Venue: King Power Stadium
Date: 18 November 2017
Referee: Graham Scott
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV
Two weeks without Guardiola football; it’s enough to send any City fan into a slumber. Throw in two exhilarating England draws and you have the ultimate cocktail for hibernation. Thankfully, the Premier League returns tomorrow and City are back in action. So, what are the main talking points ahead of the game at Leicester?
The Game Represents a Real Opportunity (Again)
The last time I wrote a preview, it was for the West Brom game. I talked about the opportunity that City had to extend their lead over at least one of the apparent title rivals. On that day, we moved three points clear of Spurs. Tomorrow, a different opportunity presents itself, though it is slightly different to the last. With United facing Newcastle at home, it looks as though our fiercest rivals are unlikely to drop any more points, despite a shaky period for them. However, the feeling from across Manchester will be that City’s game at Leicester offers United a real opportunity to close the gap on the league leaders. Under new management, the Foxes will be raring to go; they’ll be looking to scalp City for the second time in two seasons at the King Power Stadium. For City though, the game is a chance to show that these ‘banana skin’ away games are nothing to fear, and that we will continue to trod along quite nicely. I’m expecting a really tough game, and I think many of the footballing eyes fixated on City will be expecting the same. Guardiola’s men have a chance to demoralise anybody who has been waiting patiently for the wheels to fall off. Maybe in a strange twist of fate, Newcastle will take something from Old Trafford too, but I’m not holding my breath.
Who Will Partner John Stones?
Perhaps the biggest talking point ahead of tomorrow’s game is who will be John Stones’ central defensive partner. Nicolas Otamendi’s yellow card against Arsenal means that the Argentinian international will play no part at Leicester on Saturday. If City were to stick with a flat back four, there are 3 natural options: Vincent Kompany, Tosin Adarabioyo and Eliaquim Mangala. City’s skipper has been back in full training this week, however his match fitness is questionable at best. Though Kompany would likely be the first choice for most people, it’s hard to see him being thrown into the deep end so quickly. Eliaquim Mangala is perhaps the favourite to partner Stones, though that won’t please everybody. The Frenchman’s stock has plummeted more and more with every passing week. Tosin Adarabioyo is the young up and comer, though his experience at first team level is limited. Pep could play his second-choice right-back Danilo is centre-back; but again, such a choice is experimental and risky. Pep may even revert to a back three and play with wing-backs, though that doesn’t really solve the problem. With such a selection dilemma ahead, Pep has his work cut out to find Stones a partner who he can rely on for the full 90 minutes. In my opinion, it’ll be Mangala who gains the responsibility.
This is the Start of Four Winnable League Games
With the derby looming in December, Saturday marks the start of four very winnable league games for City. The trip to Leicester is followed by an away game at Huddersfield, and then two games at home to Southampton and West Ham. None of that quartet should worry City particularly. Nonetheless, despite our success this season, winning four Premier League games on the spin is never an easy feat. City head into the games full of confidence though, and if they produce anything like the quality of performance they have in the past 3 months, it could be a genuinely decisive period in the league this season. 12 points out of 12 would almost certainly lead to City extending their league at the top heading into the derby. Imagine that, going into the derby 10+ points clear, knowing that a win could convert the gap into a chasm. I could well be getting a little ahead of myself, but after what we’ve seen this season already, I don’t think being a dreamer is a particularly bad thing.
Leicester head into the game in 12th place; though that doesn’t tell the full story. After a shaky start, they sacked Craig Shakespeare and hired Claude Puel. Expect more stability in the home side’s performance, it could be a tricky afternoon for City.
I’m going to go for a conservative City win, 2-1. I think that the game could be a big test for Pep and his players, but I’m expecting City to come home with the points. Silva and Sane to score.