‘Our season starts here’ was the message coming from Jamaal Lascelles after last week’s 1-0 win over Burnley.
Hopefully that huge three points and the confidence boost it could bring galvanizes the players ahead of what really is a tough run of fixtures over Christmas.
Brentford helped us out last night, coming from 0-1 down to beat Watford 2-1 in the 95th minute – a result that leaves us just three points from safety ahead of Sunday’s game – however it’s absolutely vital we take advantage.
Some are seeing these next few games as a bit of a ‘free hit’, yet Leicester away is not only a winnable game on current form, but also the sort of scalp we might need to take if we’re to make up for our awful start to the season.
They’re in the middle of a Covid crisis, have won just ONE of their last six league games and had a tough match in Naples on Thursday night, being dumped out of the Europa League after a 3-2 defeat. Not only that, this is a team we beat 4-2 last season at the King Power Stadium.
Couple all of the above with our newfound momentum after last week’s win, there’s no reason why we can’t start this tough festive run off with a bang!
Ryan Fraser is expected to be OK after recovering from a hamstring issue and Howe also seems hopeful that Fabian Schar will be fit to play after missing a few training sessions with a rib injury.
Ciaran Clark is back from a one-game ban, but Paul Dummett and Elliot Anderson will be missing once again.
As for the visitors, Youri Tielemans is fit again for the first time in five weeks, however it remains to be seen who will miss out with Covid after Ademola Lookman, Daniel Amartey, Kelechi Iheanacho, Jannick Vestergaard, Ayoze Perez and Filip Benkovic all not travelling to their Europa League game on Thursday.
Predicted line ups
(4-4-1-1): Dubravka – Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Lewis – Almiron, Willock, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin – Joelinton – Wilson.
(4-2-3-1): Schmeichel – Castagne, Evans, Soyuncu, Thomas – Ndidi, Tielemans – Alrbighton, Maddison, Barnes – Vardy.
With Fabian Schar expected to be OK and no other injuries picked up in last week’s win over Burnley, I’m not sure Howe will make any changes for this one.
There’s a chance he could bring Ryan Fraser into the side – he hasn’t featured since Clark’s red card saw him subbed off early vs Norwich – but Miguel Almiron’s energy and pace could be a valuable asset on the counter.
Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff will surely get some game time over the hectic festive period. Will we see either start ahead of Jonjo Shelvey or Joe Willock on Sunday? I don’t think so. The former seems to be one of the first names on the team sheet under Howe, while Willock’s non-stop running and outstanding display in this fixture last year means he’s likely to keep his place.
In attack, we’ll have to hope Joelinton can pick up from where he left off against Burnley and that Allan Saint-Maximin can get back to his best after a few surprisingly subdued displays.
As for Wilson, he scored twice in this fixture last season, but will need to avoid a yellow card once again – or he’ll miss next Thursday’s trip to Liverpool.
I wouldn’t say I’m suddenly confident going into this game after last week’s win and Leicester’s rough run of form, but there’s no reason why we can’t cause their leaky defence big problems and come away with a result.
They’ve got plenty of issues to contend with and won’t long have returned from Thursday night’s game in Naples. However, Youri Tielemans’ return is a huge boost, being a top player that makes them tick from midfield.
As a result, it could be a tough midfield battle to win against both him and Wilfried Ndid, yet they might also be wary if we can get ASM, Wilson, Joelinton and Almiron running at and beyond their back four!
I don’t think we’ll win, but do fancy us to leave Leicester with a point in a high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Leicester 2-2 Newcastle
HOWAY THE LADS!