8:00pm local time on Monday, March 14, 2016 at King Power Stadium
Leicester – $1.61 at Sportsbet.com
Newcastle – $6.50 at www.Bet365.com
Draw – $4 at William Hill
Leicester – 1st
Newcastle – 19th
Leicester – W L W D W
Newcastle – L W L L L
Last five meetings
Newcastle 0-3 Leicester (Premier League 2015-16)
Leicester 3-0 Newcastle (Premier League 2014-15)
Leicester 1-0 Newcastle (FA Cup 2014-15)
Newcastle 1-0 Leicester (Premier League 2014-15)
Leicester 0-0 Newcastle (Championship 2009-10)
MONDAY night’s clash at King Power Stadium could prove crucial for both Leicester City and Newcastle, but for very different reasons.
With second-placed Tottenham Hotspur to play down-and-out Aston Villa on Sunday, Leicester City will almost certainly need a win to maintain their five-point buffer at the top of the 2015-16 Premier League table.
The Foxes are unbeaten in three games since their last-gasp defeat at Arsenal, with wins over Norwich City and Watford punctuated by a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
Leicester has been some way shy of their fluent best in recent outings, however, which has led to renewed predictions of an imminent collapse from the surprise title fancies.
Claudio Ranieri and his charges have espoused a carefree, no-expectations philosophy up to this stage, but Christian Fuchs’ comments during the week suggested a shifting attitude amongst the playing group.
“Yes, it has been a great season for the club, but also we want to achieve something,” the Austrian defender told local media.
“We have come a long way now and it would be wrong to sit back and say ‘we have played so well already, it doesn’t matter what happens’.”
While Leicester search for top gear heading into the last eight rounds of the campaign, all Newcastle want is to wrench their faulty transmission out of reverse.
A run of five defeats in their last six EPL matches has put the Geordies in a perilous position, one point and a decent chunk of goal difference adrift of 17th-placed Sunderland.
They have a game in hand over their fellow relegation battlers, but that is no advantage whatsoever for a team in such a free-falling state – especially when the make-up fixture is against Manchester City.
Last week’s 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth was almost certainly the final nail in the coffin of Magpies head coach Steve McClaren, who is expected to get the axe in the coming days.
Bookies and tabloids have slated Rafa Benitez as the Newcastle board’s top target, with some sources claiming the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss could be signed, sealed and delivered in time for the trip to Leicester.
Whoever replaces McClaren will have 10 games to rescue the Toon, but the question is: will their arrival come in time to have any significant influence on Monday night’s result?
Leicester City team news
N’Golo Kante was expected to miss at least two matches after straining his hamstring against Norwich, but the French midfielder made an early and much-welcomed return in the 1-0 victory over Watford last week.
Jeff Schlupp is also back in the fold after more than two months out through injury. The Ghanaian wideman returned to the matchday squad against the Canaries and has featured on the bench in both games since.
With those two back in action, the only man left in the Leicester recovery room is the long-absent Matty James (ACL).
Possible Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Kante, Drinkwater, Mahrez, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy.
Newcastle United team news
Whereas Leicester are all but injury-free, the Magpies are now top of the Premier League treatment table.
They could welcome back several key players this week, however, with Papiss Cisse (groin), Fabricio Coloccini (calf), Cheick Tiote (muscle strain) and Andros Townsend (hamstring) all a chance to return on Monday.
The news is less good for Paul Dummett, who is expected to sit out after picking up a knock in the loss to Bournemouth.
Chancel M’Bemba and Massadio Haidara are still recovering from respective foot and knee injuries, while Gabriel Obertan and his hurt hamstring are unlikely to return before April.
Tim Krul (ACL) and Curtis Good (hip) are out for the season.
Possible Newcastle XI: Elliot, Janmaat, Taylor, Coloccini, Colback, Tiote, Shelvey, Townsend, Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Perez.
– Leicester City to win ($1.61 at Sportsbet.com)
– Leicester half-time/Leicester full-time ($2.40 at Sportsbet.com)
– Riyad Mahrez hat-trick ($51 at Bet365.com)
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this one.
If McClaren does cop the sack between now and Monday, as expected, the Magpies could be buoyed by that mysterious ‘new coach syndrome’.
Even then, it probably won’t be enough against a fully fit Leicester side which is now only a few steps away from pulling off the unlikeliest of title triumphs.
And with Newcastle struggling for options in defence, especially at full back, Riyad Mahrez – the popular vote for the Player of the Year award – could have a day out.
Leicester first goal-scorer markets
Riyad Mahrez ($7 at Bet365)
Mahrez has torn apart better teams than Newcastle this season. The Algerian playmaker is a threat whenever and wherever he gets the ball, as his record of 15 Premier League goals and 11 assists would appear to suggest. He is also the first-choice penalty taker.
Jamie Vardy ($4.50 at Sportsbet)
The Premier League’s top scorer has now gone three games without finding the back of the net. He hasn’t played poorly in that period, however, and Newcastle’s patchwork back-line will struggle to keep out a man who already has 19 goals to his name this season.
Newcastle first goalscorer bets
Georginio Wijnaldum ($13 at William Hill)
The Magpies’ disastrous run over the last six weeks has coincided with a barren trot for their star midfielder, who hasn’t managed a goal or an assist since bagging one of each in the 2-1 win over West Ham in January. Nevertheless, the Dutchman is by far Newcastle’s most dangerous player.
Jonjo Shelvey ($21 at Bet365)
Since arriving from Swansea City in the January transfer window, Shelvey has been one of the few positives at St. James’ Park. He is yet to open his account in black and white, but it’s only a matter of time before one of his long-range rockets finds the target.
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