Leicester City will look to get back on track when they welcome Newcastle United in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.

Based on last season’s impressive fifth-placed finish and their first-ever FA Cup triumph, languishing in the bottom half of the league table and an early crash-out from the Europa League seems quite underwhelming for Leicester City. But, that is the reality for Brendan Rodgers & co., who have struggled for any kind of consistency since the start of the season.

Thursday’s 3-2 defeat at Napoli was the latest in a string of setbacks for Leicester this term. The result sees the Foxes drop into Europa Conference League football in February, a competition that Rodgers does not rate highly judging by his post-match comments. Nevertheless, their form is not any different domestically. The Foxes have plummeted to 11th in the table with just one win from their past six games.

Leicester are still seven points adrift of a top-six berth, but Rodgers’ team faces an uphill battle with games against Manchester City, Liverpool, and Tottenham spaced out during the winter period. They need a comprehensive win to regain their confidence, and the upcoming home match against a relegation-threatened Newcastle appears to be a wonderful opportunity.

On the other hand, Newcastle are coming on the back of a crucial 1-0 victory against Burnley to lift themselves from the foot of the table and within three points of safety. That said, bagging only five points from a run of a winnable set of fixtures against Brentford, Norwich City, and Burnley is just not good enough. They will now need to eke out a result in this game with big-boys Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United on the horizon.

The Magpies, surprisingly, ran out 4-2 winners on their last visit to the King Power Stadium. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Leicester City

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is still assessing his players’ fitness ahead of Sunday’s game against Newcastle after being struck by a Covid outbreak. Kelechi Iheanacho, Ayoze Perez, Jannik Vestergaard, Daniel Amartey, Ademola Lookman, Filip Benkovic, and Vontae Daley-Campbell all missed the Napoli defeat due to coronavirus and illness.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Pereira (hamstring), Wesley Fofana (leg) and James Justin (knee) remain sidelined with their respective injuries. However, in a piece of positive news, Youri Tielemans started the game in Naples after returning from a five-match layoff due to a calf injury, and the midfielder is likely to start again after playing 77 minutes in midweek.

Rodgers will certainly have to select amongst the same Leicester players that took to field against Napoli. The under-fire boss could line up the Foxes in a 4-3-3 system, with Boubakary Soumare coming into the side to add more resilience and progression in midfield. Young full-back Luke Thomas is also in line to return at left-back after being benched on Thursday night.

Kasper Schmeichel is expected to start in goal for the Foxes. The Danish goalkeeper will need to work in coordination with his backline to maintain a better defensive line in the hope of preserving a rare clean sheet. In defence, Rodgers could opt to field a back-four consisting of Timothy Castagne, Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans, and Thomas as they look to avoid making costly individual errors at the back on Sunday.

Wilfred Ndidi will sit at the base of midfield, with support from Soumare and Tielemans on either side of him. However, they will all pick up very different roles. Ndidi will break up the play, shielding the back four, whereas the other two will stay central, dictating the tempo with their ball distribution and providing the link-up between defence and attack with ball progression.

Harvey Barnes will take up the left-flank position and seek for better end-product, while James Maddison will look to provide creativity from the right. Having played full 90 minutes in Naples, Jamie Vardy could be rested with Patson Daka potentially replacing the Foxes’ hitman down the middle.

Probable lineup (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Castagne, Evans, Soyuncu, Thomas; Tielemans, Ndidi, Soumare; Maddison, Daka, Barnes

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Newcastle United

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is hopeful that Fabian Schar and Ryan Fraser will be available. The former missed a training session earlier this week due to a rib issue, while the latter missed last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Burnley due to a slight hamstring injury. But both are likely to be in contention for the trip to Leicester. Ciaran Clark also returns from suspension, but Paul Dummett continues to recover from a calf injury and is under light training.

Martin Dubravka is a certain starter between the sticks for the Toon after bagging his first clean sheet of the season last weekend. Guarding the Slovakian in central defence could be the pairing of skipper Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar; they may have a tough time handling the pace in Leicester’s frontline. Javier Manquillo has nailed down the right full-back position while Jamal Lewis will slot in on the other flank offering an outlet in forward areas.

Jonjo Shelvey will anchor the Magpies’ midfield with his impeccable passing ability as he looks to try dictating the tempo and providing key passes in transitions. Joe Willock will form the double midfield pivot alongside him, offering balance with his pressing and hard running while he also likes to make late runs into the box.

Miguel Almiron will retain his place on the right flank, with his stamina and speed providing a different dynamism to Newcastle’s attack. Allan Saint-Maximin will be Magpies’ best creative option up front, with his pace and dribbling crucial for the visitors. Callum Wilson will spearhead the attack in a two-man strike force alongside Joelinton, who looks like a completely transformed player in recent games and is playing with confidence.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Dubravka; Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Lewis; Almiron, Shelvey, Willock, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton, Wilson

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Key Stats

  • There has not been a single draw in the last 13 Premier League meetings between Leicester and Newcastle, with the Magpies only winning five of them (L8). But they did win the most recent fixture 4-2 back in May this year.
  • Newcastle United have had the better of Leicester City in three of their last four matches at the King Power Stadium.
  • The Tyneside outfit have been very poor at the back this term and are the second-worst defensive side in the division, with only basement boys Norwich leaking more goals than them.
  • Leicester have not fared much better defensively either and have conceded at least twice in each of their last five  Premier League home games.
  • The Foxes’ striker Jamie Vardy has been directly involved in 25 goals in his last 18 Premier League outings against teams starting the day in the relegation zone (18G 7A), while his tally against Newcastle is also impressive, bagging four goals in his last six league appearances against the Magpies.
  • Leicester have won more Premier League games against Newcastle than against any other side since their return to the top flight back in 2014 (8).

Player to Watch

Callum Wilson

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Newcastle United’s talismanic No. 9 delivered the goods yet again last weekend, firing the game-winning goal with a brilliantly placed strike despite largely feeding off scraps in the first half against Burnley. The former Bournemouth man is a quality finisher and the Magpies’ most potent goal threat in front of goal.

He has immense significance to this Newcastle attack, shown by the fact that he has scored 18 Premier League goals since signing for Newcastle last summer, which is at least ten more than any other player at the club. The 29-year-old has netted six times from 11 outings in the 2021/22 Premier League campaign.

His hold-up play and aggressive pressing has been impressive, more than often forming the first line of defence alongside Joelinton. As Newcastle continue to improve under Eddie Howe from an attacking perspective, the English attacker will hope for more service in the coming games. He will undoubtedly be raring to score versus Leicester, against whom he enjoyed netting a brace back in May this year.

Prediction

Leicester City 2-2 Newcastle United

Leicester City have been decent in the attacking third; it is their sloppy defence that is letting them down on a more regular basis this term. The fixture could prove to be a pivotal point for the Foxes season. And another loss could turn the home crowd, putting Brendan Rodgers in the firing line.

Meanwhile, Newcastle United are in a precarious situation of their own and will look to take advantage of Leicester’s tough week after a tiring trip to Naples. Leicester City boasts a better first XI on paper but lack firepower off the bench with a Covid-hit squad. The Hard Tackle predicts an entertaining 2-2 draw with both sides sharing the honours in the East Midlands on Sunday.

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