After that abysmal attempt to make sure of survival against Arsenal last Sunday, you’d like to think we’ve well and truly ‘rolled our sleeves up’ this week.
We looked like a side with one eye on our summer holidays, not securing our Premier League status; an approach that could yet see us get dragged back into a relegation battle if we’re not careful.
I say that because next up for us is a tough trip to Leicester City, followed by Man City at home next Friday. In that time, Fulham play Burnley and Southampton – two sides all but safe.
OK, Scott Parker’s side have looked pretty defeated in recent weeks and a side all but down, but our appalling display against Arsenal might just have given them a glimmer of hope – especially when their next few games are winnable ones ahead of our final day clash at Craven Cottage.
Although we rode our luck, our last away game saw us earn a big point at Anfield, giving us some hope heading into this one now Wilson is fit, ASM firing and Willock available again, however we’ll have to be way better in all areas of the pitch if we’re to compete with a Leicester City side who are strong at the back, dominant in midfield and ruthless in attack.
- Joe Willock – Available once again after being ineligible to play against Arsenal last weekend.
- Fabian Schar – Starts a 3-game ban after our appeal to get his red card overturned was somehow rejected.
- Ryan Fraser – Still recovering from minor groin surgery.
- Karl Darlow – Still recovering from a small operation on his knee.
- Jamaal Lascelles – Remains out after suffering a stress fracture in his foot. Is ‘touch and go’ to play again this season.
- Isaac Hayden – Ruled out of our final four games of the season with a knee injury.
- Elliot Anderson – Out for a ‘couple of weeks’ after suffering
For the Foxes, Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira have all been passed fit, however Harvey Barnes remains out for the hosts after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
(5-3-2): Dubravka – Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie – S Longstaff, Shelvey (c), Willock – Saint-Maximin, Wilson.
With Willock available for selection again, he has to start and surely will. Not just because he has been brilliant, scoring three goals in his last three appearances, but because Bruce might struggle to bring him back to St James’ Park if he keeps leaving him on the bench!
Given Bruce refuses to drop Shelvey, I can see Almiron being sacrificed in this one. He has looked a little lost since we moved him back into a three-man midfield and has been noticeably quiet in our last few games. In his defence, he’s a number 10 being played out of position – not for the first time – by Bruce, so I can see him making way.
Elsewhere, I think Schar could’ve come back in had he not got himself sent off against Arsenal, so we’ll have to hope Fernandez, Clark and Dummett can put in a much improved display after two shaky defensive displays against Liverpool and Arsenal!
Based on last weekend’s showing and Leicester’s bid to secure Champions League football with another big win, I’m feeling anything but confident heading into this one.
They have one of the best midfield pairings in the Premier League in Tielemans and Ndidi, a fit-again James Maddison and one of the most lethal striker partnerships in Vardy and Iheanacho. Oh, and their manager is just a bit better than ours, with them beating us by an aggregate score of 10-1 in our last three meetings since Bruce took the job!
Hopefully the pressure gets to them as it did this time last season and they struggle to contain ASM’s trickery, Wilson’s presence and Willock’s late runs into the box in a much improved display from our perspective, however I’m fully expecting a home win, sadly.
Let’s hope they prove me wrong as they did a few weeks ago at Liverpool!
Prediction: Leicester 3-1 Newcastle