Leicester City vs Cardiff City
Venue: King Power Stadium
Referee: Simon Hooper
An in-form Leicester City side will entertain Cardiff City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The Foxes have been sensational in the last two league games. They travelled to Stamford Bridge last Saturday and claimed an impressive 1-0 win there. On Boxing Day, that feat was bettered. Defending champions Manchester City visited and Leicester took advantage of their recent struggles to inflict a 2-1 defeat upon them. The festive period has certainly been a kind one for Claude Puel’s side.
Cardiff claimed a point at Selhurst Park in their last game, and in their situation, every point is precious. The Bluebirds are in 17th place, three points clear of the relegation zone. They have been out of the relegation zone for quite some time now, and Neil Warnock will want to keep it that way. Given their away form, a point will also be satisfactory for Cardiff.
Leicester’s recent run has put them into 7th place. Puel has bounced back strongly after rumours of discontent within the camp, and he will hopeful of claiming a win on Saturday. Warnock could be wary of his opponents going into the match, and it would be no surprise if he takes an uber-conservative approach.
Puel has limited injury concerns to deal with. The only long-term absentees are Daniel Amartey and Matthew James, and they don’t have much chance to feature against Cardiff. This means that Puel has quite a few choices to make, and Kelechi Iheanacho failed to even make the squad against City due to this.
Jamie Vardy is looking ready start firing again, and his recent injury is behind him. Expect the back four to stay the same, but Puel could put a more attacking lineup for Cardiff compared to the one against City. Against City and Chelsea, he adopted a defensive three-man midfield, as Demarai Gray dropped out for Hamza Choudhury.
Expect Gray to make a return to the eleven, as his pace will be needed on the flanks against a defensive Cardiff. Rachid Ghezzal could replace Marc Albrighton, but that is too tough to call. As always, James Maddison will play an important role behind Vardy.
Callum Paterson missed the game against Palace with a knee problem, but Warnock expected him to be available for the trip to Leicester. Bobby Reid led the line in Paterson’s absence, but the latter will most certainly return given the form he has enjoyed of late.
The five-man defence could stay as well, which was possible against Palace due to the return of Lee Peltier. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has opted out of the Asian Games, which will mean that the backup goalkeepers will have to keep warming the bench due to the Filipino’s decision.
The real selection headache will be in midfield, as the likes of Harry Arter, Victor Camarasa, Aron Gunnarsson, and Joe Ralls will battle for places. Gunnarsson was benched on Wednesday, so he could make a return. Cardiff’s plan will include playing on the counter, so Josh Murphy’s pace will come in handy. He was also rested against Palace, so a return seems likely on the cards.
Predicted Starting XIs
Leicester City (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Chilwell, Morgan, Maguire, Pereira; Mendy, Ndidi; Gray, Maddison, Ghezzal, Vardy.
Cardiff City (5-4-1): Etheridge; Bennett, Morrison, Bamba, Ecuele Manga, Peltier; Murphy, Gunnarsson, Arter, Camarasa; Paterson.
Score Prediction: Leicester City 1 Cardiff City 0
Cardiff will be resilient defensively, but expect Leicester’s attacking player to deliver the goods.