. Teammates Kelechi Iheanacho and Shinjo Okazaki round out the top three places as both are 9/2, with Leicester’s Fousseni Diabate a surprising fourth option at 6/1, edging out Gray (13/2). Wood is the top pick for the visitors, with his 15/2 odds the same as “No Goal-scorer,” while Sam Vokes is further back at 17/2.

Vardy is better than even money to score over the course of the 90 minutes at 10/11, with Iheanacho (6/4) and Okazaki (13/8) among the limited options with shorter than 2/1 odds. Gray is fourth at 11/5, while Wood again leads the Burnley picks at 13/5.

PREDICTION

How much more do they have left to give? While not trying to ask a mean-spirited question given the circumstances of the past fortnight, it is a fair question to ask of Puel and his Leicester City players. After their victory over Cardiff City, the players flew to Thailand almost straightaway to attend Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral as part of the seven days of recitation ceremonies.

The whirlwind that has followed the passing of the Leicester City owner has been minimal in terms of distractions — the players have flown to Thailand and back to resume practice for this contest and Puel has said all the right things and has been an absolute pillar of strength to the Leicester community. The latter will be something keenly remembered since many of the supporters were not entirely sold on the Frenchman when he took over the club.

For this match, it is the two ends that will likely determine Leicester City’s chances for victory here — Schmeichel and Vardy. Of all the players on the club, Schmeichel has had the most to bear in some ways as being a witness to the crash. How he has processed the grief — he has said he has spoken to someone — is his alone to hold, but there will likely be an inspired effort from the Denmark international.

The same holds true for Vardy, who became the face of this franchise in their fairy tale run to the 2016 Premier League title. The relentless running, the tireless industry, the thrill of the chase, these are all things the striker has brought to the Midlands, and for 90 minutes on Saturday, he will likely deplete himself like few, if any times, over the course of his career. A goal from the former England international, regardless of rooting interests, would be something well-received.

In the grand scheme of the narrative of this match, Burnley are but extras, but they are also the right extras. There are few people other than Dyche who can put all this in a proper perspective as it relates to his side, and to his credit, he has done so in a first-class way. His Clarets, though, need a victory, and a defence that has struggled in quality through a lack of depth will get no respite from Vardy and Iheanacho, whose industry will need to compensate in the fall-off of playmaking quality from Maddison to Albrighton in the No. 10 role.

It is a match where the football is secondary, but a result is required. It sound trite to call a Leicester City victory a “happy ending,” but it is the one most fitting on this difficult day.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LEICESTER CITY 2, Burnley 0.

OTHER MATCH DAY 12 EPL PREVIEWS:

Huddersfield Town (1-3-7) vs. West Ham United (3-2-6)
Liverpool (8-3-0) vs. Fulham (1-2-8)
Chelsea (8-3-0) vs. Everton (5-3-3)
Manchester City (9-2-0) vs. Manchester United (6-2-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 9 — Arsenal (6-0-2) vs. Leicester City (4-0-4)

Arsenal look to keep pace near the top of the Premier League table Monday when they wrap up Match Day 9 at the Emirates against Leicester City looking for a 10th consecutive victory in all competitions.

The Gunners (6-0-2) need a victory to stay within two points of front-runners and reigning champions Manchester City, and claiming three points in this match would ensure they would be no lower than fourth in the table and ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Arsenal have not reeled off 10 straight wins since Aug. 25-Oct. 23, 2007, ending the season in third place just four points behind champions Manchester United. Despite the run of victories, there is merely quiet confidence and low-key pragmatism with the London side as they continue to take to first-year manager Unai Emery.

“We need to be realistic, Rome wasn’t built in a day,” defender Hector Bellerin told Arsenal’s official website. “There’s loads of things that are changing for us, not just as a team but as a football club so the most important thing is to believe in the way that we want to play. We’re a team now that play from the back, we probably risk it a bit more than before, but for us it is important for our fans and for everyone around us to believe in this idea that we have.

“At the beginning it is going to be harder, but the more we train it, the more we work at it, the better we are going to get at it. For us it is about getting used to the system, be a team, be competitive and have this winning mentality, take it to the next level and become the team that the manager has in mind.”

Emery has a relatively healthy squad, but he will need to make choices at centre back and keeper for his starting XI. Sokratis returned from Greece with an ankle injury suffered in their 2-0 loss to Finland in a friendly, which means Rob Holding could be in partnership with Shkodran Mustafi in central defence.

Between the sticks, Petr Cech is nearing a return to full fitness after being sidelined the last two matches with a hamstring injury. Summer signing Bernd Leno allowed one goal in three halves of action in league play and has backstopped Arsenal to three wins in Europa League and Carabao Cup play.

Mesut Ozil is expected to be available after missing the 5-1 victory over Fulham before the international break due to back spasms, and the hamstring injury that prevented Danny Welbeck from joining England has cleared. While healthy, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is likely to come off the bench as his future – his contract expires at season’s end – continues to be a subject being put off.

“My focus is on every match. The football, the future is tomorrow,” Emery said when asked about having Ramsey beyond this season. “My reason, I explain to every player and to you also, I want the mentality for the next match. Individual things are not for me to speak about now.”

Leicester City (4-0-4) have yet to deal with prosperity when presented to them, staggering into the break on a 2-1 home loss to Everton as Wes Morgan was given his marching orders after a his second booking in the 63rd minute. Since it was his second red card of the young season, the Jamaica international will miss this match and the Foxes’ contest at home versus West Ham next Saturday.

Jonny Evans will again step into the breach in central defence to pair with Harry Maguire. He along with James Maddison were with England during the international break, with the midfielder all smiles after his maiden call-up to the Three Lions.

“It’s been brilliant since I signed a few months ago, I’ve settled in so quickly and I feel at home here,” the 21-year-old told LCFC.com. “There’s so much competition for places here, it’s the Premier League, we’ve got such a talented squad. We’ve got so many good players in that dressing room.

“Hopefully I can keep my form high and my performances good and we can carry it out for the rest of the season.”

Maddison has three goals and two assists in all competitions for Leicester as he, Maguire, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho have accounted for 10 of Leicester’s 18 overall goals. Vardy in particular has been a nuisance to Arsenal, scoring six goals in the last six meetings between the sides and recording a brace in the most recent visit to the Emirates – a wild 4-3 Arsenal victory to open the 2017-18 league season in which the hosts rallied with two goals in the final seven minutes.

Leicester City ended a marathon 22-match winless streak (0-7-15) to Arsenal in the most recent meeting, a 3-1 victory at King Power Stadium as Vardy’s penalty on 76 minutes snapped a tie after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal in the 53rd minute canceled out a first-half tally by Iheanacho.

The Foxes have never won at Arsenal in the Premier League era, taking just two draws in 13 matches and losing 11 on the trot in league play at Highbury and the Emirates after a 1-1 draw in 1995. Leicester City are winless in 25 matches (0-6-19) at Arsenal since a 2-0 victory in Division One in 1973.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Arsenal are prohibitive 8/15 favourites to make it a “perfect 10” with another victory, while the odds of Leicester City getting the rare point in north London are 10/3. The longshot, naturally, is the Foxes returning to the Midlands with three points from this trip for the first time in 45 years at 9/2.

Oddsmakers are expecting goals, with a Gunners win and more than 2.5 goals returning 21/20 odds. A low-scoring Arsenal win checks in at 4/1, with a 0-0 or 1-1 draw behind that offering at 11/2. For those who fancy the Foxes, there are 7/1 odds on a win with more than 2.5 goals and 14/1 for a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline.

Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette lead the line for first goal-scorers at 7/2 odds, followed by Welbeck (4/1) and then Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6/1). Ever persistent, Vardy leads the options among Leicester City at 6/1 as well, while Maddison lurks further back at 10/1 after Ozil (15/2) and Alex Iwobi (17/2).

Aubameyang and Lacazette are even money to score during the match, with Welbeck a close third at 23/20. Mkhitaryan is a surprising fourth option at 7/4, narrowly ahead of Vardy (9/5). For those who think the Foxes could nick a goal off a corner kick, Maguire offers a decent return at 15/2 odds.

PREDICTION

If this game was being played in the Midlands, an argument can be made the Foxes have the personnel to take this game to Arsenal. But with the hoodoo the Gunners have over Leicester City in London, coupled with their current form — even with the international break — it’s a far tougher sell.

Arsenal are starting to coalesce into a team who are grater than the sum of their parts. In that regard, Emery has done a fantastic job getting players to buy in, which has accelerated the timetable of their in-season success. Of course, they are also in a patch of schedule where they are not playing the cream of the Premier League, but each victory is another building block to be examined and learned from.

The Gunners are the side Leicester City can achieve to be and record a top-half finish. They have talent sprinkled throughout their attack in the precocious Maddison, the relentless Vardy and a pair of interesting assets on the wing in Iheanacho and Ricardo Pereira, whom manager Claude Puel keeps shuttling back and forth on the right with Daniel Amartey.

Keeper Kasper Schmeichel gives them a chance to steal a victory, though that task is somewhat tougher this time around without Morgan, even with a capable replacement in the well-respected veteran Evans. The international break may gave the Foxes the chance to run with Arsenal early, but if the Gunners go through their gears quickly in their return, another victory should be in the offering.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: ARSENAL 3, Leicester City 1.

OTHER MATCH DAY 9 PREVIEWS:

Chelsea (6-2-0) vs. Manchester United (4-1-3)
Manchester City (6-2-0) vs. Burnley (2-2-4)
West Ham United (2-1-5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (6-0-2)
Wolverhampton (4-3-1) vs. Watford (4-1-3)