Manchester City vs. Leicester City – 12:45pm local time on Saturday, February 6, 2016 at Etihad Stadium
Man City – $1.57 at Sportsbet.com
Leicester – $6 at CrownBet
Draw – $4 at www.WilliamHill.com
Man City – 2nd
Leicester – 1st
Man City – W D W D W
Leicester – D W D W W
Last five EPL meetings
Leicester 0-0 Man City
Man City 2-0 Leicester
Leicester 0-1 Man City
Leicester 1-1 Man City
Man City 0-3 Leicester
LEICESTER City’s title credentials will be put to the ultimate test in Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash at Eastlands.
The Foxes hold a three-point lead over Manchester City in the 2015-16 English Premier League standings after consecutive home wins against Stoke City and Liverpool.
Claudio Ranieri’s men are back to their best following an indifferent holiday schedule, with the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy firing on all cylinders.
Those two combined for the goal of the season on Tuesday, with Vardy latching on to Mahrez’s 60-yard wonder ball to belt home a stunning long-range volley which left Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet utterly stranded.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri was full of praise for his star forwards, who have a combined tally of 31 Premier League goals and 12 assists this season.
“Amazing. The first goal was unbelievable,” the Italian said to the press after the 2-0 win at King Power Stadium.
“We played very well and pressed a lot against a very good team. Jamie is very fast and can create a lot but it was unbelievable how Mahrez found him and how he had the time to see the keeper out of the goal and scored a fantastic goal.
“The team is in good condition. Now it is important to recover the energy because we have to run a lot against Manchester City. We are free of pressure. The players have a good feeling.”
Leicester will need to harness every ounce of those good vibes as they prepare for back-to-back away fixtures against their two chief rivals for the Premier League title – Man City and Arsenal.
First up are the Citizens, who carved out a 1-0 result against Sunderland in midweek thanks to a typically instinctive finish from Sergio Aguero.
But Joe Hart was the true star of the show, the England number one’s outstanding glove-work proving the difference against an aggressive Black Cats outfit fighting tooth and nail to scramble out of the relegation zone.
There was a feeling that City’s title bid might have been shaken by the appointment of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, who will take the reins at Etihad this summer.
The news comes despite the fact Manuel Pellegrini, the incumbent City manager, is still in the hunt for all four major trophies this season.
But the Chilean tactician has handled his axing with exceptional grace, and his chief shot-stopper insisted on Tuesday that the squad was 100 per cent focused on the task at hand in 2015-16.
“It was never going to be a distraction. We’re here to win titles, Manuel’s here to win titles,” Hart told the media after the win over Sunderland.
“We back him, we love him as our manager.”
He added: “We appreciate we have a job to do this season. Next season is next season.”
Manchester City team news
Pellegrini’s midfield stocks took another hit this week when Jesus Navas limped out of the Sunderland clash with a suspected hamstring injury.
With both Samir Nasir and Kevin de Bruyne already on the treatment table, City’s options on the flanks are now looking rather thin.
The news is better in the back line, with Serbian left-back Aleksandr Kolarov returning to action as a substitute in the win over the Black Cats.
French centre-half Eliaquim Mangala and club captain Vincent Kompany are back in training and could make the matchday squad for Leicester’s visit, while Fabian Delph should be available in midfield.
Possible Man City XI: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Kompany, Clichy, Fernandinho, Delph, Toure, Sterling, Silva, Aguero.
Leicester City team news
Jamie Vardy’s fitness levels were a worry after he underwent groin surgery last month, but the England striker has buried any doubts with his explosive displays against Stoke and Liverpool.
There could be a debut for Ghanaian midfielder Daniel Amartey, who was signed from FC Copenhagen in the January transfer window.
Jeff Schlupp is still recovering from a hamstring problem and won’t return until the end of the month, while midfielder Matty James is several weeks away yet after suffering a setback in his lengthy recovery from a torn ACL.
Otherwise, Ranieri has a full squad to choose from.
Possible Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Drinkwater, Kante, Mahrez, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy.
– Draw ($4 at WilliamHill.com)
– Both teams to score ($1.75 at Bet365.com)
– Halftime score 1-1 ($7 at Sportsbet.com)
This match could define the title race.
Can Leicester cope with the big boys, or will City shrug them aside?
The Foxes were excellent against Liverpool and their key players are in top form.
Man City, on the other hand, were lucky to get three points against 19th-placed Sunderland.
They are also lacking creative midfield options with Navas, Nasri and de Bruyne out injured, while Leicester have all but a full roster at their disposal.
History is firmly on the hosts’ side, as the Mancunians have won five and drawn two of their last seven dates with Leicester in all competitions.
But the plucky underdogs from the Midlands are playing with a sort of freedom and purpose which makes you wonder if that long-awaited collapse is ever going to come.
These two drew 0-0 when they met at King Power Stadium in the reverse fixture, so a point each way is not at all out of the question.
Man City first goalscorer bets
Sergio Aguero ($4 at Sportsbet)
With so many attacking players unavailable, City’s Argentine striker has a big burden to bear. But he showed in midweek that he is more than up to the challenge, netting what proved to be the winner with a predatory finish from close range.
Raheem Sterling ($7 at CrownBet)
The £50 million man had to settle for the bench on Tuesday, with Navas preferred on the wing in a 4-4-2 setup. However, the Spaniard’s injury will surely see Sterling return to the starting 11. Expect him to be up supporting Aguero at every opportunity.
Leicester first goalscorer odds
Jamie Vardy ($8 at William Hill)
After a slow few weeks following his groin injury, Vardy is now back in business with three goals in his last two outings. Whether or not you like Leicester’s chances this Saturday, $8 odds for the league’s top scorer is fantastic value in anyone’s language.
Riyad Mahrez ($13 at Bet365)
With 13 goals and nine assists this season, the Algerian playmaker is the catalyst-in-chief behind the Foxes’ stunning success this season. Again, $13 is very good money for a guy who regularly tests the ‘keeper – let alone the fact he is also Leicester’s first-choice penalty taker.
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