Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 5 February 2016
Kick off: 12:45
Like the thousands of raunchy direct messages that pilgrimage to my inbox on February 14th every year, Leicester City just wont go away. OK, so maybe it’s more like ‘the complete absence of raunchy direct messages’ (hit me up if you’re interested, please…), but Leicester’s title charge is no joke.
Their gaffer, Claudio Ranieri, has always reminded me of Spottswoode from Team America. My favourite line of his from that movie is when he turns to Gary and asks: “Have you seen a man eat his own head?” Gary, justifiably startled, answers: “No”, to which Spottswoode replies: “So then you haven’t seen everything.”
This is a football match preview, Adam, not a film review, I hear you say, but I feel that line can be applied to extraordinary season the Foxes are enjoying. From just escaping relegation last term, Leicester are now top of the Premier League table and legitimate contenders for the title having spent less money than 12 of their opponents. They’ll never be labelled favourites – the money they’ve spent, the infrastructure of the club and the fact they finished in 14th place just six points above the relegation zone last season makes that impossible, but if they beat us in Saturday’s early kick-off, I think they’ll do it. If Leicester do defy the odds and lift the trophy in May, maybe the Premier League will have seen everything.
And I’m sure Jamie Vardy’s had some pretty phenomenal dreams in his time, but this isn’t one of them. His two goals against Liverpool on Tuesday night, one of them a scorching goal-of-the-season contender from 30 yards, mean that his side are now unbeaten in six league games with only one goal conceded. Our league record is a little less glamorous, but we are unbeaten in seven in all competitions with 17 goals to our name and three conceded. Those 17 goals are largely down to Sergio’s smoking form, the decent defensive record courtesy of Joe Hart, Lady Luck, and the few occasions Otamendi has decided to play well.
First against second, the two top scoring teams in the league – there’ll be goals, right? I wouldn’t be so sure. It seems both sets of defences are tightening up just at the right time and the last four league meetings between the sides have seen only five goals hit the back of the net. The 0-0 stalemate at the King Power in December was one in which we dominated the attempts on goal and possession stats, but it was also one in which Ranieri’s men demonstrated their defensive credentials. N’Golo Kanté picked up the Man of the Match award in that game and will be their main man again on Saturday as Agüero and co. look to go to the top of the league on goal difference.
Pellegrini has confirmed that Navas will be out for around three weeks after suffering a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Sunderland in mid-week and that’s a pretty big blow for this injury-stricken side. Not only does Navas link-up excellently with Sergio, he also provides defensive cover and it was his willingness to track back and help our back-line fend off the tidal waves of that Sunderland attack on Tuesday that was so crucial to us escaping the Stadium of Light alive. Raheem and Kelechi are now guaranteed more playing time, but who replaces the balance and the width that Navas gives us? Pellegrini may be forced into an innovative Pep Guardiola-like decision to make up for his absence.
That innovative decision may come in the form of 18-year-old Aleix García who confirmed via his Twitter account that he will be in the squad tomorrow. Our very own Steven McInerney had this to say about the Spaniard:
“A precise, intelligent and technical midfielder, the young Spaniard has take to life in England well. Very much a fan of the Pirlo take on the holding role, he’s content to sit deep and dictate play from the base of a midfield three. He scored a blinder too the other week, rifling home a stunning 30 yarder into the roof of the net. He’s still raw, naturally, and he’s learning the defensive aspects of the game still, but there’s clear promise there and he’s a very promising young player with bags of technical ability. A Pep player, you could argue.”
Nasri, De Bruyne, Bony, Mangala and Kompany are likely to remain sidelined for the majority of this month in which important fixtures against Spurs, Chelsea, Dynamo Kyiv and Liverpool await us. With just 14 senior players available to us at the moment, it’s probably time to see what some of the EDS lads can do. Leicester, with only Jeffrey Schlupp and Matty James unavailable, have no fresh injury concerns. Lucky bastards.
I firmly believe that the winners of tomorrow’s game will go on to win the title. And if it’s a draw, then f*** knows…
Come on City!
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-02-06″ default_css=”true”]