Manchester City will look for their eighth Premier League victory in a row when they face Leicester City on Boxing Day, hoping to extend their lead at the top.

The Premier League returns this weekend with a set of exciting Boxing Day fixtures as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City welcome a struggling Leicester City side at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Unfortunately, three Boxing day matches have been postponed, but as things stand, the rest are going ahead, including this encounter in Manchester.

Manchester City have been on a scintillating winning streak since early November and are showing no signs of slowing down. The reigning Premier League champions are now the favourites to defend their crown, establishing a three-point lead at the top of the league at the moment. The Citizens eased past Newcastle United by a 4-0 margin in their previous league game and will be confident heading into this game.

Manchester City haave had 18 different goalscorers across all competitions, and have netted 11 goals without reply in their last two league outings, displaying the wealth of attacking talent available at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. The manager has also guided his side through to the Champions League Last-16 stage. This is despite the departure of Sergio Aguero, the club’s all-time leading scorer, and Kevin De Bruyne’s fitness issues for most of the first half of the season.

On the other hand, Leicester City are currently in ninth place in the Premier League, and their defence has been atrocious this season. After being knocked out of the Europa League earlier in December, Leicester were denied a spot in the Carabao Cup semi-finals despite fielding a full-strength lineup against Liverpool this midweek, losing in a penalty shoot-out following the Reds’ amazing second-half comeback to level the scoreline at 3-3.

A 4-0 victory over Newcastle earlier month could have been a turning point in the Foxes’ lacklustre campaign. But Brendan Rodgers’ side were then hit by COVID-19, resulting in the postponement of games against Tottenham and Everton. Ahead of their latest league meeting against Manchester City, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Given the difficulties of their upcoming opponents, Manchester City’s health report card is pretty much unscathed, with only two players expected to miss out on Leicester’s visit due to injuries. Benjamin Mendy remains unavailable while Kyle Walker has missed City’s last three games after being sent off against RB Leipzig and could be sidelined once again with Guardiola citing a lack of fitness.

Ferran Torres is still sidelined with a foot injury and remains out of contention, with the big news coming out of the Blue side of Manchester is the Spanish forward’s imminent departure to Barcelona for a reported €55 million. Guardiola banished Jack Grealish and Phil Foden last time out for lack of discipline, and it would not be surprising if both are kept on the bench.

The Catalan coach could line up his side in his preferred 4-3-3 system. After netting seven past Leeds and scoring four versus Newcastle, the former Barcelona coach will expect City not to let off the throttle here. After preserving his third successive shut-out last weekend, Ederson leads the charts for the most number of clean sheets in the top-flight at ten. He will look to add to his tally featuring in between the sticks.

Aymeric Laporte will partner Ruben Dias at the heart of the defence as they try to restrict the Foxes from scoring and mark the lightning-quick Patson Daka. In the absence of Walker, Joao Cancelo will slot in as the right-back, while Oleksandr Zinchenko could yet again be named at left-back. Both of them will get the license to maraud forwards and join the attack at every opportunity, especially the Portuguese, who scored a screamer at Newcastle.

Up ahead in midfield, Portuguese maestro Bernardo Silva could be handed a breather, with Ilkay Gundogan coming into the side. A three-man midfield unit is expected to be composed of Gundogan, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne. Keeping in mind a trip to Brentford next midweek, Guardiola may opt for some rotation in the frontline, but top scorer Riyad Mahrez will hope to join Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus in an attacking trio yet again.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling

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Leicester City

Unlike his counterpart in the Manchester City dugout, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has to deal with a lot of injuries, with a Covid-19 outbreak doing further damage. To add to their injury woes, Jamie Vardy, Ricardo Pereira, and Caglar Soyuncu all suffered muscular injuries in Liverpool’s penalty shoot-out loss on Wednesday.

Harvey Barnes and Timothy Castagne were not even included in midweek’s matchday squad, raising concerns about their availability for the Manchester City clash. Rodgers will be hoping for former Manchester United defender Jonny Evans to be fit enough to feature, despite being plagued by injuries all season.

In some rare bit of positive news, Ayoze Perez, Ademola Lookman, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Jannik Vestergaard were all back on the bench in midweek, after returning a negative coronavirus test. Wesley Fofana remains sidelined, while Filip Benkovic, Daniel Amartey and Hamza Choudhury are out after being tested positive for Covid-19.

Rodgers could opt for a 4-3-3 system. Wilfred Ndidi could be used in the back four yet again, particularly if Evans requires more time to recover as Soyuncu is already ruled out. With Leicester seriously depleted in defence, Jannik Vestergaard could return early to feature alongside Ndidi. Luke Thomas and Marc Albrighton will slot in at left-back and right-back, respectively.

Boubakary Soumare will anchor the midfield for the Foxes, sitting at the base of a three-man unit, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Youri Tielemans providing support on either side of him. James Maddison and Ademola Lookman will look to create menace taking up positions out wide. With Vardy out injured, Patson Daka will lead the charge for the Foxes down the middle.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Albrighton, Ndidi, Vestergaard, Thomas; Tielemans, Soumare, Dewsbury-Hall; Maddison, Daka, Lookman

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Key Stats

  • The Citizens have an impressive recent record against Leicester City and have won eight of their last ten matches against the Foxes, including a 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture earlier this term.
  • Pep Guardiola’s men secured their 34th league win of 2021 when they defeated Newcastle last time out, establishing a new record for the most top-flight wins by any team in a calendar year.
  • Man City posted their third successive clean sheet last weekend and currently boast the best defensive record in the division, conceding only nine goals all season.
  • Manchester City have a great record at home on Boxing Day, going undefeated in their past eight games and winning six of them. In contrast, the visitors have a fairly poor record on December 26th, having won only one of their past 11 Premier League games.
  • Leicester City have only won two of their eight away games this season.

Player to Watch

James Maddison

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Back to his best, James Maddison is appearing to be finally hitting his top strides, with goals in five of his last seven appearances. The Englishman is a gifted playmaker and seems to have his swagger back, picking out intricate key passes through the lines he is renowned for. The 25-year-old is now looking more consistent and effective in the final third, taking his tally to six goals and six assists.

In Jamie Vardy’s absence, Maddison has formed a fruitful link-up with Patson Daka and will be looking to create quality chances to feed the Zambian forward while trying to bag one or two himself.

Prediction

Manchester City 3-2 Leicester City

Manchester City are in rampant form and have become an almost unstoppable goal machine while being impenetrable in defence. They are the heavy favourites and will want to add to bag another win to open up a six-point lead at the top.

Leicester City continue to remain inconsistent. They have shown flashes of lethality in the attacking third this season but have been hampered by their own defensive woes. The past two encounters between these two sides at this venue have been entertaining games, with 11 goals and a win for each club, with the Foxes winning 5-2 last season.

While it is difficult to imagine them claiming another victory based on current form, a high-scoring match could be on the cards, considering that 35 goals have been scored in their last eight games across all competitions. The Hard Tackle predicts City to rally from behind to seal a narrow 3-2 triumph in what could be an end-to-end affair at Etihad Stadium.

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