Leicester vs Newcastle | Friday 7th May 2021, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Despite failing to overcome Southampton last Friday, despite having a man advantage for over 80 minutes of the match, Leicester still remain on course to qualify for only their fifth European appearance.
Four points remaining and third spot is within their control, with second spot not completely out of reach, either. They’ll need to overcome Newcastle United this Friday before eyes naturally begin to turn towards their upcoming FA Cup Final with Chelsea at the end of this month.
Newcastle know that three points here would confirm their spot in the Premier League next season, even before West Brom and Fulham play before the weekend.
Of course, it is asking an awful lot for both the Baggies and Cottagers to get out of trouble, but Steve Bruce will be keen to at least ensure his side do the job themselves. He will also be determined to see a reaction following the home loss to a distracted Arsenal last Sunday, with Bruce acknowledging the best team won.
As for Leicester, I for one was most disappointed with their display against Southampton. It seemed as though the red card worked against them. It meant Southampton sat back and Leicester were clearly lacking creativity, and found it tough to locate space in the attacking third.
They would then concede a poor goal, before Jonny Evans bailed them out towards the end. In their defence, that was their fourth game in 15 days, whilst Southampton had nine days of rest beforehand, so maybe everything just balanced itself out.
Still, Brendan Rodgers will also be expected a reaction after a rather below-par display, and speaking after that match he expressed words to that nature. He also highlighted that they’ll get a full week ahead of this to prepare, so I for one would expect a much more improved showing.
As I also touched upon, the FA Cup Final is not so far away, and Leicester wouldn’t be the first side to see their form drop off in the run-up in what is one of the biggest game in their history. They still have a Champions League agenda however, and with Man Utd, Chelsea and Spurs representing their final three Premier League encounters of the season, they’ll see Newcastle as an opportunity for three ‘easy’ points.
That being said, Leicester have had fairly significant issues playing at the King Power Stadium this season, much to the surprise of us all. Seven of their nine league losses have come here, although only two of those came against bottom-half opposition.
Newcastle have won away to both West Ham and Everton, as well as earning draws at Liverpool and Spurs, so they’re capable of causing a shock on the road. The Arsenal performance did stink of one possibly ‘on their holidays’ but Bruce will always feel as though he is fighting for his job here, so every win is massive for him. Welcoming back Joe Willock, a scorer in three of his last four games, after being ineligible to face his parent club, Arsenal, will serve as a significant offensive boost.
Clearly, Leicester are the stronger team and are the likely winner on the night. Whilst I would expect a reaction, I can see the same for Newcastle, too. Leicester’s home form has to be of concern, so I fancy this to be a bit more of a nervy night than their winning odds of around 2/5 may suggest. In seven of their last nine Premier League matches they were not ahead at half-time, and they notable can take time to settle into their rhythm.
Furthermore, you can expect Bruce to set up his Magpies side to be much harder to beat after a lifeless showing last weekend, and they’ll again adopt counter attacking tactics. Newcastle have scored a total of four first-half goals in 11 league games, and two of them came in the same game. They’ll look to frustrate, but Leicester ultimately have a bigger cause here. I am happy enough to throw forward Draw/Leicester HT/FT at 69/20 (Sporting Index).
Finally, with Jamie Vardy going through something of a scoring draught having just two in his past 22 appearances, I think the value lies elsewhere, especially as the former Fleetwood man is still favourite to score first and anytime. That is surprising given Kelechi Iheanacho’s recent resurgence.
I however like the claims of James Maddison in this particular contest. He should again adopt the number ten position behind the two mentioned strikers, and with Newcastle getting bodies behind the ball you can expect ‘Madders’ to be getting plenty of shots away from in and around the box. He had six attempts in the Southampton match, a game where the Saints too sat behind the ball for long periods.
9/4 (Unibet) on him scoring at any point across the 90 minutes offers way more appeal than someone such as Vardy, whilst Iheanacho is another who may get limited space to work in.
Leicester v Newcastle – Draw/Leicester HT/FT (69/20 Sporting Index)
Leicester v Newcastle – James Maddison Anytime Goalscorer (9/4 Unibet)