Leicester City vs West Ham United
Venue: King Power Stadium
TV: BT Sport 1
Referee: Michael Oliver
Leicester and West Ham go head to head this weekend with both sides looking to end a run of two successive defeats in the Premier League.
The Foxes suffered their fifth defeat of the season on Monday night as they were undone in a spectacular second half display by Unai Emery’s Arsenal. The result left Claude Puel’s side in 11th sitting on 12 points, five ahead of Saturday’s visitors who sit three places below them in 14th. As for the Hammers, they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham despite a solid performance which possibly deserved more.
There is certainly cause for optimism in London though as in the Hammers first nine fixtures of the season, they have played eight of the current top 10; their fixture against Brighton being the only exception to the rule. Although, as Pellegrini has stated during his mid-week press conference, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee them wins in these fixtures.
This week marked Claude Puel’s one year at Leicester City and the Frenchman has without doubt been frustrated with performances this season. Arguably, the Foxes best performances have without doubt been against Manchester United and Liverpool as well as performing extremely well in the first half vs Arsenal. This is very similar to their counterparts this weekend with the Hammers performing well against United, Tottenham and Chelsea – which makes for an exciting game at the King Power on Saturday.
The Foxes have a fine record in this fixture with Puel’s side only loosing once in eight meetings between the sides. Having said this, the defeat came in this fixture last season with West Ham swiping past the Foxes in a 2-0 victory.
Leicester: Leicester will once again be without club captain Wes Morgan, who is serving the second of his two-game suspension after receiving his second red card of the season against Everton. This will once again give Jonny Evans the chance to appear alongside Harry Maguire in the centre of defence.
The only other concerning issue for Puel is the doubt of Jamie Vardy. The striker has been tackling a stomach issue which he suffered late on in the Arsenal fixture. The issue continued a couple days after the Emirates and Leicester’s number nine only returned to training on Thursday. Having said this, it will be surprising if Vardy did not feature from the offset against Pellegrini’s side.
Despite this there was positive news surrounding the camp this week as midfielder Demarai Gray returned to first team training. The youngster suffered an ankle injury in the Carabao Cup fixture vs Wolves last month and has been recovering since. It is believed that he is well enough to return this weekend, yet the fixture maybe too soon and a cameo appearance off the bench would be the likelier outcome against the Hammers.
West Ham United: Pellegrini’s side suffered a major blow during the week after discovering that Andriy Yarmolenko is set for a long time on the sidelines following his Achilles surgery which was a result of him being forced off in the defeat to Tottenham. The Russian born midfielder will face at least five months on the sideline and is likely to miss the remainder of the campaign. Because of his injury, youngster Grady Diangana, who has impressed for the U23 side this season could have a chance to feature heavily in the coming months. Yet the inclusion of the more experience Michail Antonio is the likely route for Pellegrini against Leicester.
Andy Carroll has returned to light training but will unlikely be considered for Saturday’s fixture. This is also the case with Pedro Obiang who is yet to return to training following a calf muscle injury which caused him to miss the defeat to Spurs. Carlos Sanchez and Winston Reid are also still sidelined.
There will without doubt be a heavy focus on the Hammers attacking outfit this weekend, with the Hammers failing to find the net in four of their last six Premier League games. The Yarmolenko injury is a huge set-back for West Ham and more pressure will be put on Arnautovic and Anderson to help stop the rot of their attacking line.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Leicester: (4-2-3-1) Schmeichel; Amartey, Maguire, Evans, Chilwell; Mendy, Ndidi; Pereira, Iheanacho, Maddison; Vardy
West Ham United: (4-3-3) Fabianksi; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Noble, Rice, Obiang; Antonio, Arnautovic, Anderson
Score Prediction: Leicester City 1 West Ham United 1
Two very similar teams meet up this weekend and although the Hammers have lost seven of their last 10 away games in the Premier League, a draw is the most likely outcome at the King Power. The Foxes always perform well at their home ground and West Ham haven’t won back to back league matches against Leicester since April 1997. With both sides not wanting to suffer three defeats in a row, both would surely be happy with a point.