Leicester City vs Brighton Hove & Albion
Venue: King Power Stadium
Referee: Lee Probert
All is not well at the King Power Stadium at this moment in time and the Foxes will be hoping they can forget about their crushing defeat to Crystal Palace last time out as they host a Brighton side who have also struggled in recent fixtures.
As is often the case, football clubs often wait until the direst of moments to sack their managers. Fulham had to reach an almost guaranteed relegation to sack Slaviša Jokanović, and Manchester United had to suffer a series a spell of embarrassing defeats and lacklustre performances to finally decide that Mourinho was a mistake. Leicester made the same mistake and waited far too long to sack Claude Puel; the Frenchman leaves his former team in awful form, with the Foxes suffering defeats in six of their last seven matches. Leicester looked well equipped to challenge for European competition this season, but as it stands there are more questions than answers at the King Power.
There are two possibilities for Leicester. One is that their awful form continues, and the other is that the sacking of Claude Puel revives the team much as the sacking of Mourinho revived Manchester United. Fans will certainly be hoping for the latter, but frankly, it is hardly clear which Leicester will make itself present at the King Power. However, what is clear is the Foxes have players capable of helping their team recover. Stalwarts such as Maguire, Vardy, and Schmeichel will play a key role if Leicester are to recover from their recent losses.
Unlike Leicester, Brighton are truly in danger of returning to playing Championship football. Chris Hughton was commended early in the season for the changes he brought to the Amex, but things on the South Coast have been gloomy as of late. Relegation was not considered a possibility earlier in the season and impressive wins over Everton, Manchester United and Crystal Palace suggested that Hughton had indeed changed his team and its outlook for the future. However, fans and the team itself may have been too quick to judge as the team’s dismal form has allowed them to sink to the depths of the table.
Brighton’s most recent win in the FA Cup is a positive sign, but the cup is not always the best indicator of how a team will perform in the league. The Seagulls have shown little to be positive about in recent matches, and it is truly difficult to imagine them traveling to the King Power Stadium and securing even a draw. Their away form has been and continues to be one of the worst away records in the entire league, and while it would be foolish for Hughton to shatter his own optimism and expect to lose, he should not be counting on away results to extricate his team from their current predicament.
Leicester do not have much at stake in this match besides their own honor and dignity, but Brighton have much to lose as their safety in the league is at stake. Both teams will be under pressure to perform well, and it will be interesting to see who crumbles under the pressure and who uses it to their advantage. The Foxes will have to play well if they are to win against a desperate Brighton, and Brighton must not allow that desperateness and exasperation to trap them into making foolish mistakes that could ultimately cost them their place in the Premier League.
Albrighton and Amartey are out for this match as they continue to nurse injuries. Despite their absences, Leicester look well equipped for this match and coming matches as squad depth remains considerably strong.
Jamie Vardy was likely the player whose form suffered the most during Puel’s tenure. The Englishman was often lauded as the best striker outside the top six, but the lack of goals this season has left many disappointed, with Vardy likely being just as disappointed as his fans. Now that Puel has left, Vardy is free to return to his former self and although that phrase makes a return to form sound childishly simple, Vardy is capable of such a feat.
Balogun remains out of the squad through injury and Andone continues to serve a ban. Both players brought added depth to the squad and Hughton will be hoping to reincorporate them into the squad as soon as possible. Dunk, Izquierdo, Locadia, and Murray are all doubts; however, Murray and Dunk are expected to feature.
Goals have always been a problem for Brighton. At the beginning of the season, Murray’s blistering form helped the team immensely, but the goals have not been as plentiful for the Englishman recently. Brighton are once again looking for someone in the team to provide a lifeline, but with so many attacking players injured or out of form, it is not clear who will step up for the Seagulls.
Knockaert who has been forced out of the team by in form players could feature in this match, and although the Frenchman has not done anything too impressive this season, he could be his team’s unlikely savior. The former Ligue 1 player certainly has the talent to make a difference, and Hughton will be hoping that the winger can contribute in the attack by providing crosses for Murray who has not had much to work with as of late. The Frenchman is also returning to the King Power where he previously resided for three years from 2012 and will be hoping to begin from the off.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Leicester City: (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Tielmans, Ndidi; Gray, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy
Brighton: (4-3-3): Mat Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Groß, Propper, Stephens; Knockaert, Murray, Solly March
Score Prediction: Leicester City 2 Brighton 0
I see Leicester recovering from their spell of poor form while also showing fans that the problem was indeed Claude Puel. I do not think this will be an easy win for the Foxes, but I do see them creating plenty of opportunities against a Brighton side who fail to create much in attack and continue to be shaky in defense.