Leicester City v Wolves
Venue: King Power Stadium
Referee: Anthony Taylor
TV: Sky Sports
Leicester will look to push on and consolidate a familiar second place as they host Wolves at the King Power stadium in their first home league game in three weeks. Their West Midlands opponents are also searching to end this stint of games on a high after recovering well from their poor start, and Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will feel they can get a result against a side that have not been confident on home turf in the league – especially with Leicester’s recent packed schedule. These two sides have been the big-six intruders in recent years, and this game gives us a chance to see just how they shape up against each other.
Back to their best in an unconventional way
Leicester’s mid-week 4-0 victory over European opponents Braga consolidated an impressive 5-game winning streak in all competitions for the Foxes, including away victories over Arsenal and last week’s surgical dissection of Bielsa’s Leeds. The feat is made even more impressive by the fact that Leicester still have many of their best players injured. Leicester’s two starting full/wing backs, Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne, their starting two centre-backs, Johnny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu, and quintessential defensive midfielder Wilfrid Ndidi, have all been out injured.
But these injury troubles have looked like less and less of a problem for Brendan Rodgers’ side. As Leicester’s squad players have played more and more together, they have looked more and more adept. 19-year old Wesley Fofana, a summer acquisition from Saint-Etienne, has shown that he has everything it takes to become a future world-class defender in his assured yet commanding performances. Alongside him in defence, Christian Fuchs has been given a new lease of life playing as the left centre-back in a back three.
A veteran from the title-winning season, the Austrian has produced a string of impressive performances. They are not the only ones: Luke Thomas, an academy product, has looked the part at left wing-back. James Justin has shown a confidence as a centre-back and Nampalys Mendy has found his first superb run of form after arriving as N’golo Kanté’s replacement in 2016.
Leicester showed last season that they had a starting 11 capable of challenging for the top three. When it suffered injuries and absences during the re-start, they promptly fell down the table. This year, the Foxes are showing that they have a squad capable of it too. The next question for this side will be: what kind of heights can they hit when their first eleven are all back fit again?
Trust in the process
A poor initial start would have had some outside spectators start to postulate about the club’s prospects for this season. While Diogo Jota never hit the same sort of heights he is now hitting at Liverpool, some wondered whether his loss would trigger other departures when the window came around again – fears that heightened after they lost two of their first three. But Wolves fans were never in doubt: they trusted in Nuno Espirito’s plan, and their trust has come good.
Since their hammering from the Hammers (losing 4-0 to West Ham), Wolves have won three and drawn on of their following games including a smart victory over Leeds. Their one draw against Newcastle was in their hands until a late Jacob Murphy free-kick allowed Newcastle to take a point. Raul Jimenez is a striker who never seems to fall out of form, while new signing and ex-Barcelona wing back Nelson Semedo has been improving with every performance. But the spotlight in their most recent win was on young Frenchman Rayan Ait-Nouri, who marked his Premier League debut with a smart finish against the Eagles.
Wolves have done a fantastic job at keeping hold of the fabulous players they have. Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore are all fine examples of this. But Wolves are showing that they can lose players, Jota and Doherty the most recent examples, and keep on growing.
Is one weakness enough?
Leicester’s impressive form has come on the back of a fantastic streak of away wins: they’ve won every single away game that they’ve played this season both in the league and in Europe. But their home form has looked less stellar. In the Premier league, they have won only one and lost two (although they have won both of their European home games). Although these two losses came a matter of weeks ago, there is clearly a weakness there to be exploited: a sense of expectation that Leicester feel they cannot rise to when playing at home. This will be what Nuno and Wolves will be looking to exploit – but might the confidence Leicester’s winning streak has granted them allow them to play with the freedom that has made them so dangerous?
Johnny Evans has spent a couple of weeks on the side-line with a back problem , but is expected to return on Sunday and boost the Defensive capability of Leicester’s backline. James Maddison suffered a dead leg against Braga but played through the game, but will likely start on the bench as Rodger prefers Dennis Praet’s athleticism and pressing ability in the early portions of the game. The rest of Leicester’s injured, Caglar Soyuncu, Daniel Amartey, Wilfrid Ndidi, Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira (an exhausting list), remain out and unavailable.
Marcal resumed training this week, which means he that Wolves only have one permanent injury in the form of Jonny who remains out with a knee issue. While Marcal is back in contention, he is unlikely to displace Ait Nouri after an impressive debut.
Predicted Starting XIs
Leicester (3-4-3): Schmeichel; Fofana, Evans, Fuchs; Albrighton, Mendy, Tielemans, Justin; Praet, Vardy, Barnes.
Wolves (3-4-3): Patrício; Boly, Coady, Kilman; Semedo, Dendoncker, Neves, Ait Nouri; Neto, Jiménez, Podence.
Match prediction: Leicester 3-1 Wolves
I expect Leicester to do away with their weak home form here and keep themselves aloft in second place. Wolves are a competent side, but Leicester are full of confidence right now and have put away good teams such as Leeds with relative ease. I don’t expect this game to be easy for them, but I do expect them to slightly outclass Wolves and add three points to their tally.