LEICESTER host Manchester City on Saturday afternoon in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Leicester v Manchester City | Saturday 22nd February 2020, 17:30 | Sky Sports
Manchester City’s off-field problems are dominating the discussion at the Etihad Stadium in what is turning out to be a disappointing season all-round for Pep Guardiola’s men, despite them still being involved in three competitions.
UEFA’s decision to ban the club from the next two seasons of the Champions League is certainly not the last word on the matter and although the manager and some key players have committed themselves to the club no matter the outcome of any legal appeal, you have to wonder whether or not those at the peak of their careers will want to miss out on the world’s top domestic competition for too long.
That Champions League ban is perhaps distracting from a poor defence of last season’s title win although, truthfully, even City at their best would have struggled to challenge Liverpool this campaign such is their dominance.
The midweek success over West Ham however was as comfortable a 2-0 win as you are ever likely to see, though Leicester will surely provide the Citizens with a few more problems than David Moyes’ feeble outfit did.
During that win, Rodri set a new Premier League record for passes attempted (188) and completed (178), outpassing the entire West Ham team combined which is some feat. The long-term Fernandinho replacement is settling in well to life in Manchester and is going to be a big player for years to come.
Off the back of the record breaking feat, Rodri’s passing lines are fairly high to back individually but when you combine the Spaniard to attempt 70+ passes with the same line for Fernandinho with Coral’s BuildYourBet feature, you receive odds of 10/11 and I’m happy to back that.
City are the type of side that, even if they do take the lead, they don’t let up in their ball retention and those numbers quite often increase as they attempt to kill the game dead.
Leicester will know that they are not going to see too much of the ball here and that will suit them as their best chance of any form of result here is on the counter-attack. The 70+ passes line is within both player’s average passes per game this season and having been rested in midweek, I suspect Fernandinho will come back into the side here for a much more challenging encounter.
Keeping on the player stat theme and I was surprised to see Kevin De Bruyne to have 2 or more shots on target boosted to 5/1 with WilliamHill. The Belgian looks unplayable right now and for my money is the best midfielder in the Premier League and potentially the world.
De Bruyne scored the second goal on Wednesday night, registering 2 shots on target and also had a couple of efforts hit the target in the previous game against Spurs as well as the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium so I think 5/1 is too good to pass up.
With Leicester’s first and second choice defensive midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Hamza Choudhury unavailable for this game, De Bruyne should take the contest by the scruff of the neck, particularly if a man with little recent football, Matty James, comes in to the side and takes time to adjust to the pace of proceedings.
The Foxes have struggled for consistency in the past couple of months are were fortunate to escape from Wolves with a point having come under the cosh for much of the game and seeing a borderline VAR decision go their way. Front man Jamie Vardy is without a goal in eight matches, his longest drought for three years, and a once watertight defence is looking more fragile when tested.
My final selection is Man City to be winning at half-time and full-time at 7/4 with Bet365. The champions travel to Spain to take on Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League Last 16 tie next Wednesday so will want to get this game wrapped up early and I think they could be at it from the start.
Saturday’s trip to the Midlands is the first of eight games in a month so getting the job done quickly and preserving energy will surely be the aim.
Leicester have been losing at half-time and then full-time four times this season, three of which have come against Liverpool and Manchester City so the 7/4 looks generous as I am expecting a similar game to which panned out in the 3-1 reverse.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Manchester City go on a long unbeaten run to the end of the season, motivated to embarrass UEFA into submission by winning the Champions League and sending a message domestically that they will be back to their best in 2020/21.