Monday 14th March – 20:00 – King Power Stadium
Leicester City can once again go five points clear at the top of the Premier League tonight if they can beat strugglers Newcastle United. The Foxes’ remarkable story this season continues to add more chapters, most recently they beat Watford 1-0 last weekend. Words cannot describe the unbelievable job that Claudio Ranieri and his squad have done, and with a relatively kind fixture list for the remainder of the campaign, could they lift the trophy in two months time? Beating Newcastle should be a routine victory, but with former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez now in charge following the sacking of Steve McClaren, the Magpies could go on a honeymoon period under their new manager. It’s something that the club are in desperate need for, having lost 3-1 to Bournemouth last time out which put them in 19th place. They are only one point from safety though, so a win for the Spaniard (who is more used to the Champions League than relegation battles) in his first game in charge would take them out of the drop zone. It’s incredible to think that the Magpies actually spent £30 million more than Leicester last summer, but then again, it’s been an incredible season!
- Riyad Mahrez has shaken off the hamstring strain that he picked up in the win over Watford last weekend, meaning Leicester have no new injury concerns.
- It means that Claudio Ranieri is probably going to name the same starting XI to that at Vicarage Road, where the Algerian winger scored the only goal.
- Matty James has returned to training following a knee injury that has kept him out for the whole season. He is unlikely to be risked though.
- Rafael Benitez will assess the fitness of Fabricio Coloccini and Andros Townsend, who have been nursing respective calf and hamstring problems.
- Left-back Paul Dummett misses out after aggravating a hamstring injury against Bournemouth last weekend.
- Tim Krul, Massadio Haidara (both knee), Chancel Mbemba (ankle), Kevin Mbabu (thigh) and Gabriel Obertan (hamstring) remain on the sidelines.
The Key Battle: Riyad Mahrez vs Jack Colback
Riyad Mahrez’s performances this season have been just as impressive and surprising as Leicester. The Algerian has been involved in a league-high 26 Premier League goals this season (15 goals, 11 assists). He is the only player to be in double figures for both.
This makes him a huge contender for PFA Player of the Season, surprising given he was playing in the French second tier only two years. But it is one of a number of dramatic rises in the Foxes squad this campaign, and with Real Madrid reportedly targeting Mahrez, his ‘rags to riches’ story could only get better.
When Jack Colback joined Newcastle from rivals Sunderland in the summer of 2014 he was probably looking forward to not having to face a relegation battle. But it has not been the case, as for the second year in a row he is fighting to help keep the Magpies in the top flight.
With Paul Dummett ruled out injured, Colback is likely to be Rafa Benitez’s backup left back. It’s a position he played in a lot at the Stadium of Light, but with nine yellow cards to his name from just 20 Premier League starts this season, it’s a dangerous game to play against the division’s most inform winger.
Leicester City wins = 41 / Newcastle United = 51 / Draws = 27
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Newcastle United 0-3 Leicester City (21st November 2015)
Jamie Vardy equalled the Premier League record for consecutive goals by scoring in a 10th successive match as Leicester beat Newcastle to go top of the table. Vardy scored when he latched on to a Leonardo Ulloa pass, cut inside Moussa Sissoko and drilled in a low shot. Newcastle barely registered a threat and let in a second when Ulloa headed in a Riyad Mahrez cross. Shinji Okazaki bundled in a third after Danny Simpson’s shot was saved. [Read the full BBC report]
Claudio Ranieri: “The league this year is crazy. We are fighting because it’s a crazy league and anything could happen. I said there were five games (before the international break this month) and then I can say what we can do. Now I am focused on Newcastle. The three points are very important for us.”
Rafa Benitez: “We need to give confidence to our players, to organise the team in the way that we want to do things, and I think we can do it.”
The Referee – Craig Pawson
- Last Premier League game: Swansea City 1-0 Norwich City (5th March 2016) – 7 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Leicester City game: Leicester City 0-0 Manchester City (29th December 2015) – 4 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Newcastle United game: Everton 3-0 Newcastle United (3rd February 2016) – 3 yellow cards, 1 red card
2015-16 Record: Games = 30 / Yellow cards = 99 / Red cards = 3 / Penalties = 3
Infographic (courtesy of Sporticos)
All stats from Premier League only and correct up until 13/03/2016
Stat of the Match
Newcastle have lost their last eight matches played on a Monday, which were all away from home. They have failed to score in the last five of these.
Where Can I Watch It?
Monday Night Football of course belongs to Sky Sports, whose coverage begins at 7pm, with kick-off an hour later.
My Prediction: Leicester City 2-0 Newcastle United
I don’t think Rafa Benitez will have had enough time to get his strategy across to his new players, so the Magpies won’t have enough to beat the league leaders. They might hold out until the second half, but goals from Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki will keep the Foxes flying high.