West Ham vs Leicester | Sunday 11th April 2021, 14:05 | Sky Sports
West Ham and Leicester do battle at the London Stadium with both eyeing a seat at the top table of European football next season.
These two sides have been excellent this season. West Ham boast the second-best home record, while the Foxes have the second-best away record – both only trumped by runaway leaders Man City – so something will have to give.
The Hammers have flown out of the traps in recent weeks, racing into a couple of 3-0 leads. One they squandered, but on Monday, they managed to cling on to the three points against Wolves, holding off a late charge from the hosts.
Leicester were very passive against Man City and were outplayed by the champions-elect. But with the return of James Maddison, you’d expect this to have a different dynamic.
The Foxes have a pretty impressive away record – W10, D4, L1, with that defeat coming against Liverpool in November, otherwise, they’ve been pretty faultless.
There are a few interesting angles you could take into this one. If you start with possession, which Leicester are likely to dominate. The Foxes average 52% this season, while West Ham's average is the 17th-lowest at 43%.
That’s how the reverse fixture played out. Brendan Rodgers saw his side dominate the ball (69%), complete 598 passes, but, more importantly, they failed to have a shot on target, as West Ham ran out 3-0 winners.
You'd imagine that the dynamic of this will play out similarly with West Ham looking to hit Leicester on the counter-attack. The likes of Jarrod Bowen, Jesse Lingard and Pablo Fornals will all help to achieve that.
And, up against a Foxes side missing a couple of defenders, including Çağlar Söyüncü, who’s still in Turkey after testing positive for Covid, then it could be the perfect tactic. Even if the visitors do line-up with a back three/five.
The betting angles
I’m expecting this to be quite an exciting game, where the goals should flow. Now I’ve jinxed it back 0-0. It’s hard to ignore the form of Jesse Lingard. He’s settled into life at the London Stadium like a duck to water.
Since his debut for the Hammers, no player has been involved in more goals (9), scoring six and assisting three. So, it’s no surprise to see his goalscorer prices a sea of blue on Oddschecker.
His recent form has earned him an England recall, so he’ll want to kick on in a bid to impress Gareth Southgate ahead of the upcoming Euros and solidify his place in the squad.
I’ll take him to continue his fine form in front of goal. Leicester have kept one clean sheet in seven – against soon-to-be-relegated Sheffield United – so at 14/5 (Unibet), I’ll take him to find the net at any time.
Some will latch on to the fact, he’s opened the scoring in three of West Ham’s last four, so will look towards the 17/2 first goalscorer quotes with Bet365.
When I see Leicester in action, I look towards the shots on target specials market. That's because several sides this season have won aerial battles in their box from set-pieces.
A few examples in recent weeks are James Tarkowski and Chris Wood both had headers saved after Ben Mee had an early headed effort off target. Arsenal’s David Luiz netted with his bonce. Villa defenders Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings both missed with headed efforts
Against Liverpool, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino had headed shots against them, as did Leander Dendoncker and Max Kilman for Wolves.
So, bearing that in mind West Ham’s height advantage from set-pieces is an area they could profit. Tomáš Souček is an obvious candidate, while centre-half Craig Dawson could be the man to look at here.
Since joining the Hammers, Dawson has scored three times from 11 shots and four efforts on target.
And, if you look back to the reverse fixture, a few players in claret and blue had headed efforts. Michail Antonio scored with one and had another saved, Fabián Balbuena had two headed efforts, while Souček also had one.
Now, here’s why it’s important to shop around. Sky Bet have Dawson at 11/4 for a headed shot on target – very specific. Meanwhile, Pokerstars have him at 16/5 for a shot on target – that’s with any part of his body – so take the bigger price.
His recent goals could make the 14/1 anytime (Bet365) worth a small nibble, considering he’s as short as 6/1 in some books.
Despite the absences of Declan Rice and Antonio, West Ham could well punish Leicester on the break with their pacey frontline. And, I do expect Hammers joy from set-pieces, so they are the two angles I’ll take at tempting prices.
West Ham v Leicester – Jesse Lingard to score anytime (14/5 Unibet)
West Ham v Leicester – Craig Dawson 1+ shot on target (16/5 Pokerstars)