After yet another win at St James’ Park, the ‘Opposition Opinion’ is back ahead of our trip to Leicester this weekend, with a Foxes season-ticket holder bringing us some thoughts from the Midlands this week.
As ever, we are looking to bring you a view from the other side before this weeks game, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own side and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Leicester fan Jamie, with him having the following to say ahead of our trip to the King Power Stadium today:
1) What sort of form do you feel you’re in coming into this one? We’re in a good run of form and will know a win all but confirms our safety. We’re hoping you might be complacent given you haven’t got a huge deal to play for..
“Our form has not been awful but has certainly left a lot to be desired. The Bournemouth and Stoke results (both home draws) in particular were disappointing, not only as these were against teams we would hope to beat, but also due to the nature of our performances in these matches, as we looked poor for large portions of the game.
“We have demonstrated on occasion that we still have a threatening side capable of mixing it with the top teams but there is a real sense that due to our inconsistency we may have missed out on 7th place when it was very much there for the taking.
“Having said that, we have only lost once in our last five (and that was against Man City) and actually sit in 6th in terms of form. So whilst we may have dropped points, it has by no means been a disastrous run and the door has not fully been closed on 7th place just yet.” (a position that could secure them Europa League football).
2) What do you make of Newcastle’s current side and the thought of facing us today? Which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of this NUFC side?
“Newcastle look to have found a real rhythm under Benitez and have hit form at just the right time, whilst not completely safe just yet they seem to have done enough to put daylight between themselves and the Premier League trapdoor.
“What is interesting is there are distinct similarities between the sides heading into Saturday’s game. Both Harry Maguire and Jamal Lascalles are physical but capable with the ball at their feet, both midfields pair ball winning physicality with a classy passer, and balance the wings with flair and creativity ((Kenedy and Mahrez)) on one side and work rate and delivery on the other (Ritchie and Albrighton). Up front too there are parallels, neither side possesses any real size, but there is industry and incision in spades.
“I would suspect the main threat is likely to come from the Brazilian Kenedy who has seemed to add a real spark to Newcastle’s play and has hit a purple patch of form too. His duel against Danny Simpson will be particularly interesting as you have an exciting and willing dribbler going up against one of the best one v one defenders in the league.
“The central midfield area is somewhere I would think Leicester will be targeting. Shelvey’s ability is obvious, and when on his game there is no doubt that he can be a key influence on the outcome – however, for me he doesn’t produce often enough and can demonstrate a real lack of work rate. With Mahrez constantly cutting into the central areas there is great emphasis on cover from the central midfield and if Shelvey is not at his best then this could present an issue to Newcastle.”
3) Likewise, who are the players to watch out for in your Leicester side (aside from the obvious duo)? Anyone for us to watch out for and anyone you see as your weakness who we’ll be able to get at?
“I sang Harry Maguire’s praises in this article ahead of the reverse fixture and nothing has changed. Maguire’s England caps were fully deserved as he has been a (quite literal) giant at the back for us at times. He is prone to the odd mistake but his contribution both with and without the ball has been terrific.
“Marc Albrighton is the sort of player that will never get the credit that he fully deserves as his contribution is not always that visible. His work rate is exemplary and he is crucial in providing the platform for Mahrez to roam forward at will, but he has quality with the ball too – in fact he has the highest number of assists by an English player in the Premier League (7).
“We have something of a midfield dilemma heading into this game and this is certainly something Newcastle will look to exploit. Andy King is on loan, Matty James is out for the season, Daniel Amartey is also injured and star man Wilfred Ndidi is suspended following a questionable sending off last time out.
“This leaves Vicente Iborra and Adrien Silva likely starters with youth prospect Hamza Choudry on the bench. Iborra and Silva are top players in their own right but we haven’t seen them as a duo before and I think they will struggle to replicate Ndidi’s massive defensive contribution. However, with the ball they present a more creative pairing so it will be interesting to see how they fare.”
4) How do you see the match panning out? Score prediction?
“This match represents an intriguing battle between two very similar teams in style, form and even personnel and is pretty tough to call.
“I can’t see either side not scoring so will be optimistic and go for Leicester 2 – 1 Newcastle.”
5) With the season drawing to a close, what are your predicted league positions for us both and your THREE sides to do down?
“Leicester have a huge game looming against Burnley that is likely to decide who finishes 7th and gets the slim chance of European football that this brings. Lose that and I reckon we will finish in 8th.
“Newcastle’s fixtures are quite tough but there is enough about them to pick up a few results, so I think 12th seems quite a fair estimate.
“In terms of relegation, West Brom are gone already and I think Southampton and Stoke will join them. Neither side have favourable fixtures and both have looked almost resigned to their fate in recent games.”
6) Islam Slimani – two months on from his loan move and he’s only just made his debut with a 15-minute cameo against Huddersfield at the weekend. He looked dangerous and desperate to impress but his slow recovery from a thigh injury was a worry and real frustration. What do you make of all this?
“The general feeling is that we have pulled in blinder in getting the reported £2m loan fee for him!
“It is such a shame as you can never question his work rate and effort, but injury problems have curtailed his progress on more than one occasion with us, and now it seems to have hampered him once again at Newcastle.
“I hope he is given an opportunity to impress in the run in as he can be a terrific player on his day – he just needs the chance to prove it.”
7) If you had to pick the best XI choosing players from both of our teams, what would your starting 11 be? (BE HONEST – interested to know if any of our players would get into your team!)
“As honest as I can be here!
“Kasper Schmeichel / Danny Simpson – Harry Maguire – Jamaal Lascalles – Ben Chilwell / Riyad Mahrez – Wilfred Ndidi – Vicente Iborra– Kenedy / Ayoze Perez – Jamie Vardy.”
A few observations:
- Very surprised to see Perez in his combined XI! He clearly rates him higher than many NUFC fans do..
- Interesting that he feels Slimani can be a ‘terrific player’ on his day when given the chance – although it’s little surprise that they’re laughing their way to the bank after getting a £2m loan fee for him.
- He clearly feels Ndidi will be a big miss for them in midfield. It will be interesting to see how Silva does in his place given his lack of games since his £22m arrival in January.
- They may be more up for this than we first anticipated, with 7th place and the Europa League still firmly in their sights.
- Very interesting to see how he’s compared our CB’s, our wingers and our midfield partnerships, suggesting they’re all quite similar in style. Let’s hope ours come out on top in each of these three areas.
Thanks, as ever, to Jamie for taking some times this week to speak with us, with him offering a superb in-depth insight ahead of today’s game.
We’ll be back next week with the thoughts of an Arsenal fan ahead of their visit to St James’ Park a week tomorrow.